King Charles travels to mark D-Day anniversary while Prince William takes greater role

King Charles travels to mark D-Day anniversary while Prince William takes greater role
  • PublishedJune 7, 2024

Britain’s King Charles III embarked on his first overseas trip since being diagnosed with cancer, traveling across the English Channel for commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day Landings in Normandy.

Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed on five stretches of the German-occupied Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944. Operation Overlord – as D-Day was codenamed – remains, to this day, the largest amphibious invasion in history, and was a crucial turning point in defeating the Nazis in World War II.

Omaha Beach was the deadliest of the landing sites as German forces were entrenched in fortified cliff positions above allowing them to fire on the first waves of US soldiers as they reached the shore.

Nearly 10,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded on D-Day. Exact figures of German casualties on the day are not known, however it has been estimated to be between 4,000 and 9,000 service personnel.

On Thursday morning, King Charles and Queen Camilla attended the UK Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion’s commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer. Charles is patron of both the Royal British Legion and Normandy Memorial Trust.

King Charles and Queen Camilla were joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at the British Normandy Memorial.

King Charles and Queen Camilla were joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at the British Normandy Memorial. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The King, wearing his Field Marshal No 4 Tropical Service dress uniform with medals and decorations, urged allies to “recall lessons that come to us again and again,” while addressing D-Day veterans.

“How fortunate we were and the entire free world that a generation of men and women in the United Kingdom and other Allied nations did not flinch when the moment came to face that test,” Charles said, adding that his grandfather, King George VI, described the events of D-Day as “the supreme test.”

Charles reflected on the qualities of the armed forces involved, saying they “carried out their duty with a humbling sense of resolve and determination.”

He also used the speech to reflect on the past through the lens of the present, saying: “We recall the lesson that comes to us again and again across the decades. Three nations must stand together to oppose tyranny.”

British troops escort German prisoners in Normandy.
A makeshift monument pays tribute to a fallen American soldier at Normandy.
American troops storm the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

American troops storm the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.Robert F. Sargent/Getty Images

The British Army's 50th Infantry Division lands on beaches in Normandy. Allied troops landed on five stretches of the Normandy coastline that were code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
US servicemen in New York read news about the D-Day invasion. The operation was led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would later become president of the United States.
Commandos with the British Royal Navy advance on the beach. Planning for D-Day began more than a year in advance, and the Allies carried out substantial military deception to confuse the Germans as to when and where the invasion would take place.
US Coast Guard boats are seen off Omaha Beach on the morning of D-Day. Troops left the USS Samuel Chase early that day to head to Normandy. "When the order 'Lower Away' came, everything was quiet," Sargent recalled. "Just the squeaking of the davits and the whispered comments of the men were heard. The soldiers were silent."
Medics start an IV as they assist a wounded soldier on shore. Heavy fire from German positions caused many casualties.
A squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, under the command of US Air Force Lt. Col. Clarence Shoop, fly across the English countryside on their way to France on D-Day.
Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces, gives the order of the day to paratroopers in England. "Full victory — nothing else" was the command just before they boarded their planes to participate in the first wave.
Reinforcements disembark from boats at Normandy.
US paratroopers fix their static lines before a jump over Normandy. The Allied invasion — codenamed Operation Overlord — was coordinated across air, land and sea.
Landing craft and a fleet of protection vessels approach Omaha Beach. By midnight, the troops had secured their beachheads and moved further inland.
British troops reach the shore in the early morning. According to the Royal British Legion, the phrase D-Day was used fairly often before the Normandy landings. After them, however, the two became synonymous, and now D-Day is commonly understood to refer to the beginning of Operation Overlord.
British troops use radios during the move inland.
French soldiers are transported on the Normandy beaches. Most troops on D-Day were American, British and Canadian, according to the Imperial War Museums, but troops also came from Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Poland.
A B-26 from the US Air Force flies over one of the beaches during the invasion.
These US soldiers reached Omaha Beach aboard a life raft.
British tanks are seen on an American landing barge crossing the English Channel.
US troops huddle behind the protective front of their landing craft as it nears a beachhead in France. Smoke in the background is naval gunfire giving cover to troops on land. Germans rained mortars and artillery down on Allied troops, killing many before they could even get out of their boats. Fighting was especially fierce at Omaha Beach, where Nazi fighters nearly wiped out the first wave of invading forces and left the survivors struggling for cover.
Injured American soldiers wait to be moved to a field hospital after storming Omaha Beach.
US troops wait to disembark a landing craft on D-Day. The Allies went to elaborate lengths to maintain secrecy and mislead Adolf Hitler. They employed double agents and used decoy tanks and phony bases in England to hide actual troop movements.
American troops help their injured comrades after their landing craft was fired upon.
The crew on the British frigate HMS Holmes keep watch as gliders pass overhead with reinforcements from the 6th Airborne Division.
Bodies of American soldiers lie on the ground in Normandy as graves are dug.
British troops escort German prisoners in Normandy.
A makeshift monument pays tribute to a fallen American soldier at Normandy.
American troops storm the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.
The British Army's 50th Infantry Division lands on beaches in Normandy. Allied troops landed on five stretches of the Normandy coastline that were code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
The D-Day landings, in pictures

