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.
In a moving address delivered on the very Normandy beach stormed by British troops, Mr Hollande said people needed the same courage as the Allied forces who fought and died to end Nazi tyranny. 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.
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 Sword Beach, the codename for the easternmost of the five beaches targeted on D-Day, and assaulted by the 3rd British Infantry Division. He said: “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 said: “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 courage of individual nations, including his country’s own small group which was part of the Allied invasion force.