Thousands of grateful members of the public line up to shake D-Day veterans' hands in Normandy on 75th anniversary

Thousands have lined the streets of Normandy to shake the hands of D-Day veterans today as Donald Trump led world leaders including Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe.

More than 500 men who stormed the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944, have travelled to northern France to remember their comrades who died.

Around 300 surviving British heroes have tonight gathered in Arromanches where British troops stormed Gold Beach 75 years ago today.

Thousands lined the streets of the small seaside town - far more than at the 70th D-Day anniversary events there in 2014 - where they cheered and embraced the men as the walked to a ceremony next to the sand they raced across to battle Hitler's Nazis.

With the D-Day survivors now aged between 90 and 100-years-old, Prince Charles, who was representing the Queen in France today, said today is 'deeply significant' because it is 'probably the last chance to pay everlasting respect to these remarkable people who wanted above all to do their duty'.  

Earlier today President Trump stood in the American Cemetery and Memorial above Omaha Beach, where 2,000 of his countrymen lost their lives, and described it as 'Freedom's Altar' during a poignant ceremony where he hugged US veterans and President Macron.

He said: 'On these shores on this day 75 years ago, ten thousand men shed their blood - and thousands sacrificed their lives for their brothers, for their countries, and for the survival of liberty'. 

US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and French President's wife Brigitte Macron watch as French elite acrobatic flying team

US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and French President's wife Brigitte Macron watch as French elite acrobatic flying team "Patrouille de France" (PAF) fly over after a French-US ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy

The RAF's Red Arrows fly over the beach at Arromanches, in Normandy, northern France, during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings

The RAF's Red Arrows fly over the beach at Arromanches, in Normandy, northern France, during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in red tie and poppy) joins US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (in white suit) at an international ceremony on Juno Beach

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in red tie and poppy) joins US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (in white suit) at an international ceremony on Juno Beach

French President Emmanuel Macron, centre first row, his wife Brigitte, center right standing next to French Defense Minister Florence Parly, and Chief of Staff Gen Francois Lecointre, center standing, pose with soldiers during a ceremony to pay homage to the Kieffer commandos, a French crack unit who were among the first to hit the beaches

French President Emmanuel Macron, centre first row, his wife Brigitte, center right standing next to French Defense Minister Florence Parly, and Chief of Staff Gen Francois Lecointre, center standing, pose with soldiers during a ceremony to pay homage to the Kieffer commandos, a French crack unit who were among the first to hit the beaches

The Red Arrows perform a fly past following a commemoration service on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, over the beaches of Arromanches Les Bains in Normandy

The Red Arrows perform a fly past following a commemoration service on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, over the beaches of Arromanches Les Bains in Normandy

The RAF display team thundered overhead to commemorate the sacrifices made by those who manned the invasion of Normandy

The RAF display team thundered overhead to commemorate the sacrifices made by those who manned the invasion of Normandy

After his speech Mr Trump and the First Lady visited graves of the 2,000 Americans killed there on D-Day, each had an US flag and a French flag next to them

After his speech Mr Trump and the First Lady visited graves of the 2,000 Americans killed there on D-Day, each had an US flag and a French flag next to them

President Trump stood in the American Cemetery and Memorial (pictured at the podium) above Omaha Beach and described it as 'Freedom's Altar'

President Trump stood in the American Cemetery and Memorial (pictured at the podium) above Omaha Beach and described it as 'Freedom's Altar'

Crowds were four or five deep and children had to put on parents' shoulders to see the men as they walked through Arromanches

Crowds were four or five deep and children had to put on parents' shoulders to see the men as they walked through Arromanches

Thousands have lined the streets of Arromanches in Normandy today to welcome British veterans who stormed into the town 75 years ago

Thousands have lined the streets of Arromanches in Normandy today to welcome British veterans who stormed into the town 75 years ago

The crowds cheered wildly and queued to get close to the the Second World War veterans who fought to liberate the seaside town

The crowds cheered wildly and queued to get close to the the Second World War veterans who fought to liberate the seaside town

Harry Billinge, 93, from St Austell, Cornwall, sits in the main square above Gold Beach, which he fought to cross in 1944

arry Billinge, 93, from St Austell, Cornwall, sits in the main square above Gold Beach, which he fought to cross in 1944

