Veterans of the D-Day landings and their families were back in Normandy today as people in the towns they helped liberate from German occupation offered their tributes.
There were broad smiles from the elderly British veterans as they were presented with flowers by children in the town of Thury-Harcourt.
But their experiences 70 years ago were altogether more sombre.
One of the former soldiers, Bob Laverty, told ITV News when he arrived in the town it was "blitzed, there was nothing here".
Edgar 'Ron' Minton said the memories of his time in France were "etched in my mind".
Ron served in the 7th battalion the Royal Norfolks, who landed on Juno Beach three weeks after the first landings before advancing through a number of villages.
He described being "shelled all the time and mortared" in the town of Grimbosq, south of Caen and admitted he was "glad" when his unit was pulled back.
The nearby hamlet of Chouain played host to an intimate gathering to pay tribute to some of the British soldiers who laid down their lives during the operation.
Among those at the ceremony was Frances Stone, widow of Bill Stone, a veteran who passed away in 2001.
Mrs Stone gave a vivid description of her husband's ordeal on Sword Beach, one of the key beachhead in the Allied assault.
He said he was terrified. He said he landed as a boy and ended up in the evening emerging as a man with what he saw. He landed in 6 feet of water on Sword with 90lbs on his back. When we get to Sword in a few days' time we will stick two crosses in because two of his friends didn't make it back.
Anthony Carder, whose father Stanley was tasked with clearing up after the advancing soldiers, was equally reflective, saying: "I have come for a number of years and it's very sombre when you think of those people."
"I'm left wondering - why did it happen?"