British paratroopers to mark D-Day 70th anniversary

A member of the Parachute Regiment salutes a parachute drop by 3 Para, at Pegasus Memorial, in Ranville, Normandy, to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. A parachute jump was held over Ranville, France, to mark the 65th anniversary in 2009

This year's 70th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings is to be marked with a mass parachute jump in France, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The tribute, taking place on 5 June, will be carried out by members of the 16 Air Assault Brigade.

The jump is being held over the village of Ranville, in Normandy, which was liberated by the British 13th Parachute Battalion in 1944.

It is one of a series of events being held to mark the anniversary.

D-Day - 6 June 1944

  • D-Day had been planned for more than a year, and those who were to take part spent several months training
  • The ambitious air and sea assault was dependent on a combination of factors, including the weather, tidal conditions and most important of all, surprise
  • Despite forecasts of poor weather, it was originally scheduled for 5 June
  • Storms forced Supreme Allied Commander Gen Dwight Eisenhower to put it back 24 hours. Finally, the weather improved and he gave the command
  • A total of 156,000 men took part in D-Day, but many times that number were to be involved in the ensuing campaign over the next few months
  • A total of 6,000 ships and landing craft were involved, delivering troops to five beaches along a carefully selected stretch of the Normandy coast

Defence Minister Lord Astor said: "I'm delighted that the Ministry of Defence will be supporting the veterans of this historic campaign as they gather to remember on the beaches of Normandy.

"The 70th anniversary will be an occasion for us all to pay fitting tribute to those who fought for the liberation of Europe, and I know that our servicemen and women will be honoured to take part."

Ranville was the first place to be liberated in France on D-Day, and the parachute jump will be followed by a memorial service.

On 6 June, a further service of remembrance will take place at Bayeux Cathedral followed by a special event at the Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

The Normandy Veterans Association has said that this year's tributes will be the last it will officially mark before it is disbanded.

British paratroopers pictured in 1944 British paratroopers were the first Allied forces to go into combat against Nazi Germany in June 1944

National secretary for the group, 89-year-old George Batts, said: "We are disbanding because we are losing too many members. We used to have 15,000, but we're now down to less than 600."

D-Day took place on 6 June 1944 and was the first stage in the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule.

More than 80,000 British and Canadian troops took part in the invasion and around 3,000 Allied troops lost their lives.

The MoD said veterans wishing to return to Normandy in June will be able to apply for financial support from the Big Lottery Fund.

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