Ceremonies, Fireworks, Walks, Talks, Tours, Vehicles, Living History & More
Time Remaining Until #DDay76:
As we enter the new decade, the 76th Anniversary of the Battle of Normandy in June 2020 will certainly be a bit quieter than 2019 in terms of large-scale official ceremonies, but these days even the quieter years seem to be getting busier with more and more events being organised by a growing number of independent groups or individuals. This is great to see. However, as time marches on, more and more veterans are sadly leaving us.
You can keep abreast of events planned for 2020 through our dedicated website at www.dday-anniversary.com where we compile and list events as they are announced by their organisers. Please note that we ourselves are not associated with any of the organisers, nor do we organise any of our own events. Wherever possible we will provide contact details for the organisers should you wish to contact them for more details, participation requests etc.
Accommodation in Normandy for the 76th Anniversary events should be a little easier to come by than last year, and fortunately the road closures and security restrictions should be slightly more relaxed. However, for those wishing to attend any of the official ceremonies we recommend you contact the organisers as soon as possible, as places are often limited.
One of the more notable events 2020 will be the official opening ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial on the cliffs overlooking Gold Beach at Ver-sur-Mer. This is due to take place in September and will require pre-registration. For more details please visit the official Normandy Memorial Trust website.
For the latest news and updates regarding the 76th Anniversary of the Battle of Normandy and other D-Day related stories and images, you can also follow us on Twitter.
2019 - D-Day 75th Anniversary (#DDay75)
A major quinquennial anniversary took place in 2019 with the marking of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. For some wanting to visit Normandy, getting accommodation proved troublesome with rooms selling out well in advance and much of the limited availability becoming very expensive. Even the camping site at Arromanches, for example, had been fully booked for the days around 6th June for around two years, such was the demand.
Unlike previous "big" anniversaries, there was no official International ceremony in 2019. US President Donald Trump joined members of the British Royal family and other leaders in marking the anniversary in Portsmouth, before travelling to France where he gave a speech at the official American ceremony at the cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. The British held their own ceremony at Ver-sur-Mer on the site being developed for the British Normandy Memorial, with Theresa May in attendance performing her final official engagement as Prime Minister. French President Macron attended the American and British ceremonies, whilst at the Juno Beach Centre the Canadian leader Justin Trudeau was joined by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
The inauguration of the site of the British Normandy Memorial site was well attended, and a large sculpture by David Williams-Ellis was unveiled. The statue would later be protectively encased in a temporary casing to prevent damage whilst the much larger part of the site would continue to be developed. The statue itself is a striking piece depicting three soldiers surging forward. The models used when creating the piece were actually football players and a ballet dancer. Not far away, just along coast at Arromanches, another memorial was unveiled. The D-Day Garden was designed by John Everiss for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May and was later transported to the cliffs overlooking the Mulberry Harbour as a permanent home. It features a life-size stone sculpture of veteran Bill Pendell and 15 stone plinths bearing words chosen by veterans. There are four metallic figures struggling through large waves, constructed from thousands of washers welded together. This unusual method of construction gives the figures an almost ethereal appearance. Piercing upwards through the ground are long pieces of pointed steel representing the beach obstacles. It really is an exceptional work.
D-Day veteran Jim Radford, one of the youngest to serve in Normandy. He joined the merchant navy at 15 years of age in 1944 and served as a galley boy aboard the tug Empire Larch, one of the vessels used to position blockships for the Mulberry Harbour. In later life Jim became a folk singer and after returning to Normandy in 1969 he wrote a song called "The Shores of Normandy". He performed the song at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014, but to raise funds in support of the new British Normandy Memorial he recorded the song and released it as a single. The download achieved the No.1 spot on the Apple iTunes and Amazon Music charts on 6th June 2019. You can purchase and download the moving song "The Shores of Normandy" from Amazon, and watch his 2014 "D-Day: 70 Years On" performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Certainly the biggest disappointment of 2019 for us and many others was the much-publicised "Daks Over Normandy" event which saw the coming together of dozens of classic Douglas C-47 / DC-3 aircraft, including 15 which made the trip from the United States. The events started in the UK at Duxford for several days before aircraft flew across the channel en masse to Caen-Carpiquet airport on 5th June. There were some issues on the UK side, but it was in France where the wheels really came off. Aside from the unavoidable weather issues, some parachutists who had paid considerable sums were not able to jump, whilst others were left without luggage which the organisers should have transported from England. The organisation at Caen-Carpiquet was effectively non-existent, with aircraft parked facing away from the crowds and at some distance. The problems encountered left many claiming refunds and, in the UK at least, the organisers (who it seems have "form") were reported to fraud authorities. You can read about the highs and lows in this article by Alex Prins and Paul Kolbe for "This Is Flight" website.
