THE sacrifices made by Allied troops who fought and died to free Europe from Nazi tyranny were honoured by leaders from across the world during an international ceremony of commemoration.
French President Francois Hollande has issued a rallying cry to the world calling on nations to fight against threats to peace just as the D-Day troops did 70 years ago.
In a moving address delivered on the very Normandy beach stormed by British troops on June 6, 1944, Mr Hollande said people needed the same courage as the Allied forces who fought and died to end Nazi tyranny.
France’s head of state spoke during an international ceremony staged to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings - the largest amphibious assault in history,
To loud applause from an audience of veterans and heads of state - including the Queen - Mr Hollande also said he wanted to see the beaches of Normandy become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mr Hollande said it was the world’s duty to fight extremism and fundamentalism adding: “It’s up to us to have the same vision, the same courage, to be just as bright and have the same determination as those who came to these beaches 70 years ago.”
He said the threats to cohesion today ranged from terrorism to global warming and mass unemployment and that they could cause conflict.
Archive black and white movie footage and performers were used to tell the the story of the atrocities of the Nazi regime and the exploits of the Allied troops whose invasion of mainland Europe would eventually lead to the downfall of Hitler’s regime.
The spectacle was the high point of many commemoration events which have seen thousands flock to beaches, cemeteries and villages linked to the Normandy landings .
It is likely to be the last major tribute to the sacrifices made by the hundreds of elderly veterans who were in the stands watching, and their comrades who died fighting.
Among the heads of state who attended were US President Barack Obama, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, King Harald V of Norway and President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic.
Mr Hollande hosted the event and sat with the Queen on his right. Further along the row was Grerman Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Hollande, whose French speech was translated by an interpreter, called on the United Nations to fulfil its duty and “intervene wherever necessary for collective security”.
He spoke from Ouistreham’s Sword Beach, the codename for the easternmost of the five beaches targeted on D-Day, and assaulted by the 3rd British Infantry Division.
He took the audience back to the battlefield horrors of 70 years ago: “Before this very beach, this beautiful beach, thousands of young soldiers jumped in the water... to run towards deadly German fire.”
He described how the soldiers were young men but “for them 20 was the age of duty, the age of commitment the age of sacrifice”.
He added: “They surely had in mind their loving mother, worried father - their childhood was so close in their life.
“However these young men, in the middle of this hell of fire and steel, didn’t hesitate. They moved forward, defied bullets and shells. Moved forward, risking their lives in order to shatter a diabolical regime.”
The French president praised the fighting courage of individual nations, from his country’s own small group which was part of the Allied invasion force that stormed the beaches, to the Americans who suffered heavy casualties on Omaha Beach.
He also paid homage to all those who were victims of Nazi rule.
The Queen appeared in some of the black-and-white footage which was shown as, during the Second World War, she served as a Second Subaltern with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and trained as a mechanic and military truck driver. She was featured leaning over the engine of the vehicle, working on it.
The large group of performers staged a drama in four acts which documented occupied Europe, D-Day, the long road to victory and post-war peace.
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