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Charles also spoke in French, thanking the people of France for their “warmth” and “generosity” towards D-Day veterans, which he said is the “most moving and memorable part of these anniversaries.”

While the King traveled to France for commemorations, he did not join world leaders – including Macron and his US counterpart Joe Biden – later Thursday as they gather at Omaha Beach to honor troops for their bravery and sacrifice eight decades ago. Instead, Prince William represented Britain’s royal family at the international ceremony at Omaha Beach.

The optics of seeing the Prince of Wales instead of his father will not have been be lost on those within the royal household, as well as royal-watchers. Nonetheless, CNN understands that it wasn’t a deliberate orchestration. William, 41, has deputized for Charles before, such as when he traveled to Kuwait for the funeral of Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in December.

However, seeing the future monarch in the company of other heads of state was a powerful visual and speaks to the longer transition which will prepare the public for King William V’s reign.

King Charles also only recently returned to public engagements after getting the green light from his doctors who were “encouraged” by his progress.

He is continuing to receive treatment and each engagement the 75-year-old sovereign carries out is being reviewed and adapted where necessary by his medical team to ensure his continued recovery.

That simple reason of following medical advice appears to be behind the King’s absence at the international commemoration on Thursday afternoon. A royal source told CNN that it was considered a step too far at this stage but that the monarch was delighted the Prince of Wales was representing the nation.

William has been an ever-present fixture as the royal family marked the D-Day anniversary in recent days. Earlier Thursday, the heir to the British throne paid tribute at the Canadian commemorative ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-Sur-Mer, where he joined veterans as well as current serving personnel before making a speech and laying a wreath.

Prince William meets Richard Rohmer, 100, one of the most decorated Canadian veterans, accompanied by the Prime Minister of France Gabriel Attal and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Canadian government ceremony at Juno Beach on Thursday.

Prince William meets Richard Rohmer, 100, one of the most decorated Canadian veterans, accompanied by the Prime Minister of France Gabriel Attal and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Canadian government ceremony at Juno Beach on Thursday. Jordan Pettitt/Getty Images

A day earlier, William had joined Charles and Camilla at the UK’s national commemorative event in Portsmouth. The city on England’s south coast was one of the places Allied troops sailed from before the Normandy landings.

William paid tribute to veterans who “came from across our nation and from all walks of life to join in the fight against tyranny. Many of those that took up arms had never seen combat before, some were still only in their teens.”

Meanwhile, in his own moving speech, King Charles told crowds that “the stories of courage, resilience and solidarity” must not be forgotten and that they are a reminder “of what we owe to that great wartime generation.”

Charles added: “It is our duty to ensure that we, and future generations, do not forget their service and their sacrifice.”

SOURCE: CNNNEWS

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