PRESIDENT François Hollande joined the commemorations today to mark the 68th anniversary of the D-Day landings, heading for Sword Beach and the military cemetery at Ranville, where 2,500 mainly-British soldiers are buried.
He will then spend time at the Mémorial de Caen and becomes only the third president to visit the site, following François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.
His visit is distinctly low-key as this year is not one of the major anniversaries but he will be accompanied by British defence minister Philip Hammond and other officials.
Unusually, the site will remain open to the public during his visit at his request. He will give a short talk to schoolchildren who are visiting the town, which was 60% destroyed during the fighting after the June 6 landings in 1944.
He was driven to Caen for the events despite promising that most of his trips would be done by train due to fears that bad weather could cause delays.
This weekend he is due to return to his home town of Tulle in Corrèze to attend the June 9 ceremony to honour the "pendus de Tulle", 99 men and teenagers between the ages of 16 and 60 who were hanged by the SS days after D-Day as reprisals for Maquis attacks. He will walk between the town centre and the memorial.
He is also due to attend the June 16 commemoration in Paris for the round-up of Jews in the "rafle du Vel' d'hiv". Paris police records showed more than 13,000 were arrested and held in the Vélodrome d'Hiver before being sent to Auschwitz.
Photo: Dennis Peeters