We look forward to the events of 2020 and the 76th Anniversary commemorations which should be a slightly more relaxed affair for all involved.
2018 - D-Day 74th Anniversary (#DDay74)
In 2018 we remembered the 74th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings. For the second year in a row many of the events taking place in Normandy were announced well ahead of time, although the usual changes and cancellations were taking place up until the last minute.
At Easter, the D-Day Story in Portsmouth (formerly the D-Day Museum & Overlord Embroidery) re-opened following its multi-million pound redevelopment - partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The new museum is a vast improvement and a lot of hard work and thought has gone into the new exhibition space. You can see some pictures and read our thoughts on the D-Day Story.
For 2018 DDay.Center was proud to be one of the sponsors of the Normandie-World War II International Film Festival & Band of Brothers Actors Reunion, organised by the World War II Foundation. It was a great honour to meet and chat with David McCallum (NCIS, Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Great Escape), and to see Dale Dye and other Band of Brothers actors.
With the 6th June once again falling mid-week, many of the Normandy events had been organised for the weekend prior - with some of the re-enactor encampments only being open over the weekend. Again in 2018, to bring attention to the UNESCO bid for the landing beaches, the huge simultaneous firework display was organised, but this was scheduled for the weekend following the Anniversary. 2018 felt slightly quieter than normal, despite the usual high number of events that took place. We believe this was partly due to the mid-week positioning of 6th June and partly because of the major Anniversary taking place in 2019 to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
2017 - D-Day 73rd Anniversary (#DDay73)
We were very surprised at how early in 2017 the first D-Day Anniversary events started to be announced. The first official, albeit preliminary, guide was released in January. In previous years we have waited until Easter before this has become available. By the end of February we were already on the fifth revision of our consolidated D-Day Event Guide. We released our ninth and final version at the end of May.
The Normandy commemorations in 2017 felt a little different than normal. The 6th June fell on a Tuesday (co-incidentally just as it had in 1944) and many events were held on the weekend preceedin the anniversary. We witnessed an unusually high number of military vehicle owners making their way home after the weekend and not staying around for the 6th. However, the event schedule perhaps explains why, as most of the larger events took place on the 3rd and 4th. Another difference to other years were the simultanous firework displays held in towns across the invasion front. The coordinated firework displays have been done on 60th and 70th Anniversaries, but in 2017 they were also intended to draw support for the bid to make the Normandy beaches a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unfortunately the simultaneous event seemed to come at the expense of other dispalys, with the normal events at Arromanches on 5th and 6th June and the Longues "Night They Arrived" displays not taking place.
There were plenty of parachute drops again from the skies above Normandy. The Round Canopy Parachute Team took part in several events with men jumping from a C-47 dressed in period uniforms of the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions. Just outside Sainte-Merè-Église at La Fiere there was the now regular event with multiple Unites States Air Force C-130 transport aircraft dropping a multi-national group of hundreds of active-service paratroopers close the the famous causeway.
The military antiques fair held for the last few years at the Normandy Tank Museum (now closed, but site now occupied by the Normandy Victory Museum) has found a new home at the impressive Hangar à Dirigeables at Écausseville. Held in a structure oppoiste the enormous World War One hangar for dirigible balloon or "airships", the military market was bustling with a wide variety of items on sale. It was out first visit to the hangar, and whilst it is really just a huge empty building it's still worth a visit - as it is a very impressive, huge empty building. Built between 1917 and 1919, it wa classified as a historical monument in 2003.
