UK

Scotland’s politicians lead tributes to ‘courageous’ D-Day veterans 80 years on

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes and others at Holyrood paid tribute to those involved the operation, which was key in the fight against the Nazis.

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes paid tribute to the ‘sacrifice and and bravery’ of those involved in the D-Day landings 80 years ago
Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes paid tribute to the ‘sacrifice and and bravery’ of those involved in the D-Day landings 80 years ago (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland’s political leaders have hailed the “courageous actions” of those who took part in the D-Day landings 80 years ago.

With Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney in Normandy for a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the military operation, deputy First Minister Kate Forbes was among the political leaders at Holyrood remembering those who served – including those who made the “ultimate sacrifice”.

Speaking at the start of First Minister’s Questions she said: “Were it not for the courageous actions of those brave men and women, we would not enjoy the freedoms which we now take for granted.

“We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. And as we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day today we will never forget those who have and continue to lay down their lives in the service of their country.”

With events taking place across Scotland to mark the anniversary, including a commemoration event in Edinburgh, she said it was a “day for reflection on the sacrifice and the bravery of all those who served in the Second World War, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives for us in pursuit of a better world”.

Her comments came as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross paid tribute to the “heroism” of all those involved in the D-Day landings.

British troops, together with other forces from America and Canada, landed on the beaches of Normandy in France on June 6 1944 in what was the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Along with the associated airborne operations, it marked the beginning of the liberation of France and western Europe.

Speaking at Holyrood, Mr Ross said: “Eighty years ago today British soldiers joined those from America, Canada and other nations to board planes, ships and landing craft to begin the liberation of Europe.

“The men who were parachuted into Normandy were landed at Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha or Utah beaches on June 6, headed into danger and uncertainty.

“They were met with mines, barbed wire and the guns of the German defenders.”

With 4,414 of the Allied troops killed on D-day itself, the Scottish Conservative leader paid tribute to their “brave efforts” saying they had “played a key part in the downfall of Nazism and ensuring freedom and democracy for western Europe”.

He added: “On this day, the 80th anniversary, and as the veterans of that day become fewer and fewer, and the event passes from memory to history, our need to remember their heroism becomes ever more important.

“So today, and always, we will remember them.”

Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton recalled a 96-year-old veteran he met in the 2016 Holyrood election while campaigning in Edinburgh, telling MSPs the man showed him his collection of bagpipes.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the man gave him a bagpipe lesson, adding: “What blew me away was those were the pipes he used to bring the troops ashore at Sword beach in Normandy on D-Day 80 years ago.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton recalled meeting a veteran who had piped the troops ashore on D-Day.
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton recalled meeting a veteran who had piped the troops ashore on D-Day. (Jane Barlow/PA)

“I reflect on his memory, and sadly he has passed away now, and all too many veterans have.

“This may be the last time we commemorate an anniversary with people who were actually there to commemorate it with us.

“We reflect on their sacrifice on the altar of freedom and the cause of democracy and against the tyranny of Nazism and we will remember them.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie also paid tribute to those who had fought, saying: “It is right that we commemorate all those Scottish, British and Commonwealth soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and liberty.”

Meanwhile, Scottish veterans minister Graeme Dey will be at the National D-Day 80 Commemoration Concert taking place in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The event, at the Usher Hall, has been funded with £22,000 of Scottish Government cash.

Veterans who served in D-Day will participate in some of the events in Scotland, including Lance Corporal Cyril “Lou” Bird, now aged 100, who as a 20-year-old tank driver in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment was “frightened to death” when he landed on Gold Beach.

However he said that contributing to peace in Europe had made the war “worthwhile”.

Speaking ahead of the anniversary, Mr Bird said: “I hope that persists, and if it really is persistent, we did a wonderful job, the war was worthwhile.”