Lest we forget their sacrifice: Lone military piper pays tribute to fallen D-Day soldiers on Gold Beach to mark exact moment British troops stormed Normandy beaches 80 years ago today

Lest we forget their sacrifice: Lone military piper pays tribute to fallen D-Day soldiers on Gold Beach to mark exact moment British troops stormed Normandy beaches 80 years ago today


A lone military piper has played on Gold Beach to mark the moment the first British troops stormed the Normandy coast on D-Day 80 years ago today.

Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie played Highland Laddie as he was carried to the beach at Arromanches on a Royal Marines amphibious landing craft flanked by service members.

It took place at the exact moment the first troops waded ashore as part of the Normandy landings in the battle to retake Europe from the Nazis all those years ago, and harkens back to a lone piper who played during the event itself and was never shot at.

Crowds gathered at the beach to view the reenactment, which took place in a picturesque sunrise – a far cry from the cloudy and rough seas that welcomed 25,000 soldiers who landed on the same stretch of coast in 1944.

Among those present at Arromanches this morning is Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, who joined others in paying tribute to those who lost their lives during what was the biggest seaborne invasion in military history.

There have also been events remember the British troops on Sword Beach in Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Canadian soldiers on Juno Beach at Courseulles and US forces at Utah Beach in Pouppeville and Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

Later today there will be further events commemorating the events of 80 years ago, with King Charles and Queen Camilla, along with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and French President Emmanuel Macron, all taking part.

A giant poppy is displayed on the beach at Arromanches as people walk along the sand before today's commemorations

People gather together as the sun rises over Gold Beach this morning on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Military reenactors travel along the beach at Arromanches in an amphibious landing craft as the sun rises this morning

A military reenactor looks out to sea as the sun rises on Gold Beach this morning ahead of a day of events to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day

Veteran Jack Mortimer becomes emotional while travelling to France from Britain on Tuesday, June 4, ahead of D-Day commemorations

Pipe Major Macey-Lillie, who also performed his role as the lone piper on gold Beach during the 75th anniversary, said it was a ‘privileged, humbling experience’ to take part. 

‘We are here to represent and remember the veterans who are still here today and for the young soldiers of all Allied forces who didn’t make it home,’ he told the BBC.

‘It was freezing cold out there this morning and last night. I was on the landing craft out behind the harbour looking up at the stars and thinking to myself about exactly what the young soldiers had thought prior to them coming onto the beaches.’

He performed to crowds of reenactors who gather in their wartime vehicles, and visitors, had previously filled the area as the sun rose, with some writing in the sand and others cupping hot drinks as they looked out to sea. 

After the piper’s lament the piper’s lament, a French church service was held and military planes flew overhead. 

Following the poignant remembrance on the beach, there will be commemorations in the French town including a veterans parade, as well as an air and firework display.

There have also been reenactments on other beaches which were targeted during D-Day, with a fellow British congregation gathering on Sword Beach to pay respects to those who lost their lives on June 6, 1944.

There are also events at Juno Beach, Utah Beach and Omaha Beach where heroic Canadian and US troops played their part in the Normandy landings.

In recent days veterans of the conflict, who are dwindling in number as the years pass, have travelled to France to take part in events commemorating the fallen.

At the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings the Royal British Legion (RBL) took 255 veterans back to Normandy on a chartered ship, while this year only 23 will make the trip with the charity.

A total of 50 British D-Day veterans are expected to be at events in Normandy today, and there have been emotional scenes as those who are well enough to make the journey have gathered in northern France.

Charles and Camilla, along with senior politicians, will be present at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, which pays tribute to 22,442 service personnel under British command who died on D-day and during the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, pictured here sat in a military vehicle, was among those present at Gold Beach in Arromanche this morning

Military aircraft fly over the beach at Arromanches in Normandy today as they travel over the northern coast of France to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day

A military reenactor kneels in the sand as they pay tribute to those who lost their lives on Gold Beach during the Normandy landings

A group of people stand looking out to sea as the sun rises over Arromanche 80 years to the day that thousands of British men stormed Gold Beach and the battle to retake Europe from the Nazis began

The military piper was driven ashore in an amphibious vehicle after being ferried to the beach in northern France on a landing craft

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage stands with reenactors on Gold Beach this morning as people pay their respects to those who died during the D-Day landings

A man rides a Second World War era motorcycle across Gold Beach in Arromanche this morning