For the first time we were able to attend one events which involved the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) known as PA 30-4 landing eight uniformed re-enactors in the surf off Utah Beach. The landing craft did not come especially close to the beach and the "troops" had to wade through what must have been very cold waist-deep water. Interesting though it was to witness, the safety divers and inflatable rescue boat did seem a little over the top.
in 2017 the World War II Foundation held the inaugural Normandie-World War II International Film Festival. The event took place in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont at the Utah Beach Museum and in Carentan. Featuring actors from the Band of Brothers mini-series as well as film directors and producers, the event is the only one of its kind to feature the latest Second World War content, from feature films to shorts. A second event is planned for 2018. The World War II Foundation is supported by a number of famous actors including Tom Selleck, Damien Lewis and Dan Aykroyd.
The British Taxi Charity took almost 100 Normandy veterans back to the Landing Beaches in 90 London taxis. Over the course of several days the veterans were taken to various events by their taxi-driver chauffeurs. We had a great view near the entrance to the Merville Battery as they arrived for a day of festivities. It was a real privelige to get to shake hands or even receive a smile and a wave from one of these brave and humble men.
Also in 2017 a new D-Day museum opened in the UK. The Castletown D-Day Centre in Portland, Dorset opened its doors to the public. You can read our review of the Castletown D-Day Centre and see some images from inside this excellent little museum-wth-a-difference.
Later in the year it was confirmed that there the annual D-Day Conference would not be held in 2017. This was due to the ongoing redevelopment of the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth. A conference has been confirmed for 2018, however.
2016 - D-Day 72nd Anniversary (#DDay72)
The weather in Normandy for the 72nd Anniversary of D-Day was a little mixed with, at times, some seriously thick fog. This affected a number of events with the planned airshow at Arromanches being considerably curtailed and the annual "Night They Arrived" firework display at the Longues Battery being more of an audible rather than a visual experience. Despite a few blips, the usual D-Day: 1944-2016 high volume of events - both organised and impromptu - carried on as normal.
We were honoured to attend a number of ceremonies across Normandy in 2016. On 5th June we witnessed a Légion d'Honneur medal presentation at the Merville Battery. A number of veterans were presented with the award, France's highest civilian honour, before attending a celebratory dinner. At Bayeux we witnessed the very moving official British ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. A much smaller but no less poignant event took place in front of the Omaha Beach Signal Monument. In the presence of two veterans, the women of the Allied nursing services were remembered, before flowers were thrown into the sea.
June 6th, a gloomy overcast and misty morning, saw us walking from our hotel to the beach at Arromanches where we walked along the sand, thinking about how the morning would have been 72 years earlier. Some re-enactors dressed in full British Army uniforms were playing a game of cricket on the sand, using a jerry can and a bucket as wickets. Stumbling across this sort of unplanned spectacle is what makes visiting Normandy in early June something special.
D-Day was also being remembered on home ground of course. At Southwick House, famous for the map room which saw Eisenhower and the SHAEF commanders deliberate over the final stages before the Allied assault, Prince Harry was taking time to meet a number of veterans. When one 91-year-old veteran asked him where his tie was, Harry is said to have replied "I was told not to wear a tie and then you all turn up wearing ties, I feel under-dressed."
Later in the year it was announced that HMS Dryad, home of Southwick House, was one of 13 MoD sites to be strategically sold-off to make way for housing. The fate of the building and the map room which it houses are yet to be determined.
Roy Bradshaw, 90, from Toton near Nottingham, received his Légion d'Honneur award for the role he played in the D-Day Landings on 6th June 1944. Roy was just 16 when he joined the navy in 1942 and was called to fight a year later. He is the youngest person to receive the award so far because he lied about his age when joining the navy.
The 2016 Tour de France bicycle race started from Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy with a 116-mile stage finishing at Utah Beach. The winner of the opening stage, Mark Cavendish, honoured the men who took part in the D-Day Landings and Battle of Normandy. After receiving the famous yellow jersey, he walked over to the Utah Beach Peace Monument and placed a white rose in remembrance.
