Veterans sing and dance at close of town commemoration service in Normandy

A Normandy veteran who ended a poignant ceremony overlooking Gold Beach with a song and a dance said it’s “difficult to stop a few tears” when revisiting France.

Henry Rice, 98, joined singer Emma Brown before forming a line with other veterans and guests and swaying to Auld Lang Syne.

More than a dozen veterans were honoured with a standing ovation as they arrived at the ceremony in Arromanches, a service held every year in the liberated coastal town since June 6 1944.

Crowds cheered while watching the town parade and service, some watching from shop windows and a cafe rooftop overlooking the square.

He added: “It’s difficult to stop a few tears.

“It’s like coming back to France every time, I get very emotional. I then pretend no, I’m not emotional, I am happy, but in reality I’ve come to remember comrades, to say sorry.

“But at the same time I look up there at that gentleman, merci beaucoup.”

On swaying with Reverend Mandy Reynolds to Auld Lang Syne, Mr Rice, from Surrey, said: “She is a wonderful lady. And when I say the expression I love her I mean [like] I love life, she is super.”

Mr Rice, who served on HMS Eastway, said the 80th anniversary is a “special year” which makes him remember “more deeply”.

On his plans for the rest of D-Day, he added: “I want a bottle of calvados and then we go back to the hotel tonight, I’m going to have a superb dinner.”

Veteran Alec Penstone also danced at the ceremony, arm in arm with Ms Reynolds.

Singer Ms Brown, 38, said the spirit of the ceremony was the same as it has been for 10 years, and that in contrast to TV events “this is really the pilgrimage and the spirit here”.

She said: “It’s amazing. They have so much energy. They can party, we, the younger people, are getting tired.

“But it’s also amazing because you feel them relaxed, and you feel it’s almost like they become younger behind their eyes. Something sparkles. It’s really nice.”

In the hot sunshine on Thursday, veterans wore sunglasses as they looked out to sea over Gold Beach where troops landed 80 years ago.

The mayor of Arromanches, Marcel Bastide, said the invasion was a “real time of liberation” for the town.

“We thank you veterans very much. We will never forget you.”