16:16 GMT – ‘Brave men’ – US Secretary of State John Kerry tweets: “In awe of the brave men who saved the world 70 yrs ago/a gift to be in their presence.”
16:06 GMT – ‘Service and sacrifice’ – On Twitter, US military pays tribute to the sacrifices made 70 years ago on Normandy’s beaches.
“Today, we honor the service & sacrifice of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago.”, The US Army tweets with a picture of Allied troops.
15:53 GMT – To follow – At Ouistreham, guests are gradually dispersing. Some smaller commemorations are set to follow elsewhere, however, including a French-Polish ceremony at Urville-Langannerie and a ceremony at the German cemetery of Ranville, with Angela Merkel attending.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are expected to join Canada’s PM Stephen Harper for the delayed French-Canadian ceremony at Courseulles-sur-Mer.
15:46 GMT – Young and old – Importantly, the day’s events have mobilised people across all generations, young and old, AFP reporters note, as the number of veterans here to remember the Normandy landings is becoming smaller and smaller.
15:34 GMT – Colour spectacular – Colourful fireworks mark the end of the international ceremony at Ouistreham, attended by some 7,000 people, which officials said aimed to evoke both the events of 1944 and the future of Europe.
President Hollande greets several of his guests, including his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
15:24 GMT – ‘Moving’ performance – AFP’s Alice Ritchie says the dance performance at Sword Beach earlier seems to have been enjoyed by the veterans, who cheered from the stands.
“There were several sequences illustrating the story Of D-Day shown on the big screens,” she says. “When it came to the recounting of the day itself, gas flares installed across the beach sent fire and black smoke into the air.
“It was quite moving as the perfomers moved across the beach and many of them fell slowly to the floor. Looking beyond them to the sand and sea it was impossible not to imagine those young men clambering out of the landing boats.”
15:22 GMT – Chewing gum – Barack Obama’s chewing gum seems to be causing a stir on Twitter — a subject of much discussion since Nelson Mandela’s memorial.
“I like President Obama but must he chew gum through the #DDay70 Ceremony?” tweets Karen Pickering — an opinion echoed by many others.
15:09 GMT – Arromanches – Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Catherine are meeting the mayor and local residents in Arromanches, and attending a tea party with veterans.
A flypast has also just taken place over the historic town, with a Dakota, Lancaster bomber and two Spitfires blazing through the skies.
14:53 GMT – Canadian ceremony – People gathered for a separate Canadian ceremony, scheduled for 1730GMT in Courseulles-sur-Mer, have been warned that it will be delayed because the Sword Beach ceremony has run over schedule.
Veterans have been invited to take shelter inside because of the heat, AFP’s Herve Lionnet tells us.
14:47 GMT – Air display – As the modern dancing continues to the beating of drums, overhead a flypast of wartime jets passes through the blue Normandy skies.
14:37 GMT – Dance performance – Hollande leaves the stand and a group of performers, dressed in black and grey, stage a sombre dance for the veterans and dignitaries, with archive images from 1944 projected on screens behind them.
14:32 GMT – Soviet troops – As Russia’s President Putin looks on, Hollande also pays tribute to the “courage of the Red Army” and the “decisive contribution” of the former Soviet Union in winning World War II.
14:22 GMT – ‘Fight for freedom’ – “Freedom is a struggle” Hollande continues.
“Freedom is not something that should be taken for granted as some people believe… Freedom is always a struggle. There will always be men and women who must stand up to defend freedom.”
But now it is not the job of the Allies to fight for this cause, he says, but rather the United Nations who should “ensure our collective security”.
14:17 GMT – ‘Thank you’ – Hollande thanks the soldiers of all nationalities who fought on Normandy’s beaches, paying courage to their immense courage.
“Thank you for being here and for being there in the summer of 1944. Thank you for still being here,” he said, going on to also express his gratitude to those no longer with us.
“The gratitude of the French public will never die,” he says.
14:13 GMT – ‘Reconciliation’ – President Hollande says today’s ceremony is being held to “celebrate reconciliation, reunion and the tribute we must pay to all the veterans who are here with us today”. He adds: “I first wish to welcome our veterans because they are the living witnesses of what happened on 6 June 1944.”
14:10 GMT – ‘Duty’ to remember – Hollande takes to the podium and addresses the thousands gathered on Sword Beach. He says today’s event is “absolutely unique” because of its magnitude and because of the extraordinary fervour it has been creating.
It is our “duty” to remember all the victims, whether military, civilian, Allied or German, he says.
14:08 GMT – Ceremony begins – French president Hollande reviews French troops and the international ceremony on the beach of Ouistreham begins.
