May, Trump and Macron in France to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day landings

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Brigette Macron watch as planes fly over following a service in France. Credit: AP

World leaders have gathered in France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau are among the politicians in Normandy to remember the bravery of more than three million allied troops, 250,000 of whom lost their lives during the 80-day siege.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended events in Bayeux, while Prince Harry and Prince William paid their respects at different services in Britain.

Numerous services and events are being held in Normandy and in the UK to mark the allied invasion of what was Nazi-occupied northern France.

Thousands gathered in the small seaside town of Arromanches in northern France to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

Despite approahing nearly 100-years-old, around 300 veterans, mostly British, made the journey to the commemorations in the main square to remember their fallen comrades.

Mrs May - speaking at one of her final official engagements before she resigns as Prime Minister - hailed the sacrifice of the "greatest generation" who fought for freedom on the beaches in France.

She appeared alongside Mr Macron at an inauguration ceremony in Ver-sur-Mer, near Gold Beach in Normandy, where the first British soldiers landed.

A new memorial records the names of 22,442 British servicemen who died in the D-Day landings and Battle of Normandy and depicts three soldiers advancing across the beach.

The British Normandy Memorial site in Ver-sur-Mer, France Credit: PA
  • 'They laid down their lives so that we might have a better life'

Speaking at the service, attended by French President and Normandy veterans, Mrs May said it was "incredibly moving to be here today, looking out over the beaches where one of the greatest battles for freedom this world has ever known took place".

She added: "And it is truly humbling to do so with the men who were there that day. It's an honour for all of us to share this moment with you."

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath at the memorial. Credit: PA

Mrs May, who laid a wreath at the memorial with Mr Macron, continued: "Standing here as the waves wash quietly onto the shore below us, it is almost impossible to grasp the raw courage it must have taken that day to leap from the landing craft and into the surf despite the fury of battle...

"If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world, that day was June 6, 1944."

She added: "They laid down their lives so that we might have a better life and build a better world."

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron spoke to veterans. Credit: PA

After the two leaders laid a wreath together, they were followed by seven veterans and four children, including Sir Winston Churchill's great-great grandson John Churchill, who laid flowers in front of a sculpture.

The ceremony concluded with a piped lament from Trooper Kurtis Rankin of The Royal Dragoon Guards.

Normandy veteran and patron of The Normandy Trust George Batts spoke at the commemoration event, telling the crowd: "They were the soldiers of democracy.

"They were the men of D-Day and to them we owe our freedom."

Seven veterans and four children, including Winston Churchill's great-great grandson laid flowers at a sculpture by David Williams-Ellis.

Later on Thursday morning, Mrs May attended a remembrance service at Bayeux Cathedral in France, joined by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Prince Charles wore a number of military medals as he marked the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, along with Cabinet Minister Penny Mordaunt and other politicians, were among the 1,000-strong congregation.

Prince Charles wore a number of military medals as he marked the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944. Credit: PA

Mr Corbyn praised the "beautiful and inclusive service" in memory of those who "helped defeat the scourge of fascism" as he left the cathedral.

Hundreds of people have lined the streets of Bayeux to clap and cheer D-Day veterans as they parade from the cathedral service to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery ahead of a memorial there later today.

Veteran Frank Baugh, 95, recalled the horrors of landing on the beaches during the D-Day siege during a service at Bayeux Cemetery.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends the Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance, Bayeux Cathedral, France, as part of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Credit: PA

He was a signalman on a landing craft which took 200 troops from 2nd Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry from Newhaven to Sword beach.

Landing under "heavy machine gun fire" in around 4ft of rough water, he managed to help navigate the Nazi's assault.

D-Day veteran John Quinn meets George Sayer, six, in Bayeaux, France on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Credit: PA

Mr Baugh said: "My most abiding memory of that day is seeing our boys we had been talking to the minute before.

"They got cut down with machine gun fire. They would fall into the water, floating face down and we couldn't get them out.

"We couldn't help them. That is my most abiding memory and I can't forget it."

John Sleep, 98, lays his cross which reads Credit: PA

Other veterans spoke to ITV News about their experiences from that fateful day 75 years ago.

Alan King, a Tank Radio Operator for the 27th Armoured Brigade, said he would be visiting the grave of a friend who died in his arms during the landing.

He said: "There's one particular friend of mine... who died in my arms in a tank. And I shall visit his grave tomorrow I think. I always go there when I come."

John Sleep, a 98-year-old veteran from the Norfolk Regiment, carried a cross bearing the words "peace among all nations" to lay at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Bayeux.

When asked by ITV News if he was proud that hundreds of people had lined the streets of the French town to pay tribute to the veterans, he replied: "It's the stupidity of war."

  • 'Our debt to you is everlasting' Trump and Macron pay homage to veterans

Meanwhile Mr Trump appeared at a service alongside Mr Macron at a service at the Colleville cemetery in Normandy for further D-Day commemorations.

Both of the world leaders thanked the veterans for their service, as a number were presented with the Legion d'honneur, the highest military merit in France.

Mr Trump told veterans: "Our debt to you is everlasting.

"Today we express our undying gratitude. When you were young - these men enlisted their lives in a great crusade - one of the greatest of all times," he said.

"Their mission is the story of an epic battle and the ferocious eternal struggle between good and evil."

Mr Macron said: "Today France has not forgotten those fighters for whom we owe our freedom. On behalf of France I bow down in front of their bravery. I bow down to our veterans and I say thank you."

The two world leaders witnessed a flyover after the ceremony, as the planes released a streak of red, white and blue colours as they passed.

Mr Trump and Mr Macron appeared alongside each other at a memorial event near Caen, France. Credit: AP

Justin Trudeau was in France on Thursday to attend a commemoration ceremony at Juno beach, where 14,000 Canadians helped in the fight against Nazi Germany.

The Canadian prime minister hailed his countrymen who "came together as one" to fight "for democracy, for liberty, for peace".

  • We will remember them

The day began with a lone piper playing a lament at the spot where the first British soldier landed on Gold beach in Normandy.

Stood atop the remaining Mulberry Harbour in the town of Port Winston, Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie, of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) performed Highland Laddie as crowds gathered on the beach below him and lined the promenade, applauding his performance.

Maj Macey-Lillie played the lament at 7.25am (6.25am BST) at the exact time the landing took place, beginning a day of commemorations across France and the UK which will see some 300 plus veterans flock to the town of Arromanches, Normandy, for a series of events.

The city, close to the northern French coast, was the first major place to be liberated, after the Allied forces invasion.

Across the Channel, a service of remembrance and wreath laying takes place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

And in London, the Duke of Sussex attended Founder's Day at the Royal Hospital Chelsea where he saw the Chelsea Pensioners and six veterans from the Normandy Landings.

  • What is the D-Day landings and why is it so historic?

The allied forces' combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France began on June 6, 1944.

Codenamed Operation Overlord, Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the mission as "undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place".

It marked an 80-day assault to liberate Normandy, which involved three million troops, with 250,000 who died in their efforts.

American troops land in France on D-Day. Credit: PA

As night drew on June 6, 1944, around 156,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy's, battling heavy weather conditions and coming under fire from German forces.

Some of those who made the journey did not make to shore as they drowned when dropped off in waters too deep.

Within 11 months of the D-Day landings, the Nazis were defeated as they allied troops pushed into mainland Europe.