Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron have joined D-Day veterans in northern France for a second day of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.
A lone piper played to mark the moment when the first UK soldiers went ashore.
At an inauguration ceremony, Mrs May told veterans “thank you”, while Mr Macron said we owe them “our freedom”.
Later, US President Donald Trump will accompany Mr Macron at the US War Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
Hundreds of veterans have gathered in Normandy for the anniversary of the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history.
Mr Macron and Mrs May – in one of her final engagements as Conservative leader – were in Ver-sur-Mer to see the first stone laid for a memorial to commemorate the 22,442 British troops who died there in the summer of 1944.
The memorial, which overlooks Gold Beach, depicts three soldiers advancing across the beach.
Mrs May told the ceremony that she was humbled to be able to mark the moment with veterans, who belonged to a “very special generation”.
“A generation whose unconquerable spirit shaped the post-war world. They didn’t boast. They didn’t fuss. They served,” she said.
“And they laid down their lives so that we might have a better life and build a better world.
“If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world, that day was June 6, 1944,” she added.
Also paying tribute, Mr Macron said: “This is where young men, many of whom had never set foot on French soil, landed at dawn under German fire, risking their lives while fighting their way up the beach, which was littered with obstacles and mines.”
The French president went on to say he was proud to have worked with Mrs May.
“Leaders may come and go but their achievements remain. The force of our friendship will outlast current events,” he said.
Following the inauguration ceremony, a service is being held at the cathedral in Bayeux, the first city to be liberated by the invasion.
Mrs May, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are among those attending the service, which will be followed by a ceremony at Bayeux War Cemetery, where many of the fallen were buried.
The day’s commemorations mark key events in the operation, which was aimed at bringing an end to World War Two.
By night-time on 6 June 1944, about 156,000 Allied troops had landed on Normandy’s beaches, despite challenging weather and fierce German defences. Some had drowned when they were accidentally dropped off too soon in deep waters.
By the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a foothold in France and within 11 months Nazi Germany was defeated and the war was over.
At 06:26 BST – the exact minute the first British troops landed on the beaches in 1944 – a lone piper played on a section of the Mulberry Harbour in the town of Arromanches.
Meanwhile, Mr Macron will accompany US President Donald Trump at an event at the US war cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer.
Other events taking place include:
- A veteran’s parade in Arromanches, followed by a Red Arrows flypast
- A service of remembrance and wreath laying at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire
- In Portsmouth, a veteran’s parade before a memorial service at the city’s D-Day Stone
- The Duke of Sussex will join the Chelsea Pensioners and six D-Day veterans for Founder’s Day at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea
- In Edinburgh, 15 D-Day veterans will be presented with the Knight of the Légion d’Honneur Cross at the French Consulate
Wednesday saw the first day of the 75th anniversary events, with leaders from every country that fought alongside the UK on D-Day joining the Queen in Portsmouth.
Veterans of the landings were also in attendance as the Queen paid tribute to the “heroism, courage and sacrifice” of those who died.
Mr Trump – who was on the last day of his three-day UK state visit – said D-Day “may have been the greatest battle ever”.
Around 300 veterans were then waved off on the cruise ship MV Boudicca as it set off for the Normandy commemorations.
But two veterans – Harry Read, 95, and John Hutton, 94, – parachuted back into Normandy, 75 years after their first landing.
This time, they jumped in tandem with members of the Army’s Parachute Regiment display team, the Red Devils – and were greeted by cheers.