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By Sean Coughlan, BBC Royal correspondent

D-Day - Figure 1
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King Charles attends a UK national commemorative event to mark the 80th anniversary commemorations of Allied amphibious landing (D-Day Landings) in France in 1944, in Southsea Common, in Portsmouth, southern England, on 5 June, 2024. Photo: Pool / Leon Neal / AFP

King Charles has paid a heartfelt tribute to those who took part in the D-Day landings, praising them for "replacing tyranny with freedom".

"We are eternally in their debt," the King told an 80th anniversary commemoration.

He was speaking in Portsmouth, one of the key departure points for the Normandy landings in June 1944.

The King hailed the "courage, resilience and solidarity" of those who had taken part in D-Day and whose numbers were now "dwindling to so few".

King Charles, with Queen Camilla and his son the Prince of Wales, was addressing a national D-Day commemoration held under blue skies on Southsea Common.

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The audience rose to their feet when veterans stood to make speeches and the Queen was brought to tears.

In his biggest public speech since his cancer diagnosis, King Charles hailed the "greatest amphibious operation in history" and the courage of those who "must have questioned if they would survive".

The King said their efforts to end "brutal totalitarianism" must never be forgotten.

And he called on the present generation to honour those who had died, in ways that "live up to the freedom they died for, by balancing rights with civic responsibilities".

Prince William delivered a poignant reading from the diary of Captain Alastair Bannerman, in which the soldier remembered his family as he headed towards the French coast on the morning of D-Day. Captain Bannerman survived the landing and the war, Prince William said, adding: "Too many never returned."

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Speaking to some of the veterans later, Prince William was asked about his wife Catherine's recovery and said: "She'd love to be here today."

Portsmouth was one of the embarkation points on the south coast eight decades ago, as Allied forces crossed the Channel to liberate France and Western Europe from Nazi occupation.

The commemorative event heard from those who took part in D-Day, including Roy Hayward, who landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944 at the age of 19.

Hayward, now aged 98, said he wanted to remember those who had "fought for democracy" and "to ensure their story is never forgotten".

Last week the King met one of the veterans of the Normandy landings, Jim Miller, who at the age of 20 had gone ashore at Juno Beach.

The King invited Miller to Buckingham Palace to personally hand him his 100th birthday card.

"I am humbled to reach such a great number, especially when I think of those who fell on the Normandy beaches all those years ago," Miller said afterwards.

- This story was first published by the BBC

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