D-Day 2021: Veterans mark 77th anniversary of the Normandy Landings as British-Normandy memorial opens

WW2 veterans gather at the National Memorial Arboretum to remember 77 years since the D-Day Landings

A major memorial event in Staffordshire is taking place to mark the 77th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WW2.

Veterans unable to travel to Normandy because of Covid travel restrictions have been invited to a commemorative event in England on 6 June.

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Around 4,400 Allied troops paid the ultimate price for ensuring D-Day was one of the most successful military operations the world has ever seen.

D-Day veterans arrive to watch the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire (PA).

On June 6 1944, some 156,000 British, American and Canadian troops arrived on French soil from sea and air in an effort to free Europe from the Nazis.

The Staffordshire event will also mark the £30 million memorial opening in France that will honour 22,442 British servicemen in the D-Day landings and Battle of Normandy.

Where is the D-Day memorial taking place in 2021 and which French beaches were used to land on?

Where is the D-Day memorial taking place?

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 (RBL/PA).

Veterans are gathering at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire which 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 where veterans from around the country will be invited to gather.

The British Normandy Memorial, designed by British architect Liam O'Connor, which 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 (RBL/PA).

Why was D-Day so important?

D-Day, codenamed Operation Overlord, was the greatest combined land, air and naval operation in history.

The D-Day landings marked the start of the campaign to free north-west Europe from the Nazis.

It helped overwhelm Hitler’s Nazi Reich and led eventually to the Allies’ victory in Europe in May 1945.

Veterans unable to travel to Normandy because of Covid travel restrictions are invited to mark the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings at a commemorative event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire (RBL/PA)

Which beaches did troops land on?

On the morning of D-Day, ground troops landed across 50 miles of Normandy coastline on five assault beaches - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – with

casualties were higher on Omaha than on any other beach as it was the most heavily defended.

By the end of 6 June, the Allies had established themselves on shore and could begin the advance into France.

By 30 June, 850,279 men, 148,803 vehicles and 570,505 tons of supplies had landed.

Why is the memorial in Normandy?

The new £30 million memorial at Ver-sur-Mer overlooks Gold Beach.

It’s one of three beaches where British forces landed on the morning of June 6 1944 to begin the liberation of Western Europe.

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 cost almost £30 million and was funded by the British Government and private benefactors.

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.

Bob Gamble, the Royal British Legion’s assistant director of commemorative events, 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 WW2.

“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 6 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.”

Additional reporting by PA.