France commemorates 75 years since D-Day
French President Emmanuel Macron has attended a ceremony in Portsmouth to mark 75 years since the Normandy Landings, which took place on 6 June 1944.
Speaking in Portsmouth on 5 June alongside other world leaders, President Macron read a letter from French Resistance fighter Henri Fertet, aged 16, who was sentenced to death and shot on 25 September 1943. Fertet was given the posthumous title of Companion of the Liberation by General de Gaulle in 1945.
President @EmmanuelMacron reads a letter from French Resistance fighter Henri Fertet, aged 16, who was sentenced to death and shot on 25 September 1943. Fertet was given the posthumous title of Companion of the Liberation by General de Gaulle in 1945. #DDay75 pic.twitter.com/FHnPKQEeQz
— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) June 5, 2019
The translation of the letter reads:
My dear parents,
My letter is going to cause you great sorrow, but I have seen you so full of courage in the past that I do not doubt that you will remain courageous, if only out of love for me.
I am going to die for my country. I want France to be free and the French to be happy. I do not want France to be arrogant and the world’s leading nation but hard-working, industrious and honest.
The most important thing is for the French people to be happy. In life, you need to know how to take happiness where you find it.
Do not worry about me, I will keep my bravery and my good humour to the last and I will sing “Sambre et Meuse” because it was you, my dearly beloved mother, who taught it to me.
The soldiers are coming to get me. I must hurry. My handwriting may look wobbly but it is just because I am using a small pencil. I am not afraid of death, my conscience is completely clear.
Adieu, death is calling me, I do not want to be blindfolded or bound. My love to you all. Ultimately, it is hard to face death.
A thousand kisses. Long live France.
Before reading the letter President Macron thanked the hundreds of British veterans present for their sacrifice for France.
There was also a tribute to the female agents of the Special Operations Executive, who worked hand in hand with the French Resistance.
— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) June 5, 2019
Following the president’s reading, the song Le Chant des Partisans was performed – the anthem of the French Resistance written in 1943 by Joseph Kessel and his nephew Maurice Druon, both of whom had joined the Free French Forces.
During the song, a montage played on the screens commending the 100,000 French fighters who were mobilized behind enemy lines.
The following day, on 6 June, President Macron attended a service in Ver-sur-Mer alongside Prime Minister May, where a sculpture was unveiled to form part of a wider monument to the British soldiers who last their lives during D-Day.
President Macron then attended ceremonies in Bayeux and in Caen to commemorate those Allied soldiers who lost their lives.
75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, on the launch day of the construction work for the British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer
Ver-sur-Mer, 6 June 2019
I am honoured today to be launching with you, Prime Minister, chère Theresa May, construction work for the British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer.
The British people have long dreamt of this memorial. During our first meeting in Paris in June 2017 we decided to build it, and formally recorded this intention at the UK-France Summit in Sandhurst on 18 January 2018.
Now, here we are, a year and a half later, at Gold Beach.
This is where, 75 years ago, on 6 June 1944, almost 25,000 British soldiers landed in France to free the country from Nazi control.
This is where young men, many of whom had never set foot on French soil, landed at dawn under German fire, risking their lives while fighting their way up the beach, which was littered with obstacles and mines.
This is where, on the evening of 6 June, victory began to take shape, with the liberation of Arromanches, the commune where the Mulberry artificial port was put in place, and with the Canadian troops from Juno Beach.
On 7 June, Bayeux became one of the first French cities to be freed from the barbarian occupation orchestrated by the Reich.
On 6 June 1944, more than 400 British soldiers were killed or wounded while fighting to free France and Europe.
This monument will be built to honour them and, more generally, to honour the 22,000 soldiers under British command who lost their lives during the Battle of Normandy, as well as civilian casualties.
It is time to remedy the fact that no memorial pays tribute to the United Kingdom’s contribution to the Battle of Normandy.
This is for the sake of the past, because it is intolerable that the sacrifices made by these young people be erased from collective memory.
This is also for the sake of the future, because only by facing up to history and acknowledging those who gave us our freedom can we look forward with confidence.
This monument will also be a powerful symbol of the unique ties that bind the United Kingdom and France.
Nothing will break them. Nothing can ever break ties that have been bound in bloodshed and shared values. The debates taking place today cannot affect the strength of our joint history and our shared future.
The Prime Minister and I have always sought to ensure that the relationship between our countries is based on trust, friendship and shared projects, in the defence field, for example.
I will continue in the same vein in the future.
From a personal point of view, I would like to assure Theresa May of my friendship. It has been a pleasure to work and act in confidence alongside you.
Leaders may come and go, but their achievements remain. The force of our friendship will outlast current events.
I believe that we can be proud of our actions at the bilateral level, and the causes we have defended at the international level.
We can also be proud of the results we have obtained, which include this memorial.
Long live the friendship between our two countries, and thank you to all those who fought to make French soil free again./.