D-Day heroes weep for their fallen comrades as the world pays tribute 75 years on
Some of the last surviving veterans gathered alongside world leaders in Normandy, France, today to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for ours on the 75th D-Day anniversary.
Many of those present broke down in tears as they remembered those who died in the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II on June 6, 1994.
The event, which was one of many commemorations happening around the world, marked key moves from the wartime operation, which represented the beginning of the campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied north-west Europe.
In powerful testimony, former Royal Navy signalman Frank Baugh, 95, from Doncaster, recalled arriving at Sword beach at H-hour. His job was to ferry in 200 troops from Newhaven, but as they approached the beach, they took a direct hit which caused a fire and dragged the craft below the waterline.
"My most abiding memory is seeing the boys we had been talking to a minute before cut down by machine gun fire," he said. "They fell into water, floating face down. We couldn’t get them out. We couldn’t help them. And that is my most abiding memory that I can’t forget."
John McOwan, 98, from Peebles, Scotland, who was a sergeant with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers and landed on Sword beach four days after D-day, also spoke about the day, stating: "The service was very emotional. The tears were running down my face because it was so touching."
In a speech at the ceremony, British Prime Minister Theresa May told veterans "I want to say the only words we can: thank you."
"These young men belonged to a very special generation, the greatest generation, a generation whose unconquerable spirit shaped our post-war world," she said, after reading the names of several British troops who were killed during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. "They didn’t boast, they didn’t fuss, they served. They did their duty, as they laid down their lives, so that we might have a better life and build a better world."
US President Donald Trump, who had traveled to Europe for the commemoration, also gave a speech praising America's "exceptional might" and saying the US will "forever be strong".
He stated: "Veterans of the Second World War who join us today, you are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our Republic and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Following the ceremony, Prime Minister May, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended a service at the cathedral in Bayeux, the first city to be liberated by the invasion.
At the start of the service, a message was read out from Pope Francis, in which the 82-year-old said D-Day was "decisive in the fight against Nazi barbarism" and paid tribute to those who "joined the Army and gave their lives for freedom and peace".
This service was followed by a ceremony at Bayeux War Cemetery, where many of the fallen are buried, while Presidents Trump and Macron traveled to a ceremony at the US war cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer.
Other events across the UK included veterans' parades in Arromanches and Portsmouth, a service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire and 15 D-Day veterans being presented with the Knight of the Légion d'Honneur Cross at the French Consulate in Edinburgh.
By the evening of June 6, 1944, around 156,000 Allied troops - including British, US and Canadian forces - had landed on Normandy's beaches, despite adverse weather conditions and menacing German defenses. By the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a foothold in France and the Nazis were defeated 11 months later.