A final ceremony took place in the main square where gathered veterans sang along to a rendition of We'll Meet Again while linking arms. They were then treated to a flypast by the RAF historic flight, applauding as they flew overhead

A final ceremony took place in the main square where gathered veterans sang along to a rendition of We'll Meet Again while linking arms. They were then treated to a flypast by the RAF historic flight, applauding as they flew overhead

Huge crowds gathered at Colleville-Sur-Mer to watch the flypast by the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, the French version of Britain's Red Arrows

Huge crowds gathered at Colleville-Sur-Mer to watch the flypast by the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, the French version of Britain's Red Arrows

Prince Charles shakes hands with a veteran today and said he believes today is

Prince Charles shakes hands with a veteran today and said he believes today is 'probably the last chance to pay everlasting respect to these remarkable people who wanted above all to do their duty'

In a touching moment President Trump stopped his speech to embrace veteran Russell Pickett, 94, who was a 19-year-old private during the landings at Omaha, telling him: 'Russell Picket is the last known survivor of the legendary company A. Today, believe it or not, he has returned once more to these shores to be with his comrades. Private Picket, you honour us all with your presence.'

President Macron whispered in the veteran's ear and helped him to his feet before the leader of free world hugged him.

Private Pickett, who was aged 19, was among the elite troops of Company A, 116th Infantry, who were specially chosen to storm the sands of Omaha Beach during the first wave of the D-Day landings. 

Their mission was so dangerous it was known as D-Day's 'suicide wave' because 50 per cent of the men became casualties.

Around 15 miles away above Gold Beach, where British troops landed 75 years ago today, Theresa May paid tribute to the heroes who 'laid down their lives so that we might have a better life', calling them 'the greatest generation'. 

The Prince of Wales is representing the Queen in France today and was at Bayeux Cathedral where he and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, joined the PM and 300 British D-Day veterans for a remembrance service.

Afterwards hundreds of people lined the streets of the city to clap the returning soldiers as they paraded to the nearby Commonwealth War Graves ceremony, with locals kissing them and shaking their hands as they passed. 

And in Britain Prince William laid a wreath at the Normandy Campaign Memorial in Staffordshire, along with dignitaries and veterans, while Prince Harry attended an event with Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital in London.   

Today the world mourned its D-Day heroes on an emotional day in northern France that began with a ceremony at dawn where a lone piper played a lament at 6.36am - the exact moment British troops first charged across the sand towards their Nazi foes. 

President Trump and Mrs May joined President Macron and Canadian Prime Minister at the five D-Day beaches: Gold, Utah, Omaha, Juno and Sword and met veterans who fought for freedom.

The Prince of Wales is representing the Queen in France today and his first engagement was at Bayeux Cathedral where he and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, joined the PM and 300 British D-Day veterans for a service of remembrance.

Afterwards hundreds of people lined the streets of Bayeux to clap them as they paraded to the nearby Commonwealth War Graves ceremony, with locals kissing them and shaking their hands as they passed.

Prince Charles then laid a wreath at the war memorial at its centre. 

From dawn on June 6 1944 - known as the Longest Day - 156,000 troops left landing craft and raced on to the sand along the Normandy coast to smash Hitler's Nazis - supported by 250,000 more men at sea or in the air.

These brave men, from all corners of the world, gained a foothold in France that turned the Second World War and would lead to the liberation of Europe within a year.  

Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania board Air Force One before departing from Caen back to Ireland, where they are staying in one of his luxury hotels

Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania board Air Force One before departing from Caen back to Ireland, where they are staying in one of his luxury hotels

Dakota C-47s, the model of aircraft used by the US to parachute troops into France on D-Day, screech across the sky above Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump and their wives Brigitte and Melania as they stood above Omaha Beach in Normandy today

Dakota C-47s, the model of aircraft used by the US to parachute troops into France on D-Day, screech across the sky above Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump and their wives Brigitte and Melania as they stood above Omaha Beach in Normandy today

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron watch a flypast of French jets passing over Omaha Beach as the world stopped to remember the 75th anniversary of D-Day