14:05 GMT – Queen arrives – Driven onto the red carpet, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth gets out of the vehicle and Hollande comes to meet her. She was applauded by the other heads of state. Like Obama, she greets the vets seated just in front of the world leaders, before takinf her seat in the centre of the front row next to Hollande. Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha slip in quietly behind the queen, without being formally greeted.
13:52 GMT – Obama arrival – Huge cheers for Obama as he arrives at Sword Beach. On a giant screen, images of Putin and Obama appear split down the middle, prompting more applause and laughter.
13:48 GMT – Call for peace – Before their arrivals Putin and Poroshenko met and called for an end to bloodshed and violence on both sides in Ukraine.
“Putin and Poroshenko called for the soonest possible end to bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine, and to military operations on both sides — both by the Ukrainian armed forces and by supporters of the federalisation of Ukraine,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
13:40 GMT – Merkel welcome – Merkel receives a huge round of applause as she arrives for the international ceremony, a sign of how far relations between Germany and its former enemies have come.
The German leader then takes her place on the stands alongside Russia’s Putin and Ukraine’s Poroshenko and is engaged in conversation with both of them for several minutes, according to AFP correspondents at Ouistreham.
13:35 GMT – Red carpet – Leaders arrive at Ouistreham: Ukraine’s president elect Petro Porechenko, Australian PM Tony Abbott and Canada’s Stephen Harper, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Belgium’s King Philippe, with his wife Mathilde, each in turn welcomed by Francois Hollande on Sword Beach.
13:25 GMT – ‘Informal conversation’ – Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor, says the exchange between Obama and Putin at Chateau Benouville lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
“President Obama and President Putin did speak with each other on the margins of the leaders lunch. It was an informal conversation – not a formal bilateral meeting,” he tells AFP’s Washington correspondent Stephen Collinson.
It was their first meeting since the start of Ukraine crisis and first face to face encounter since the G20 summit in St Petersburg last year.
13:10 GMT – Obama, Putin ‘talk’ – Several French media channels have reported a post-lunch meeting between Putin and Obama but the Elysee has played down the encounter saying it was a brief conversation in the entrance hall where all the leaders were congregating.
13:05 GMT – Departures – The 20 heads of state who have been lunching in Benouville leave the chateau to gather for the ceremony at Ouistreham. On Sword Beach, the scene is set and crowds await.
12:57 GMT – Ouistreham – On the terraces at Ouistreham, among those gathered are former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy, along with former prime ministers Edith Cresson and Jean-Marc Ayrault, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Earlier speaking about the commemorations on RTL radio, Fabius said June 6 was “the day of liberation and of peace”.
“Often Europe is seen in a more positive light from outside of Europe than from within,” he added. “But when you see what is happening in Ukraine: Ukraine doesn’t belong to the EU and we are seeing that it is the EU which today guarantees peace.”
12:45 GMT – Sword Beach – After lunch leaders will gather on Sword Beach at Ouistreham for an international ceremony, watched by some 7,000 spectators, many of them former combattants who have already taken their places on the terraces.
For 45 minutes carefully choreographed pyrotechnic displays and archive images will bring to life the events of 1944. At least 500 military musicians and 650 actors are involved in the spectacle.
12:20 GMT – Soldiers on bikes – Soldiers take turns to have their photographs taken on World War II motorbikes during a D-Day commemoration event at the Pegasus bridge, in Benouville, near where world leaders were meeting for lunch.
12:18 GMT – Royal walkabout – Don Sheppard, 94, who was with the infantry on D-day, was also introduced to the queen. As he bowed his head to her, his daughter Jo pushed through the crowds who had gathered around the royal and the veterans, shouting “That’s my dad meeting the queen! I need to take a photo!” She missed the shot, but when Sheppard was introduced to the Duke, she leaned in to capture a blurry momento on her smartphone.
Crowds thronged forward to catch a glimpse of the queen as she was escorted across the grass in an informal walkabout. Security was very light, ensuring that some of the veterans were able to be pushed forward through the crowd to shake her hand.
12:13 GMT – Queen meets veterans – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth earlier met Commonwealth veterans at Bayeux Cemetery where Prime Minister David Cameron introduced her to Leonard Bloomfield, 93, who served in the Royal Navy. “I thanked her for coming and I mentioned that I served with the Duke (Prince Philip),” Bloomfield said.
He was subsequently introduced to Philip. The two men served on separate ships in H-force, a group of battleships and destroyers that was based at Gibraltar in 1940. He was a royal marine gunner based on one of them, the duke was on another.
