Parachute drop is highlight of series of events
This year’s commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy are expected to be the last ‘big anniversary’ for many of the old soldiers who were there in 1944.
Events will start long before the official June 5-7 commemorations, with various tributes and ceremonies in north-west France including a D-Day Festival with events in Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Bayeux, and Gold Beach at Arromanches-les-Bains.
A series of key events are also planned. These will see Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attending along with President Macron.
The full guest list has not yet been revealed but President Trump has told US veterans he will be there for the world leaders’ event on Omaha Beach.
June 1 has a historic parade in Douvres-la-Délivrande (Calvados), a 9km hike following the 101st Airborne in Hiesville (Manche) and a peace concert in Sainte-Mère-Eglise.
June 2 has events for children and adults with a guided tour from Bény-sur-Mer (Calvados) cemetery and another in Courseulles-sur-Mer (Calvados) from the tourist office.
Sainte-Mère-Eglise has a 1940s Harley-Davidson rally. Sainte Marie du Mont (Manche) hosts a 15km hike at Utah Beach.
From June 2 to June 7 the Normandy Second World War International Film Festival in Carentan (Manche) and Utah Beach museum will celebrate the world’s best films of the war and actors from the hit TV-series Band of Brothers will reunite for the occasion.
June 5 has a flypast of Dakota aircraft at Caen Airport, a ceremony for the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Amfreville (Manche) with a possible US parachute drop.
The British Garden of the Caen Memorial will also hold a special ceremony. Carentan-les-Marais (Manche) will see another parachute drop from Dakotas, plus fireworks at the port.
Ceremonies will also be held at Colleville-sur-Mer (Calvados) and Gourbesville (Manche). Sword Beach site Ouistreham (Calvados) will host several wreath laying ceremonies plus a tribute to the British and French commandos.
Ranville (Calvados) also has a Dakota parachute drop while Sainte-Mère-Eglise has a demonstration of a group of 16 pathfinder parachutists. There is also a parachute jump and glider landing ceremony at Pegasus Bridge, Bénouville.
June 5 also sees the UK national commemoration at Portsmouth and sailing of veterans’ ship to Caen; military parade; flypast of period aircraft. A giant Daks over Normandy parachute drop will see more than 30 aircraft from round the world taking part.
June 6 opens at Asnelles (Calvados) with a 20km hike to Port-en-Bessin in the steps of 47 Royal Marine Commando.
There is also a Combined Forces Ceremony, march past and historic boats ceremony dedicated to 8th Airborne Division, at Bénouville.
A British Normandy Memorial will be inaugurated in Ver-sur-Mer overlooking Gold Beach to honour the 22,000 who died. President Macron and Theresa May will be present.
June 7 sees a Second World War flypast at Arromanches followed by a musical celebration by 100 pipers in Ouistreham.
Chartered ship brings UK visitors
The Royal British Legion has chartered a ship to bring veterans from Portsmouth to Caen for the commemorations and some veterans are being escorted to France by volunteers, such as Jon Orrell from Hove, Sussex, who has been organising such trips for 25 years.
“Sadly, this could be the last time our old soldiers are able to travel over. Most joined up in their 20s, so are now in their 90s.”
Mr Orrell’s father, Maj Bob Orrell, and two other men captured a German bunker and its 53 occupants on Sword Beach in June 1944.
After the war the bunker became a museum, Le Grand Bunker at Ouistreham. A mural will be unveiled there on Thursday June 6 at 16.00.