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Defence Secretary Remarks at D-Day 79 Commemorations

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, spoke in Ver-sur-Mer, during an international ceremony at the British Normandy memorial to mark the 79th anniversary of D-Day (06 June 2023).

Mr. Minister, Your Excellency, veterans, ladies and gentlemen.

Before coming here my officials drafted a speech they thought I might want to deliver.

It celebrated the heroes, objectives captured and the units.

And if I had not served myself I would have no doubt I would have delivered it.

But what I wanted to say today was that this day belongs as much to the ordinary soldier, sailor, airman as it does the outstanding.

Because the 6th June was an achievement of the platoon commanders, the non-commissioned officers, the private, and the airman and then naval rating.

Because it is they who had to conquer first the fear.

Who had to sort order from chaos, and who in the end had to stand up and walk towards the guns.

It was they who had to inspire their section or troops.

They who had no certainty of survival.

Each man on 6 June would have to have rationalised the potential death they faced with themselves.

That was the first obstacle on the day to overcome.

And once that fear was overcome the task of turning the vast enterprise that was Operation Overlord could commence.

As we celebrate the victory of the Allied forces on these beaches 79 years ago today, we should reflect that at this very moment there are men and women of Ukraine trying to overcome that same fear and trepidation.

In assembly areas and on start lines along the vast front, each individual will be mentally preparing themselves for potential death or victory.

They will be experiencing that same anxious feeling in the stomach. They will be trying to think of their home in the same way those Allies who had come from so very far away to this beach, on this day, 79 years ago.

They will be looking to their friends beside them and their Corporals for encouragement or reassurance.

The fear that many of us have witnessed first-hand will be somewhere behind the eyes.

They will be doing what the Free French did so powerfully on this day. They will be fighting for their lands, their soil.

They will be fighting for Europe to be free.

We should not underestimate the challenge it is to go forward under fire.

Attacking is a very different task from defending.

The memorials here today remind us of that.

We must be grateful as a generation that on that day of days courage was on our side.

That despite all the chaos, and fear and noise, it was the ordinary who grabbed their rifle, overcame fear and fought for us all.


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