Bloomfield, wearing a red sash across his suit and medals, was at Sword beach on D-day on board HMS Mauritius, which bombarded German defences. He said the ceremony at Bayeux was “absolutely wonderful”, AFP’s Alice Ritchie reports.
11:42 GMT – Germany’s D-Day view – German rolling news channels are offering live coverage of the entire D-Day ceremony, which also got broad coverage in the national dailies, AFP’s Deborah Cole reports.
Respected German news weekly Der Spiegel writes in a commentary in its online edition that “France and Britain won World War II but the decisive European power today in Germany”. Says Chancellor Merkel should use the D-Day commemorations to help heal the divisions of today’s Europe in light of the Allies’ relative “weakness”.
11:31 GMT – Lunch seating – French President Francois Hollande presided over the lunch, with Queen Elizabeth, US President Obama and Harald V of Norway to his right, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to his left.
Ukraine’s Poroshenko is on the same side of the table as Putin, but nine seats away.
Benouville Castle, where the lunch is being held, was a stronghold of the Resistance in Normandy during World War II. Built between 1765 and 1785, this neo-classical mansion, located near the landing beaches is famous for its monumental staircase, AFP’s Herve Asquin reports.
11:19 GMT – Lunch is served – Official lunch featuring local produce and sea food begins for 38 guests including royalty, heads of state and government, cooked by four Michelin-starred chefs.
Guests include Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko.
10:59 GMT – Merkel-Putin talks – Germany’s Merkel holds talks with Russia’s Putin on the Ukraine crisis, which has loomed large during the D-Day ceremonies.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert updates the press:
“Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Deauville about the situation in Ukraine.
“The chancellor expressed her conviction that, the time must now be used, after the internationally recognised presidential election, to stabilise the situation, especially in Eastern Ukraine. Russia must live up to its significant responsibilities in this matter.”
10:54 GMT – German view – Ralf Schuler of Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper tweets (in German) from the commemorations: “These French people! Oysters from Normandy as a snack at the press centre”
10:53 GMT – Fighter pilot – Bob Cowper, 91, is a former Australian night fighter pilot returning to Normandy for the first time.
As he is pushed in his wheelchair by an Australian official through the white grave stones at Bayeux cemetery, he says: “Itâ€™s wonderful as an old man of 91 – it’s like coming home.”
He flew over northern France on the evening of D-day in a two-man Mosquito bomber, watching out for enemy German aircraft to protect the ground troops below, the first of ten days or so of night flights over Normandy.
“We shot down quite a lot of German bombers, and all the ones we shot down were big bombers carrying radio controlled bombs, so I think we made a good contribution,” he says.
Recalling the invasion, he says: “We saw all the build up in the day. The sea was covered with ships, and there was a roaring of the planes in the air.
“Looking down, even though we were making a contribution, I remember feeling empathy for all the poor buggers fighting on the ground.”
10:37 GMT – Moment of reflection – Obama and Hollande leave the US ceremony to join other world leaders, including Putin and Merkel for lunch at a hotel in Benouville.
Before leaving the US cemetery, where they made speeches earlier, the two leaders took a moment to survey from the hillside the stunning view of the immense Omaha beach, and the sundrenched sea beyond, in the gaze of photographers.
10:21 GMT – Painful memories – Earlier, AFP’s Alice Ritchie spoke to some of the veterans in Bayeux, as they walked up the hill from the cathedral to the cemetery , with hundreds of people lining the route, applauding and shouting: “Thank you”, “Bravo”, and “Merci”.
Among them was 89-year-old Ken Godfrey, from Derbyshire. He started the mile-long route at a pace and kept it up despite the steep incline, his medals clinking.
Godfrey was with the British infantry, the 49th West Riding Infantry Division. He was not part of D-day, but arrived shortly afterwards, and was on the front line. “There was nobody between us and them,” he recalls.
“My main memory is wading through the sea with water up to my chest. But I don’t like to talk about the fighting. If people ask, I just say we had a hairy time. But I’m lucky that I survived.”
10:17 GMT – Wreath laying – In a circle around the memorial, dignitaries and veterans stand for a moment of silence, and about 50 representatives of veterans associations hold up their standards.
Prince Charles and French PM Manuel Valls lay wreaths. They step back while Prime Minister David Cameron, Australian PM Tony Abbott and New Zealand’s Governor-General do the same, followed by the veterans.
10:10 GMT – Ode of Remembrance – Back in Bayeux, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has arrived at the white marble cross memorial, dressed in a lime green coat and matching hat, alongside Prince Charles and the French PM.
