Veterans unable to travel to Normandy because of Covid-19 travel restrictions are invited to mark the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings at a commemorative event in England.
The gathering at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Sunday 6 June will include a live broadcast of the official opening of the newly-completed British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer.
Veterans and their families will see coverage of the Royal British Legion’s service of remembrance at The Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery recorded earlier that morning.
There will also be an opportunity for Normandy veterans to have their Legion d’honneur formally presented to them by the French ambassador to the UK.
It will be the first major commemorative event of the year at which veterans from around the country will be invited to gather.
The British Normandy Memorial, designed by British architect Liam O’Connor, records the names of the 22,442 servicemen and women under British command who fell on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944.
The official opening of the memorial is the culmination of nearly six years of work by the Normandy Memorial Trust.
The memorial – which cost almost £30 million and was funded by the UK government and private benefactors – stands on a hillside overlooking Gold Beach, one of three beaches where British forces landed on the morning of 6 June 1944 to begin the liberation of western Europe.
The memorial features the D-Day Sculpture by British sculptor David Williams-Ellis, the D-Day Wall featuring the names of those who fell on D-Day itself and, on 160 stone columns, the names of those others who lost their lives between D-Day and the Liberation of Paris at the end of August 1944.
The site also includes a French memorial dedicated to the memory of French civilians who died during this time.
Almost 4,000 tonnes of stone have been used in the memorial’s construction.
The official opening of the memorial will be presided over by the British ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewellyn, accompanied by senior French guests.
The Royal British Legion’s assistant director of commemorative events, Bob Gamble, said: “With each passing year, it is increasingly important that we remember and pay tribute to all who served and sacrificed during Operation Overlord, a major turning point of the Second World War.
“We understand how much it means to the veterans and their families to be in Normandy for these commemorations, however we are also conscious that there is still great uncertainty surrounding international travel.
“Therefore, we have taken the decision to pay tribute to this important generation in the safe and secure environment of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
“We invite veterans who intended to travel to Normandy to join us on 6th June as we reflect on a day that changed the course of history, and celebrate the peace and freedom won by all who took part.”
D-Day – codenamed Operation Overlord – was the greatest combined land, air and naval operation in history.
On 6 June 1994, 156,000 soldiers from Britain, the USA, Canada and France landed on the beaches of Normandy with thousands of vehicles and supplies in a bid to reclaim western Europe from Nazi control.