World leaders, including US President Donald Trump, joined Queen Elizabeth II, in Portsmouth on Wednesday, for the official commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The 93-year-old UK monarch was the last to arrive at the event, attended by some 300 veterans and other world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A huge stage, decorated with the national flags of the World War II allies, had been set up for the occasion. Members of the armed forces welcomed the Queen with a military display.
The Queen was accompanied by son and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, as well as the US President and First Lady Melania Trump, outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Denmark.
As part of the commemorations, images of the D-Day landings were shown on a large screen set up on the stage. Several nonagenarian veterans took to the stage, mostly with walking sticks and wearing medals on their lapels, and were applauded by the audience.
On Thursday, memorial services are planned to mark the 75 years since the D-Day landings. Troops from the UK, the US, Canada and France attacked German forces on the coast of northern France on June 6, 1944. It was the largest military naval, air and land operation and marked the start of the campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied north-west Europe.
At the Wednesday event, Trump read a prayer, written by then US President Franklin D Roosevelt and delivered on the evening of D-day — June 6, 1944, the Guardian reported.
May read the letter of Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps written to his wife Gladys on June 3, 1944. The letter was still in his pocket when he landed on Sword Beach on June 6. Skinner was killed the day after, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters.
French President Macron read the final letter of Henri Fertet, a resistance fighter, executed aged 16. “The soldiers are coming to get me. I must hurry. My handwriting may look wobbly, but it’s just because I am using a small pencil. I am not afraid of death, my conscience is completely clear… A thousand kisses. Long live France,” he wrote.
Ahead of the event, the 16 nations involved in the commemorations agreed on a proclamation to mark the anniversary. The statement, coordinated by the UK, recognises the sacrifice of those who took part in the Second World War and salutes the surviving D-day veterans.
The text was agreed upon by Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US.
Meanwhile, scuffles broke out in one part of the port city after groups of football casuals marched through a protest against Trump.