Just before her arrival a spitfire, a Dakota, a Lancaster bomber, and a hurricane flew over the crowd.
After a welcoming speech and a hymn, a veteran reads the exhortation from the Ode of Remembrance (They shall not grow old…) and the Last Post is played.
09:58 GMT – 21-gun salute – American guns again split the air over Omaha Beach, as part of a 21-gun salute to the fallen of D-Day, beginning the final phase of the event at the American War Cemetery.
Three American F-16s roar over the cemetery, bringing the ceremony to a close. Obama and Hollande are now going together to see an observation post overlooking Omaha Beach — in the area where German gunners opened fire on American forces at the vanguard of the invasion force.
09:52 GMT – ‘Red with blood’ – Hollande recalls the early reverses of the American landing when calm sands were turned into a battlefield and the sea was “red with blood.” He goes on to describe the triumphant American assault on the bluff overlooking the beach.
09:43 GMT – ‘Friend of France’ – French President Francois Hollande, addressing the crowds, says: “France will never forget what it owes the US.”
He goes on: “For 70 years the US, despite crises, tests, has remained a friend of France.
“Today our two countries are united once more in our response to other threats: global warming, the crushing of inequality, underdevelopment, poverty, hunger.
“Today we are united once more in the face of other perils which were believed to have disappeared forever: fundamentalism, racism and terrorism.”
09:38 GMT – FRANCE WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT IT OWES THE US: HOLLANDE
09:29 GMT – ‘Democracy’s beachhead’ – Obama says his country’s commitment to freedom is “written in blood” on the Normandy beaches.
He says the surrounding battlegrounds represent “democracy’s beachhead”, adding: “We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril.”
09:23 GMT – Obama’s tribute – A warm standing ovation of several minutes breaks out when Obama opens his speech by saying that he is honored to be joined by “gentleman” veterans at the ceremony, 70 years after they came ashore.
The US president pays poetic tribute to the men who breached “Hitlerâ€™s Wall” and stormed ashore to liberate Europe on D-Day, saying their sacrifice bought a still-evolving age of democracy and freedom.
“By daybreak, blood soaked the water, and bombs broke the sky,” he says. Thousands of paratroopers had dropped into the wrong landing sites; thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand. Entire companies’ worth of men fell in minutes. Hellâ€™s Beach had earned its name.
“By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won â€“- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free. Hitlerâ€™s Wall was breached, letting loose Pattonâ€™s Army to pour into France,” Obama says at the US war cemetery at Omaha Beach.
09:23 GMT – OBAMA: D-DAY FORGED ‘BEACHHEAD’ FOR NEW DEMOCRATIC AGE
09:18 GMT – ‘Battle for freedom’ – The huge crowds applaud the arrival of the two presidents, both about to give speeches at the US cemetery which houses the graves of some 10,000 US soldiers.
Hollande, opening his address, says: “We celebrate today a memorable date in our history where our two peoples came together in the same fight for liberty.”
09:06 GMT – Obama and Hollande – Presidents Hollande and Obama arrive on the podium in front of the main war memorial at Omaha Beach, and face thousands of veterans, families, and military officers.
The French and US national anthems ring out over the graveyard. Obama stands tall with his hand over his heart.
08:59 GMT – Captain’s tribute – Wayne Porter, a former Airforce captain is among the guests at Colleville-sur-Mer, alongside around 50 of his fellow alumni from Texas A&M university, presided over at the time by General James Earl Rudder, who took part in the D-Day landings.
“He graduated in the same university I was in and he was the president of the university when I entered.,” says Porter.
“We came here to pay tribute to those who died and to him. Today, we realise how much the French people helped our troops and suffered. We really need to pay respect to them as well”.
08:54 GMT – Omaha Beach – Small US and French flags are stuck into the grass in front of each of the 9,387 graves at the American cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach — one of the five invasion beaches.
The weather this morning is warm with a breeze wafting in from the sea — much cooler than the sweltering day when Obama was last here, for the 65th anniversary commemorations, five years ago.
08:44 GMT – American helicopters transporting Barack Obama land at the site of the US cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. The US president disembarks from the chopper as crowds of people in the distance try to capture the moment.
08:40 GMT – OBAMA ARRIVES AT AMERICAN CEMETERY
08:35 GMT – Obama arrival – President Obama has just flown over the length of Omaha Beach, the main US disembarkation point on D-Day, in his Marine One helicopter. He was trailed by a back-up helicopter in the green livery of the US Marines and three Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft carrying the press pool and White House staff.
