‘Ladies and Gentlemen, as Patron of the Normandy Memorial Trust, it gives me the greatest possible pride to be able to open officially this remarkable Memorial on the Seventy-Seventh Anniversary of D-Day.
As you can perhaps imagine, I had so hoped to have been in Ver-sur-Mer with you all today. However, whilst we are forced to meet virtually, I was much encouraged to hear that some of you have been able to gather to witness the proceedings at the National Memorial Arboretum today.
If I may, I particularly wanted to address my first remarks directly to those whose presence today, either in person or online, really matters the most.
I know just how much our incomparable Veterans had hoped to be in Normandy today to see “their” Memorial for themselves.
Despite having to watch via satellite link, this in no way obscures the enormous regard, and admiration, in which we hold our Veterans or diminishes our debt of gratitude to the more than 22,000 men and women whose names are now permanently inscribed in stone in this place of honour above Gold Beach.
As I said when I first became aware of the plans for this long overdue British memorial, it has for many years been a concern to me that the memory of these remarkable individuals should be preserved for future generations as an example of personal courage and sacrifice, for the benefit of the wider national and, indeed, international community.
Je voudrais aussi ici saluer le sacrifice des civils normands, des français, qui subirent les lourdes conséquences d’une bataille historique sur leurs terres. Ce Mémorial Britannique leur rend hommage, et rappelle le souvenir des milliers de civils victimes des combats de cet été mille neuf cent quarante-quatre.
It has been a great source of satisfaction for me to see how the plans for the memorial have developed over the years. Indeed, I had the pleasure of discussing those plans with President Macron when he visited London last Summer and I know how much this British Memorial, and the French Memorial which stands alongside it, mean to him and the French nation.
The British and French flags will fly alongside each other above the memorial, a reminder of the enduring and important ties between our two countries.
I would very much like to take the opportunity to thank all those at the Normandy Memorial Trust who have worked so hard to turn this memorial into a reality and all those who have either taken part in the memorial’s construction or who have contributed, alongside the British government, to fund this most significant of landmarks.
Furthermore, whilst I very much look forward to the day we can all visit this wonderful Memorial in person, I would also like to thank The Royal British Legion, in this their Centenary year, for their kindness in making available the facilities at the National Memorial Arboretum so that our Veterans may gather and be part of this virtual opening on the Seventy-Seventh Anniversary of D-Day.
I can only hope that this serves to commemorate all those whose lives were lost during the events of June 1944 and between D-Day and the liberation of Paris at the end of August 1944. May God bless our Veterans, the families and all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as a result of the operations around D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as the wonders of modern technology can only do so much, and I can’t quite reach from London, may I ask the British Ambassador to France, Lord Llewellyn, to open formally the British Normandy Memorial on my behalf?’