On this day 70 years ago the allied invasion of the Normandy beaches took place. Historians can argue whether this, or the battle of Stalingrad, was the decisive turning point in the war, but there is no doubt that D day changed the course of history. The Allies had prepared for years. Hitler also knew the day would come, at some point, in some place. Both sides knew how much would turn on a successful allied invasion.
As world leaders gather to mark the 70th anniversary, I cannot imagine the bravery of troops crossing the sea that day, not knowing exactly what they would meet but sailing into the teeth of German guns and armour. Praying to their God, sick with fear perhaps, but going ahead.
So much turned on the defeat of the fascism which gripped Europe. So much of what we take for granted about free choice, free speech and living in peace with our neighbours was guaranteed that day. It wasn't just a battle between armies but a battle of values, of outlook, indeed a battle of what human life itself meant.
We have so much to be grateful for to those who planned and carried out D day and the victories which followed. Many lives were lost that day and of course in the further year of war which followed before the end. We should remember today everyone who fought and took part.
I would like to pay a particular tribute to soldiers, sailers and airmen from Wolverhampton who served in the armed forces during World War II. We will remember them, and we do so today.
(6th June 2014)