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D-Day veterans gather 70 years on

Hundreds of British D-Day veterans are in Normandy today for a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the greatest military invasion in history.

A huge security operation has swung into operation as 17 heads of state, including the Queen, prepare to arrive in northern France tomorrow.

More than 650 ex-servicemen are said to have travelled to commemorate the invasion which changed history.

Today the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will meet old troops of the Glider Pilot Regiment at Pegasus Bridge, the first assault of the D-Day invasion.

In an incredible feat of flying immortalised in the 1960s film The Longest Day, a team of Horsa gliders silently landed to take the strategically-vital bridge and another nearby.

Led by Major John Howard, they captured the bridges after a 15-minute skirmish, in which two soldiers were killed and 14 wounded.

Charles and Camilla will be met at the nearby Cafe Gondree, overlooking Pegasus Bridge, the first building to be liberated from Nazi-occupied France.

They will then walk across Pegasus Bridge and be guided to the Glider Pilot Memorial where veterans and serving members will be lined up.

The visit comes as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, arrive in Normandy tomorrow for the 70th anniversary.

An international ceremony will held be at Sword Beach, the easternmost of the five landing areas for Allied forces on D-Day.

In a packed day of engagements today, Charles and Camilla will view power boats involved in the Normandy landings and lunch with veterans at Ranville.

Charles – the colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment – will later witness a commemorative parachute drop by British, American, French and Canadian troops.

Scottish D-Day veteran Jock Hutton, 89, will take part in a tandem jump with one of the Red Devils during the drop at Ranville.

Mr Hutton, who was raised in an orphanage in Bridge of Weir, is one of the last D-Day veterans from his regiment – 13th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

A midnight vigil will be held at Pegasus Bridge, marking the moment the gliders made their momentous landing to capture the structure.

Troops from 1st Battalion The Rifles and the Army Air Corps will march across the bridge to Café Gondree for a champagne toast and a midnight firework display.

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