UK royals and Blair ready for Normandy landing

3rd June 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, June 2 (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II, only 18 when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy 60 years ago, will travel across the Channel on Sunday along with other members of the British royal family to mark the last major D-Day celebration.

LONDON, June 2 (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II, only 18 when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy 60 years ago, will travel across the Channel on Sunday along with other members of the British royal family to mark the last major D-Day celebration.

The sovereign is due to address two groups of war veterans from Britain and Canada, and attend a larger international ceremony alongside the 17 heads of state and government present for the weekend ceremonies.

Queen Elizabeth will be accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, a former Royal Navy officer who saw action in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean before going to the Pacific theatre in 1944.

Her heir to the throne, Prince Charles, will also participate in several of the major events across Normandy to commemorate Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944, which led to the liberation of France from Nazi Germany.

Britain will also be represented by Prime Minister Tony Blair and some 10,000 veterans and their families who are expected to return for a final visit to their old battle grounds.

With 7,000 official guests, a journalistic contingent of 1,300, an untold number of visitors from Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States,
Normandy will also bring together world leaders who have often stood far apart during the ongoing Iraq conflict.

US President George W. Bush will come head-to-head with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, in a much-anticipated meeting following their stark clashes over the Iraq invasion.

Blair, Bush's staunchest ally on Iraq, will also join Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who both opposed the war, along with the other leaders at the main international ceremony Sunday afternoon in the seaside town of Arromanches.

Bush, on the campaign trail ahead of the November presidential election, has evoked the US role in World War II in comparison with his invasion of Iraq. It has not been a comparison readily used by the leaders of other Allied nations attending the French ceremonies.

For the British royals, the events will fill a busy weekend. The queen and Blair, along with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, will attend a commemoration of the Canadians' landing on Juno beach.

Queen Elizabeth and Blair will then join Chirac at a joint French-British memorial ceremony at a war cemetery in Bayeux, before heading to a lunch for heads of state.

Both the monarch and the prime minister will end the day by meeting veterans in Arromanches.

Charles's busy day of events Saturday includes a wreath-laying and the commemoration of a statue to a wartime commander. He will notably also unveil a replica of the Horsa gliders on which British soldiers sailed into France on June 6, 60 years ago, and captured a key bridge.

As many as 35,000 Britons, by some counts, could make the journey across the Channel at the weekend, and two warships will accompany the ferries which leave England's southern ports on Saturday for Normandy.

For those who remain in Britain, other D-Day commemorations are being staged in the ports of Portsmouth and Southampton.

An unprecedented media coverage has set the stage in Britain for the D-Day celebrations, reflecting a rising interest in World War II and a generation of aging war heroes, many of them now in their 80s and 90s.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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