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UK’s military leaders praise ‘courage, bravery, ingenuity’ of D-Day participants

Members of the military on stage during the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, hosted by the Ministry of Defence on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Members of the military on stage during the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, hosted by the Ministry of Defence on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Senior leaders of the UK’s military have paid tribute to the “courage, bravery, ingenuity” of the thousands of soldiers who took part in the D-Day landings 80 years ago.

Speaking at the national commemoration in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the First Sea Lord and head of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Ben Key told the PA news agency: “We are here to commemorate the courage, bravery, ingenuity of all of those involved in the Normandy landings 80 years ago which was the start of the liberation of northern Europe and really marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

“And the courage, skill, commitment of those hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were in their late teens, early 20s.

First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Sir Ben Key (right) attends the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, hosted by the Ministry of Defence on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire
First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Sir Ben Key, right, attends the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The scale of the endeavour that had been undertaken was really quite remarkable and I think that accordingly it’s important that we reflect on what it took, how much it meant and just how important those events in 1944 through to 1945 were for the subsequent peace we have enjoyed across Europe.”

Speaking of the veterans, he added: “They are phenomenal, the way they tell their stories, the humility, the humour, they clearly reflect that there are so few of them left now.

“You can see in their eyes that they recall those of their mates who are no longer here, some of whom lost their lives on the very first day of the landings.

“They set a great example to us and it’s important, as some of them have said, that we continue to tell their stories, that we do not take for granted what it has taken to deliver peace for our times.”

Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said: “It’s important to acknowledge what the Second World War generation created on our behalf.

“It was a phenomenal military feat where they created the conditions so that Europe could defeat Nazi Germany.

“Militarily this was the largest seaborne invasion ever, it was the landing of 150,000 soldiers in one day, it involved 7,000 ships of which there were over 1,000 warships.

Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin attends the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, hosted by the Ministry of Defence on Southsea Common in Portsmouth, Hampshire
Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin attends the UK’s national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Southsea Common in Portsmouth (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It involved over 2,000 aircraft, over 1,000 gliders and all of this was done on our behalf so that we could have peace, stability, security in Europe and enjoy the prosperity we have today.

“It’s about acknowledging their sacrifice, their commitment, their professionalism and how fortunate we are for what they achieved on our behalf.”

Speaking of meeting the veterans, he added: “It’s quite emotional, it’s just to reflect that these are old people, to reflect on most soldiers that were going across had never been in combat before, the average age was in the mid-20s.

“Those people had been training for years, can you imagine what it must have been like to be at sea, going across the English Channel, you might be feeling a bit seasick, your stomach is retching because of your anxiety because you know you are going to face the enemy when you get to the other side and you know how important and big this is.

“That’s just the human piece, when you meet these amazing veterans, they are real people and they did this for us.”

Sir Tony added: “I had breakfast this morning with the heads of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force and we admire the courage, commitment and sacrifice of the individuals that took part but actually behind that was the extraordinary planning and extraordinary coming together of the nation to enable this to come together and that is quite intimidating when you go through the scale of this.”