Following the end of the main 2016 season in Normandy, two fairly major museums decided to close their doors. At Catz the Normandy Tank Museum, which only opened in 2013, decided to cease operating citing reduced visitor traffic and issues with nearby residents over the use of the original A-10 airstrip. In September an auction took place for the dozens of vehicles (most in full working order) and many hundreds of other items from the museum. Many of the lots sold for incredibly and illogically high amounts. Later in the year we were pleased to learn that a new group intended to take over the same premises with a new "Normandy Victory Museum" - with an opening date in Spring 2017.
Further up the coast at Quinneville, the owners of the Mémorial de la Liberté Retrouvée finally managed to sell the museum after trying for some time to find a buyer. Again, most of the contents were put up for auction - this time through a terribly amateur outfit based in Caen. We were lucky enough to successfully bid on a number of the items. The museum's new owners decided to keep the well-known civilian street scene and a number of other items, but also wanted to put on display their own large collection of 1/6 Scale models and dioramas. An opening date in early 2017 was also scheduled.
A very sad and poignant veteran's death occurred at 1100hrs on Remembrance Day. Ralph Jones, a paratrooper who was shot four times whilst fighting in Normandy and the Allied push into Germany, sadly passed away whilst the "Last Post" was being played.
2015 - D-Day 71st Anniversary (#DDay71)
In June 2014, much of the world's attention was focused on Normandy and the events to mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord. Of course, 2015 was a much more relaxed affair (thankfully, some would say), however, as with every other year in recent memory there were still plenty of events going on across the Calvados, Manche Normandy - Land of Libertyand Orne departments.
Despite the fact that the Normandy Veterans Association has laid up its standard and disbanded, there was no shortage of veterans in Normandy in 2015. Although the numbers of those able to return declines each year, there are many who will still make the journey from the UK as well as from the other side of the Atlantic.
It should be noted that 2015 also marked some other important anniversaries. It was the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War. We were recently lucky enough to visit the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbour and stand in the exact spot upon which the Japanese surrender was signed. 2015 also marked the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, as well as Operation Dynamo, known more commonly to many as the evacuation of Dunkirk.
2014 - D-Day 70th Anniversary (#DDay70)
In addition to being 100 years since the start of the outbreak of the First World War, 2014 marked the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord.World leaders and other dignitaries flew into Normandy to pay tribute to the real VIPs - the veterans themselves - whilst the global media descended on the region in huge numbers as they do every five years. For 2014 the main international ceremony was held on Sword Beach at Ouistreham. Presidents Obama and Hollande, along with Queen Elizabeth II were just a few of those attending the impressive ceremony.
Perhaps the most spectacular event of the D-Day 70th Anniversary commemorations took place on the evening of 5th June and was reminiscent of a very similar event which took place on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in 2004. A series of simultaneous and identical firework displays at more than 20 locations along the coast illuminated the night. It was quite spectacular and surely something unique to Normandy.
British airborne veteran Jock Hutton (89) and American veteran Jim "Pee Wee" Martin (93) both returned to the skies above Normandy. At different ends of the invasion area, both veterans bravely made tandem parachute jumps into the countryside into which they dropped 70 years before.
At Arromanches, British military landing craft attracted many visitors, whilst a free air show in the skies above the town drew a crowd of many thousands bringing gridlock to the area. The M4A2 Sherman BARV belonging to Rex Cadman (former organiser of the War & Peace Revival) looked impressive as it thundered through the surf sporting a huge Union Flag.
One of the last events of 2014 commemorations was a spectacular parachute drop. Many thousands gathered in fields, gardens and at the roadside to watch an enormous multinational group of around 800 paratroopers drop from modern day military transport aircraft over the area of La Fiére near Sainte-Merè-Église. One D-Day veteran C-47 pilot, Julian 'Bud' Rice, watched the event. 'It's good to see 800 paratroopers jump here today,' he said, "but the night that we came in, we had 800 airplanes with 10,000 paratroopers that we dropped that night, so it was a little more'.