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D-Day veterans know the horror of what happened & want that lesson passed on

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It was only by standing on Normandy’s beaches that I began to understand the scale and the horror of what happened here 80 years ago.

Both in terms of human sacrifice – the number of people slaughtered on both sides.

The crowd hailed the veterans - the last of the generation that saved the world

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The crowd hailed the veterans – the last of the generation that saved the worldCredit: Rex
An old soldier is clapped and greeted by the crowd

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An old soldier is clapped and greeted by the crowdCredit: Paul Edwards
King Charles salutes the veterans in Normandy

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King Charles salutes the veterans in NormandyCredit: PA

And in terms of significance.

It was here, on the blood-soaked sands of Normandy, that our forebears began the liberation of Europe.

They leapt into the water and charged past dead and dying comrades so that we could enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted.

The D-Day pilgrims around me today understand that sacrifice.

Some of them are serving soldiers. Some of them are veterans. Some have family connections while some have none.

They have come to pay homage and remember.

The largest group are the locals – the French – who applauded the Parachute Regiment yesterday and called out “Thank yous” as soldiers after jumping into Sannerville.

One of them asked me with genuine concern if people in Britain knew about D-Day as keenly as they do here.

They crowded onto Pegasus Bridge in their thousands, last night, to honour the airborne troops who dropped in ours before the D-Day landings and freed the very first house in France.

There is a large group of military enthusiasts dressed up in World War Two-style uniforms with fleets of vintage jeeps and armoured fighting vehicles, all lovingly restored.

British paratroopers met by French customs as they jump into Normandy for 80th anniversary

They give the events a festival feel.

The smallest group are the veterans. There are only a handful left alive.

And that gives this 80th anniversary a sense of added poignancy and a sense of urgency.

Those that understand the horror of what happened here want that lesson to be passed on to a younger generation.

They hope it might help us and our children avoid the madness of 80 years ago from happening all over again.

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