Prayers, special services and bellringing mark D-Day 80th anniversary

A D-Day memorial in the French town of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain, France.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Cathedrals are at the heart of commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when soldiers from the US, UK, Canada, and other Allied nations landed on Normandy beach under a barrage of gunfire to break Hitler's grip on Europe.

The Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 were the largest seaborne invasion in history and a turning point in World War II. Thousands of Allied soldiers were killed. 

The soldiers who stormed Hitler's Atlantic Wall battlements against huge odds are being remembered with events across the UK and other Allied nations. 

Portsmouth Cathedral, in the city that was the main departure point for British troops heading to Normandy, led the 80th anniversary commemorations with a special service broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 last Sunday. Today its choir is singing at the D-Day Stone Remembrance Service in the city's Southsea area.

"The service provides a moment for reflection and gratitude, ensuring that the legacy of those who fought and died is never forgotten," the cathedral said. 

Canterbury, Winchester and Coventry are among the cathedrals hosting commemorative Evensongs.

Coventry Cathedral has spent decades engaging in peace and reconciliation work after becoming the only English cathedral to be destroyed in the Second World War. It was rebuilt and the cathedral committed itself to forging new relationships with German cities. It is marking the anniversary with a special Choral Evensong on Thursday. 

Rev Mary Gregory, Canon for Arts and Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, said: "In this special Evensong, we will remember all those who risked so much for the freedom of others and will pray for those caught up in conflicts today who still await their freedom.

"In a place which is known the world over as an icon of peace, we will pray for the end of conflict and the reconciliation of enemies through building a culture of justice and peace."

Throughout Thursday, Canterbury Cathedral is running mini World War II-themed talks that will share how brave firefighters saved the cathedral from bombing. 

St Edmundsbury Cathedral's special Evensong service today is being held in partnership with the Royal British Legion and will be attended by veterans and active military personnel from Suffolk.

Wreaths will be laid by the Lord Lieutenant, Lady Clare Euston, and three military representatives. Royal Marine Veteran Tony Hensby, who vividly remembers seeing the skies full of planes heading for Normandy as a 14 year old boy, will read the poignant wartime poem, 'Normandy'.

The Very Rev Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury, said: "An entire generation gave everything for us to live in freedom and we must never forget their sacrifice; those who never came home, those who did, and those who remained to keep us going through conflict.

"The Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 saw bravery and determination that turned the tide of the Second World War. With our service, we honour all those involved."

At 6:30pm church and cathedral bells across the nation will ring out as part of the National Bellringing for Peace initiative. 

Salisbury Cathedral has published this special prayer to be used in conjunction with the anniversary: 

God our refuge and strength,
as we remember those
who faced danger and death in Normandy,
eighty years ago,
grant us courage to pursue what is right,
the will to work with others,
and strength to overcome tyranny and oppression,
through Jesus Christ,
to whom belong dominion and glory,
now and for ever.