More than two million servicemen and women took part in planning and executing this auspicious and daring campaign. Seventy years later, on 6 June 2014, the world will pause to commemorate their success and also their sacrifice.
Danny Cohen, Director of BBC Television, says: “We all owe so much to the brave servicemen and women who took part in the D-Day campaign and it is a privilege to commemorate and mark this incredibly important anniversary with a range of programming across BBC TV, Radio and Online.”
During the week leading to the 70th anniversary of D-Day, BBC One will tell the story of the countdown to the event itself. Presented by Sophie Raworth, D Day 70: The Heroes Remember (4×45) will feature emotional testimony from veterans who crossed the channel by air and by sea, alongside the memories of locals who remember how the events unfolded on that momentous day.
On 6 June from Arromanches, France, Huw Edwards will anchor the day’s coverage of the special D-Day commemoration ceremonies – the biggest since the 60th anniversary in 2004. Servicemen and women – now in their 80s and 90s – will travel to Normandy to join current members of the Armed Services, European heads of state, royalty and world leaders to remember the friends they made and lost and the war they won for our freedom.
D-Day 70 – The Heroes Return on BBC One will feature highlights of the Bayeux Cathedral Service and then broadcast live from a Service of Remembrance from Bayeux Cemetery, The International Ceremony – which will see veterans stand alongside world leaders, and the Veterans March Past in Arromanches. Highlights of D-Day 70 – The Heroes Return can also be seen on BBC Two in the evening of 6 June (8-9pm).
The BBC has been appointed the broadcast partner for the Royal British Legion, providing live coverage to nations around the world, as well as broadcasting on big screens to veterans throughout Normandy.
BBC News and Current Affairs will cover this major anniversary from the UK, Belgium and Northern France over several days with comprehensive coverage of the events for News outlets across TV, radio and online.
BBC Radio 2 will also reflect and remember throughout the day, beginning with Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show (6.30-9.30am), which will be broadcast live from the beach at Arromanches, part of the British sector codenamed ‘Gold’ during the D-Day landings. Later, Jeremy Vine broadcasts from HMS Belfast on the River Thames (midday-2pm) – HMS Belfast being one of the D-Day flagships and one of the first in the fleet to fire its guns. During the programme, Jeremy will hear many stories from veterans. And from 7am through to 7pm Jeremy will also present a 90-second D-Day-themed bulletin following the hourly news on Radio 2.
The commemoration on Radio 2 culminates in a special Friday Night Is Music Night from London’s Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra (8-10pm). Hosts Jeremy Vine, Dermot O’Leary and Louise Minchin will re-tell the story of key moments of D-Day, with performances from a fantastic line-up including acclaimed folk singer and musician Seth Lakeman with a song written about his grandfather, who served at D-Day and, years later, took a young Seth to Arromanches Beach to recount that fateful day. The BBC Concert Orchestra will be joined by a band featuring musicians drawn from all three UK Armed Forces.
In a one-off documentary for BBC Two, Normandy 44 (1×60), James Holland takes a fresh look at the wider 77-day campaign, challenging many of the myths that have arisen and casting new light on this brutal but vital campaign. Including the perspectives of those who were there from both sides, drawing on the latest academic thinking and using practical experiments with the tanks, guns and equipment used, this will be a revelatory examination of the most iconic campaign of the Second World War.
BBC Two’s Great British Menu is already back on screen and the chefs are hoping it will be their finest hour as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The banquet will take place at a bastion of British wartime resilience, London’s magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral, for guests including some of those who fought on 6 June 1944 itself.
BBC Radio 4’s coverage will start on 2 June with D-Day Dames – a documentary about the group of US women war correspondents working in london in June 1944, exploring their efforts to report on the D-Day invasion and their subsequent reporting from France. The D-Day landings also feature in Britain At Sea, a 15-part series presented by Admiral Lord West that tells the story of the Navy in one of its most tumultuous periods – from the dawn of the 20th century to the present day.
Radio 4 Extra will present a range of programmes from the archive on 5 June including dramas starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliet Stevenson and Christopher Eccleston, documentary programmes exploring the ‘what ifs’ of D-Day and behind-the-scenes preparations to the attacks and a Loose Ends Special, as well as other programmes featuring those who served on both the front line and the home front.
Elsewhere on the BBC, regional news programme South Today is planning a week of special coverage. The South Coast was the jumping-off point for the invasion of Europe. South Today will explore how the invasion was planned, how the troops trained and what happened to them once they were dropped or landed in France. Commemorations in the cities and towns that hosted the troops will be covered throughout the week, which culminates in live coverage from Normandy on the anniversary itself.
Digital content to support the BBC’s coverage of the anniversary will include dedicated iWonder guides exploring some of the intriguing questions around the invasion, such as how the course of the war might have been changed if the invasion had not been successful and a D-Day timeline allowing audiences to explore the key moments of the invasion.