A 99-year-old D-Day veteran got a standing ovation from Donald Trump and the Queen today as he led the nation’s tributes to brave troops who stormed the Normandy beaches 75 years ago.
John Jenkins gave a moving speech at the historic D-Day commemoration ceremony in Portsmouth.
As he walked on to the stage, the entire crowd - including the Queen, Prince Charles, Donald Trump and Theresa May - rose to honour him.
Mr Jenkins was a 24-year-old platoon sergeant in the Pioneer Corps when he landed in Normandy on June 8, 1944.
He was deployed on Gold Beach, one of the five landing points on the French coast where Allied troops launched their operations.
Mr Jenkins, from Portsmouth, told the crowd: “I was terrified. I think everyone was – you don’t show it, but it’s there.
“I look back on it as a big part of my life, it changed me in a way – but I was just a small part in a very big machine.
“You never forget your comrades because we were all in there together.”
The veteran concluded: “It’s right that the courage and sacrifice of so many veterans is being honoured 75 years on.
“We must never forget – thank you.”
They remembered the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings – where hundreds of thousands of allies landed on the beaches in France to fight back against the Nazis in World War II.
Other veterans were moved to tears in the emotional service.
Afterwards the Queen, President Trump and Prince Charles met with six veterans at a small reception with the First Lady.
President Trump also wished happy birthday to Joan “Jonni” Berfield, a Wren, who worked as a coder and will be celebrating her 95th birthday on June 7.
Thomas Cuthbert, 93, who served in the D-Day landings off shore from Utah and Omaha beaches, said of the president: “He came across very well, he surprised me, he seemed one of the boys.”
I was terrified. I think everyone was – you don’t show it, but it’s there
D-Day hero veteran John Jenkins
The US President read out a prayer that his predecessor Roosevelt shared with the nation as part of the moving service of remembrance in Portsmouth, attended by more than a dozen leaders from around the world.
And Her Majesty gave a speech too, remembering the “heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives”.
She insisted they will “never be forgotten”.
“When I attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, some thought it might be the last such event. But the wartime generation – my generation – is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today.
“It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country – indeed the whole free world – that I say to you all, thank you,” she added.
300 veterans are set to mark the anniversary in Portsmouth alone, alongside 60,000 members of the public.
War hero John Jenkins told crowds they should never forget D-Day heroes
JOHN Jenkins joined the army in 1940 aged just 20 and commanded a platoon of men on D-Day+2.
After the Normandy landing he pushed on through France and Germany then helped to liberate the Fallingbostel concentration camp in Germany.
Following the war, Mr Jenkins worked as a bus driver then as a crane operator at the Portsmouth naval base.
He continued to serve in the Territorial Army for many years, rising to the rank of Company Sergeant Major.
The pensioner is a lifelong fan of Portsmouth FC and has volunteered at the team’s ground his whole life.
In a recent interview, he said his mesage to future generations would be simply: “Let’s have no more wars.”
Similar events are also taking place in France today and tomorrow.
The go-ahead for the invasion was officially given on 5 June 1944, and troops made their way over on 6 June.
The operation was a huge turning point in the war, but thousands were killed.
Veterans and the public watching the D-Day event spoke today of their great thanks for those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Thousands streamed into an area on the common in Portsmouth to watch the service on huge screens.
Sergeant Jenkins, from Portsmouth, spoke of how “terrified” he had been, adding: “We must never forget.”
Sally Pattenden, 42, from Southsea, said the day made her “very proud to be British”.
She said a number of family members had served with the armed forces, including her grandfather during the war.
“I am very proud to be British and to have this connection in my life,” she said.
“I think our armed forces are among the best in the world.
“When I stood and listened and sang along to the Vera Lynn song We’ll Meet Again, I felt a sense of nostalgia.”
The event was hosted by veteran actress Celia Imrie who introduced the veterans’ memories and tributes from leaders.
After the arrival of Her Majesty at the event, the ceremony kicked off with video messages from D-Day veterans Bert Edwards, Bob Roberts and Eugene Deibler.
All three men were directly involved in the Normandy landings.
VET WHO CAPTURED A GOLIATH
A D-DAY veteran on stage at Portsmouth was part of possibly the strangest encounter of the war.
Two months after landing in Normandy, pint-size Bob Roberts took the surrender of the tallest soldier in the German army.
The 5ft 3in corporal, now 96, was dwarfed by 7ft 6in Jakob Nacken as he frisked him in Calais.
Canadian-born Bob, who lives in Bournemouth, was in the first boat to land on Juno Beach in 1944.
After a recording of Churchill’s famous “Fight on the beaches” speech, Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt, a Canadian soldier who won the Victoria Cross in 1942.
Sheridan Smith sang When The Lights Go On Again, a WW2-era song which looked forward to the end of the war.
Mr Trump made a short speech paying tribute to America’s D-Day heroes.
The next leader on stage was Emmanuel Macron who read the last letter by Henri Fertet, a resistance fighter executed at the age of 16.
Henri wrote to his parents: “I am going to die for my country. I want France to be free and the French to be happy.”
Shortly afterwards, Theresa May read a letter by Captain Norman Skinner, who died in the D-Day landings.
Capt Skinner wrote the note to his wife on June 3, 1944 but never had the chance to send it.
He said: “You and I have had some lovely years which now seemed to have passed at lightning speed.
SHERIDAN SINGS VERA LYNN
SHERIDAN Smith honoured the D-Day veterans by belting out wartime icon Vera Lynn’s songs at the Portsmouth event.
The actress, 37, looked the part with her victory roll hairstyle from the era, red lipstick and wiggle dress to sing numbers such as We’ll Meet Again.
She later changed into a white silk frock before returning to the stage to perform When The Lights Go On Again.
“My thoughts at this moment, in this lovely Saturday afternoon, are with you all now.
“I can imagine you in the garden having tea with Janey and Anne getting ready to put them to bed.
“Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do.”
Sheridan Smith performed Vera Lynn’s classic We’ll Meet Again to close the words-and-music part of the commemoration.
The Queen left after saying goodbye to President Trump.
A dozen Royal Navy ships and a Spitfire will salute the liner in a gesture of respect to those on board.
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