World leaders gather to mark D-day invasion that liberated Europe

London: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to join the Queen, outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, US President Donald Trump, other world leaders and World War II veterans on the southern coast of England to honour the Allied soldiers who risked and gave their lives in large numbers 75 years ago for the D-Day invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.

Britain promised "unprecedented commemorations" in Portsmouth. Testimony from some of the more than 300 WWII veterans expected there and "one of the greatest British military spectacles in recent years" featuring a flyby of 24 vintage and modern military aircraft on the schedule.

A Ranger from the US 75th Ranger Regiment, in period dress, walks on the overlook after scaling the cliffs of Pointe-du-Hoc in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Normandy, France, on Wednesday.Credit:AP

But the event, which kicks off two days of D-Day anniversary observances, is intended to be a tribute to the soldiers who shaped history during the dangerous mission to reach beachheads and fight in German-occupied France.

"The Normandy landings 75 years ago were a moment of historic international cooperation," May said. "And it is right that at the heart of today's commemorations are the veterans who fought to secure the liberty and the peace that we now enjoy."

Planning to attend are presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy: the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.

The leader of the country that was the enemy in 1944, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also was invited.

In Portsmouth, dignitaries plan to read from historical documents linked to D-Day. In May's case, it's a letter written by Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife, Gladys, on June 3, 1944, a few days before the invasion. It was in his pocket when he landed in Normandy.

"I can imagine you in the garden having tea with Janey and Anne getting ready to put them to bed," wrote Skinner, who was killed the day after D-Day. "Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do."

The observances will conclude Trump's state visit to Britain. The Queen will be accompanied by her son, Prince Charles, at the event.

The focus then shifts to France, where commemorations will be held at simple military cemeteries near the Normandy beaches where Allied troops landed and died.


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