08:25 GMT – Colleville-sur-Mer – Back at the US cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, civilians sombrely survey the lines of headstones, crosses and Stars of David while American soldiers gather, alone or in small groups, to pay hommage to those lost in the historic assault, AFP’s HervÃ© Gavard reports.
In front of each headstone at the cemetery, which towers over the beach and seafront, two flags are planted – French and American.
Ahead of the arrival of the US and French presidents, military music plays as helicopters fly overhead.
08:17 GMT – Official opening – French President Francois Hollande officially opens the D-Day anniversary ceremonies, paying homage to civilians and soldiers who lost their lives on the day “that changed the world.”
“This day, which began in chaos and fire, would end in blood and tears, tears and pain, tears and joy at the end of 24 hours that changed the world and forever marked Normandy,” Hollande says.
“I would like that today, on this 70th anniversary, the nation pays homage to all, civilians and soldiers.”
08:11 GMT – FRENCH PRESIDENT OPENS CEREMONIES IN CAEN
08:04 GMT – Cathedral bell – After the main ceremony in Bayeux, Prince Charles names a new cathedral bell after Therese Benedicte, a saint who was killed by the Nazis. The Prince of Wales and British and French Prime Ministers watch as Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois blesses the bell and rings it three times.
Then they leave, bound for the cemetery, to the sound of organ music.
07:50 GMT – Bayeux ceremony – The British memorial service in Bayeux gets under way with hymns by the choir and congregation and addresses by the Bishop of Bayeux, Monseigneur Boulanger, and British officials, Alice Ritchie reports.
An unnamed Normandy veteran reads the Kohima epitaph, used at British remembrance services: “They shall not grow old, as those that are left grow old/ Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn/ At the going down of the sun, and in the morning/ We shall remember them.”
The last post then echoes through the cathedral, as veterans hold up the standards of their veterans associations.
And now a moment of silence as the congregation remember the fallen.
07:40 GMT – US cemetery – Guests and dignitaries are already converging on an American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer where a French-US ceremony is due to be held later this morning, AFP’s Herve Gavard reports.
A tent has been erected at the entrance to the site where veterans are being received. US President Barack Obama is set to arrive around 10:30 GMT and will welcome French President Francois Hollande shortly after.
The cemetery, bathed in sunshine this morning, holds some 9,388 tombs and a list of 1,577 names of American soldiers who disappeared during the Battle of Normandy, whose remains have never been recovered.
07:30 GMT – Royal tribute – At Bayeux, Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have just arrived along with the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. They join almost 400 commonwealth veterans who, in their finery, sit in rows under the vaulted arches, the smell of incense in the air, Alice Ritchie reports.
In a foreword to the programme, Queen Elizabeth — who will attend a ceremony at Bayeux cemetery later in the morning — paid tribute to the “immense and heroic endeavour” and the “incredible sacrifices” of the D-Day veterans.
07:18 GMT – British memorial – The first memorial events are already under way in Bayeux, AFP’s Alice Ritchie tells us, with Prime Minister David Cameron in place for a British service of remembrance at the city’s cathedral.
The city was the first to be the liberated in the Operation Overlord and on June 16 General Charles de Gaulle famously made a speech there several days after the invasion.
Britain’s Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are also attending along with Scotland and Northern Ireland’s first ministers.
07:09 GMT – Obama flight – “US President Barack Obama is heading to Normandy from Paris on a smaller version of his presidential jet, Air Force One,” reports AFP’s Stephen Collinson.
“He will fly a converted 757 aircraft in the familiar blue and white livery, because his normal ride, a 747 is too big to land at Caen airport, which is near Omaha Beach, where a US-France D-Day commemoration will take place.”
The historic Allied operation — the biggest seaborne invasion in history — began with the landing of British and American airborne troops in France shortly before midnight on D-Day, with the main assault beginning on the Normandy beaches at daybreak.
06:57 GMT – Veterans rise – “Little sleep for the veterans from various countries who have already left their hotels in the centre of Caen, escorted by security forces, and are heading for the commemoration sites,” reports AFP’s Jean-Sebastien Evrard from Normandy.
They will be joined by around one million members of the public as well as a host of dignitaries to pay tribute to the thousands who lost their lives in the invasion, and to the survivors.
06:41 GMT – Welcome to AFP’s live report on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings when world leaders will join veterans in Northern France to mark the momentous 1944 Allied operation, which hastened the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Some 1,800 veterans are expected to turn out for an international ceremony of remembrance at Ouistreham in Normandy, one of five of the invasion beaches where thousands risked their lives.
With most of those WWII combatants now in their 90s, and possibly marking the occasion for the last time, the event takes on a particular poignancy.
View live footage of today’s events at .