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Prime Minister’s remarks for the 80th anniversary of D-Day

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s remarks at the British Normandy Memorial for the 80th anniversary of D-Day 6 June 2024.

Eighty years ago, the weather broke – and the greatest invasion force in history left the shores of Britain to liberate Europe.

We are here today to remember the sacrifice of the tens of thousands who did not make it home.

And we are here to honour the service of those who did.

Men like Ken Cooke.

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18 years old. He’d never been on a boat before. He’d never been on a beach before.

Yet with his regiment, the Green Howards, he landed in the first wave to storm Gold Beach.

Or Stan Ford, 19, who was manning a gun turret on HMS Fratton when a torpedo struck, blowing him into the water.

The ship sank in 4 minutes. 31 of Stan’s shipmates were lost from a crew of 80.

Or Royal Marine Dennis Donovan, who landed on Juno Beach alongside Canadian forces.

They fought their way off the beach and into the bitter house-to-house fighting to take Langrune-sur-Mer.

By the end of the first day, a quarter of his unit was dead or wounded.

Ken, Stan, and Dennis are here today, alongside dozens of their fellow veterans.

We are humbled to be with you. And for what you did that day, we will always be grateful.

I can guess how they might feel when they hear us applaud their courage.

“I’m no hero”, they will say. “I just did my duty”.

That humility is so much a part of why they are truly the best of us.

But to call one person a hero does not diminish the heroism of others.

Each of you who contributed that day – sailor, soldier, aviator, civilian…

…whether you fought on the beaches, or parachuted from the skies, or flew fighters or gliders…

…whether you were an engineer, or a radio operator, or an intelligence officer…

…your actions freed a continent and built a better world.

You risked everything. And we owe you everything.

We cannot possibly hope to repay that debt.

But we can – and we must – pledge never to forget.

After the war, many of you dedicated your lives to telling the story of what happened here.

You sold poppies and raised millions for charity.

You taught generations of young people about the horrors of war.

You lived lives of quiet dignity and dedication in your homes, workplaces, communities.

Yet with each passing year, it falls now to those of us who listened in awe to your stories…

…to pass them on to our own children and grandchildren.

Because only by remembering can we make certain that the cause you fought for…

…and that so many of your friends and colleagues died for…

…that great cause of freedom, peace, and democracy…

…will never be taken for granted.

That is why we come here today.

That is why we honour our veterans – now and always.

And that is why I ask those who can, to rise and please join me in giving our heroes the welcome they so deserve.

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