D-Day 80 years: France to send a ‘Liberty flame’ to UK and USA

The flame has already been welcomed at a memorial ceremony in France, and will be received at similar events in the UK and USA to remember the pivotal 1944 landings

The flame is being sent to “thank the Allies 80 years after the Normandy landings”, organisers say

France is to send a ‘Liberty flame’ to America and the UK as part of commemorations to mark 80 years since the D-Day Normandy landings.

The flame was lit at the flame of the Unknown Soldier - which burns at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris - on May 7. It will now be transported to the UK and the USA to “thank the Allies” for their part in the decisive beach landings in 1944.

The flame has already passed through the Pays de la Loire region to retrace the route that the Allied troops took on the day of the D-Day landings on their way to liberate the capital from the coast. 

Local ceremonies

The town of Le Mans (Sarthe) hosted a special ceremony on Thursday, May 9 to pay tribute to this with young people aged 18-28 carrying the ‘Liberty flame’ torch as part of the event.

The D-Day landings, known as le Débarquement in French, happened on June 6, 1944. They were a pivotal point in World War Two and helped to liberate France. A year later, Germany unconditionally surrendered in the early hours of May 7, 1945, and ‘Victory in Europe’ day was declared a day later.

This new initiative was created by war memorial associations le Comité de la voie de la Liberté, and the Association du souvenir du général Leclerc. It has received support from President Macron.

‘France’s ambassadors’

The flame will be transported in a 1940s jeep across France, to several towns, along the route taken by the army of US General George Patton during the Liberation. 

It will pass through La Flèche (Sarthe) and Angers (Maine-et-Loire) today (Friday, May 10), then to Grugé-l'Hôpital (Maine-et-Loire) and Chateaubriant (Loire-Atlantique) on May 11. 

It will then travel to Normandy, before heading to Southampton, England. It will then travel to New York, and Arlington in the US, where other ceremonies are also set to take place. It will burn until June 6, the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

A group of 34 young people from France will be escorting the flame on its journey. 

“They will be France's ambassadors,” organisers said. “The aim of the trip is to thank the Allies 80 years after the Normandy landings.” 

More than 72,000 US soldiers and 64,000 UK soldiers took part in D-Day.

Long-distance flame

This flame is not the only one to have been transported long distances recently; the Olympic Flame arrived in Marseille on board the historic yacht the Belem on May 8, after setting sail from Athens, Greece. 

Read also: France’s Olympic torch relay begins: who carries it next and where? 

It will now travel around France - including the overseas territories - on an epic 68-stage, three-month journey, before returning to Paris for the Olympic Opening Ceremony on July 26.