PRIME Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the bravery of D-Day veteran Patrick Churchill after meeting him in Normandy on the 70th anniversary of the landings.
The Witney MP said he felt a mixture of “awe and gratitude” as he met veterans of the D-Day landings at yesterday’s commemorations.
The Prime Minister joined comrades as they formed a procession from Bayeux Cathedral to the historic city’s Commonwealth cemetery.
Mr Cameron discussed the landings with Mr Churchill, from his Witney constituency, as they left the cathedral.
Mr Churchill, 91, a former Royal Marine Commando, landed on D-Day between the Normandy beaches codenamed Sword and Juno.
After landing in Normandy, Marine Churchill was attached to work as a signaller with the French troops of 4 Commando.
Seventy years on he was back in Normandy with German wife Karin, 84. Before travelling to France he said he wanted to pay his respects to those who did not return.
Led by a piper and accompanied by the tolling of the cathedral’s bell, veterans were applauded by crowds lining the route.
Mr Cameron said: “I had the honour of spending some time with my constituent in recognition of the profoundly important and unique contribution he and many others made protecting Britain.
“Patrick Churchill is a brave and extraordinary man.”
The Prime Minister said it was “incredibly moving” to be at the events in Normandy and added it was “humbling” for people of his generation who had not had to do anything like the heroic actions of June 6, 1944.
Speaking in Bayeux, he said: “I think the clear evidence of what happened in 1944 and 1945 is the importance of standing up together for freedom and security.
“And we should remember that, and the importance of Nato and thinking forward to the Nato summit in Wales in September.
“But I think it’s right today, of all days, to remember all those who served and all those who died.
“Yes, of course we have our disagreements today with Russia, but we should never forget that Russia – the Soviet Union – was an ally of Britain and America, the Free French, Canadian and Australian forces, that liberated this continent from the tyranny of Nazism.”
Mr Cameron added: “It’s incredibly moving.
“I was at the vigil at Pegasus Bridge on Thursday night, standing at the spot where one of the gliders landed to take that bridge.
“The sense of history, the sense of awe, but also for my generation the sense of humility – we haven’t had to do anything like what our grandfathers’ generation did to fight for freedom, to put their lives on the line.
“It is awe-inspiring, it gives you a sense of humility, but above all it gives you a sense of extraordinary gratitude for what these amazingly brave people did.”
He said the veterans still had a “spring in their step and joy in their hearts about coming back here and remembering what they did”.
The Prime Minister praised the “incredibly welcoming” people of France for the reception they had given the returning veterans.
Paul Butler, an 18-year-old midshipman on Landing Craft 454 on D-Day, travelled to Normandy, with daughter Jan, 61, from Tackley, near Bicester.
And former Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Corporal Geoff Day, 77, also made the trip. He served in Cyprus in the 1950s, alongside men who fought on the beaches as part of Operation Overlord.
Among the heads of state who attended were US President Barack Obama, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Queen.
French President Francois Hollande issued a rallying cry to the world calling on nations to fight against threats to peace just as the D-Day troops did 70 years ago.