D-DAY OF TEARS; Veterans defy French snub to pay respects.
THEIR medals glitter in the sun as tears glisten in their eyes... and they are deep in thought, not of now but of a distant, more harrowing time.
Frail they may be, but nothing was going to stop the determined warriors, many in their 80s, from remembering colleagues who fell on the Normandy beaches.
Britain's bravest were back yesterday on the foreign soil they liberated for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Among them, veteran Harry Buckley, 84, poignantly planted a memorial cross at the beach of Colleville-Montgomery where he landed all those years before.
Speaking as the Paras paid their own tribute in a re-enacted aerial drop, Bert Marsh, 84, from Sheffield, said he was there to remember "the many we lost".
Some veterans wore photos of the Queen among their medals in a defiant protest against the decision by the French not to invite her. Their action was vindicated by France's intention to deliver another snub by virtually ignoring Prince Charles and Gordon Brown today.
Although the pair will travel to Northern France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it clear his meeting with President Barack Obama will be the "main event".
The ceremony at the US cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer will be broadcast live on French TV and called "Barack Obama on the invasion beaches". Other publicity fails to mention British heroes, saying: "Surrounded by French and US veterans, the Presidents Obama and Sarkozy will pay homage to the thousands of Americans who lost their lives on the Normandy beaches in their fight for liberty."
French newspapers have hailed Obama's arrival with headlines like "Yes We Caen", referring to his "Yes we can" slogan.
A source at France's TF1 channel said: "Sarkozy will be delighted images of him and Obama will be relayed globally. Everything else is secondary, including Prince Charles and Gordon Brown."
TRAGEDY struck when a US veteran, 86, who had travelled to Normandy collapsed at his hotel near Deauville and died of suspected swine flu.
OUR TRIBUTE Paras re-enact an aerial drop near Caen as veterans lay a wreath at monument RECALLING Emotional veteran at Normandy ceremony yesterday TOO MUCH Memories flood back for another hero from 1944 FOR THE FALLEN Harry Buckley, 84, at the landing beach