Three memorial crosses are laid in the sand, alongside a lone poppy, next to Mulberry harbour on Gold Beach this morning

An amphibious vehicle carries Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie of the Scots Royal Artillery onto Gold Beach in the morning light

A house near Gold Beach in Arromanches is decked with the national flags of the UK, USA, Canada and France as the world pays its respects to those lost on D-Day

A pipe band plays at Utah Beach near Saint-Martin-de-Vareville, where US forces landed on D-Day

A reenactor holds a lantern during a ceremony at Utah Beach to commemorate US soldiers who died while storming the coast

A soldier parachutes down to Utah Beach with a red flare billowing smoke behind him in remembrance to US soldiers

The sun rises over the headstones at the Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach on the 80th anniversary of D-Day

It will be the first major anniversary at the site, which opened in 2021, with Charles and Camilla officially opening the Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning following the commemorations today.

Meanwhile, Prince William will attend the Canadian commemorative event at the Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Mer, before joining more than 25 heads of state and veterans for the official international ceremony on Omaha Beach, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

An 80-strong flotilla of boats is set to cross the English Channel from Falmouth in Cornwall, where thousands of troops departed to take part in the invasion, while there will also be a beacon-lighting ceremony in Aylesford, Kent. 

At midnight this morning there was a ceremony at the Bayeux War Cemetery, with the gravestones of soldiers who perished during the Normandy landings being illuminated.

Later today the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will join veterans at a Royal British Legion remembrance service at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will meet veterans at a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The event, D-day 80: Remembering The Normandy Landings, will be hosted by Davina McCall and feature music from the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, as well as Lulu, Katherine Jenkins, Emeli Sande and D-day Darlings lead vocalist Katie Ashby.

The weather is expected to be ‘generally dry’ during the commemorations, the Met Office said.

Met Office forecaster Craig Snell said: ‘It’ll be pretty dry on either side of the channel.

‘It shouldn’t hamper any commemorations during the day.

‘It’ll be better weather compared to what they had then [in 1944]. Less windy and probably a bit brighter.’

Veteran Donald Jones reacts as he returns to Sword Beach in Normandy where he landed on D-Day as part of the British Armed Forces on Tuesday, June 4

Ronald Hendrey salutes as he visits the headstone of a former comrade in arms at the Bayeux War Cemetery on Wednesday, June 5

Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie plays the bagpipes as he is brought ashore at Gold Beach in an amphibious vehicle this morning

British soldiers stand guard near illuminated gravestones at the Bayeux War Cemetery in northern France during a ceremony at midnight

A British soldier photographs graves at the Bayeux War Cemetery in the early hours of this morning on the 80th anniversary of D-Day

The grave of an unidentified soldier is illuminated alongside others at the Bayeux War Cemetery in northern France this morning

Lord Peter Ricketts, the former UK ambassador to France and now honorary president of the Normandy Memorial Trust, says it’s important to remember that today is a ‘commemoration, certainly not celebration’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Vladimir Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine, which has seen him dis-invited to this year’s commemorations, mean the events have taken on a new significance.

‘What Russia has done since then makes it impossible for a senior Russian representatives to be here,’ he said.

‘When we were allied, when we were successful. It’s vital we pass that message on to the younger people.’

Nigel Steel, senior curator at the Imperial War Museum, said it is important to ‘make the most’ of having D-Day veterans as their numbers dwindle.

He told MailOnline: ‘The presence of a veterans is special for us and I think we do need to make the most of that because we know that it’s only a matter of time [before they’re no longer there].

‘When the veterans are there it’s great because we can listen to them and we’re kind of enamored by the veterans as much as the event.

‘But without the veterans, as we are now doing with the First World War, we can still talk about it and remember it and appreciate the significance and remember the veterans as part of that historical memory.

‘They [veterans] are so fascinating to us because they were actually there and in their heads are the real memories and all we can do is talk to them and pick this up second hand. 

‘I think that’s the great thing about talking to veterans is that you feel your as close to the events as you can ever possibly be. 

‘You’ve kind of got a direct line back to those events because they were actually there and they were there witnessing and taking part in them.

‘So that’s why we need to make the most of it while they’re still here but whilst we’re talking to them we need to store up those memories so that we can then share them with the next generations who don’t have the privilege of meeting them in person.’


Matthew Lodge

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