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron watch a flypast of French jets passing over Omaha Beach as the world stopped to remember the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall walk through Bayeux War Cemetery inspecting the graves of British heroes who died invading France in 1944

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall walk through Bayeux War Cemetery inspecting the graves of British heroes who died invading France in 1944

President Macron helps veteran Russell Pickett, 94, who was a 19-year-old private during the landings at Omaha but had never returned to Normandy until today

President Macron helps veteran Russell Pickett, 94, who was a 19-year-old private during the landings, to his feet so he can be hugged by President Trump

D-Day veteran John Quinn clutches the hand of George Sayer, 6, in Bayeaux, as young and old gathered to remember D-Day

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wipes a tear as he delivers a speech during the international ceremony on Juno Beach in Courseulles-sur-Mer, where his countrymen helped the invasion of Europe

David Woodrow,95,  a member of the 652 Squadron AOP, landed on Gold Beach 75 years ago today and was there to see a new  Normandy Memorial Trust monument to British soldiers unveiled

A delighted war hero smiles and shares a few words with the hundreds of well-wishers who lined the streets of Bayeux today

At the Britain's National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire a serviceman sobs on the shoulder of a loved-one in front of the monument listing all members of the armed forces killed since the end of Second World War

Prince Harry has his faced rubbed by a Chelsea Pensioner as he visits the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary at the Royal Hospital

Among the veterans arriving for the service in Arromanches was 93-year-old Harry Billinge, from St Austell in Cornwall.

He is on a final pilgrimage to Normandy to see how thousands of pounds he raised is helping the construction of a national memorial honouring his fallen comrades.

He handed over more than £10,000 to the Normandy Memorial Trust after relentlessly collecting donations in his local high street and Arromanches.

As an 18-year-old Royal Engineer, he landed on Gold Beach at 6.30am on June 6 1944 as part of the first wave of troops.

Mr Billinge said this was his 'swansong' and he did not think he would return again, but he was eager to see the first foundation stones of the monument laid on Thursday morning before the service in Arromanches.

Royal Marine Robert Williams, 94, from Chelmsford, gave Prime Minister Theresa May a kiss on the cheek after meeting her in the marquee at Bayeux Cemetery.

Mr Williams was an 18-year-old commando in a landing craft that reached Sword Beach on D-Day.

'We landed ashore and then moved through the land,' he said.

'I went all the the way through to Germany and I didn't get a scratch. The Lord was watching over me.'

When asked about his meeting with Mrs May, he said: 'She came over and said 'pleased to meet you'.

'She said 'thank you for what you have done'. I kissed her - why not? It is not everyone that can do that.

'I took her by the arms and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She said 'ooh, thank you'.'

Len Williams, 93, met Mrs May as she chatted to veterans.

He was an 18-year-old private with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on D-Day and came over to Gold Beach a few days after June 6.

Talking about his meeting with Mrs May, he said: 'It couldn't have been more perfect.

'She said to me 'you did well'.'

John McOwan, 98, from Peebles in the Scottish Borders, was a sergeant with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers on D-Day. He landed on Sword Beach four days after June 6.

'The Prime Minister said she was very pleased to meet me,' Mr McOwan said.

'I said that I admire her very much and she smiled.

'This whole trip has been mind boggling. I shook hands with President Macron in Portsmouth, as well as Sheridan Smith. The service was very emotional. The tears were running down my face because it was so touching.'

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania gathered with French president Emmanuel Macron for the US commemorations at Omaha Beach in Colleville-sur-Mer, where Mr Trump told veterans: 'Our debt to you is everlasting'.

'Today we express our undying gratitude. When you were young - these men enlisted their lives in a great crusade - one of the greatest of all times,' he said.

'Their mission is the story of an epic battle and the ferocious eternal struggle between good and evil.'

President Trump took off from Shannon in Ireland after tweeting: 'They did not know if they would survive the hour. They did not know if they would grow old. But they knew that America had to prevail. Their cause was this Nation, and generations yet unborn'.  He wrote as he prepared to leave his Irish hotel for France: 'A big and beautiful day today!' 

Dailymail.co.uk

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