Martin Freeman moved the crowd to tears as he read out a letter from a veteran who had to watch his friend die in Normandy.

As part of the commemoration ceremony letters from the war heroes were read out, including one by Joe Mines, 99, from Hornchurch, who was also at the event in Ver-sur-Mer. 

Mr Mines landed on Gold Beach 80 years ago today to clear mines when he was just a teenager – having to use his bayonet to dig them out of the sand.

 His letter heartbreakingly read: ‘I was 19 when I landed, but I was still a boy…and I didn’t have any idea of war and killing.’

Mr Freeman read to the glassy eyed crowd how Mr Mines had been forced to watch his friends leg get blown straight off while they were trying to clear the mines on the beaches. 

Martin Freeman moved the crowd to tears as he read out a letter from a veteran who had to watch his friend die in Normandy

Martin Freeman moved the crowd to tears as he read out a letter from a veteran who had to watch his friend die in Normandy

As part of the commemoration ceremony letters from the war heroes were read out, including one from Joe Mines (right), 99, from Hornchurch who was also at the event in Ver-sur-Mer

As part of the commemoration ceremony letters from the war heroes were read out, including one from Joe Mines (right), 99, from Hornchurch who was also at the event in Ver-sur-Mer

Mr Mines landed on Gold Beach 80 years ago today when he was just a teenager

Mr Mines landed on Gold Beach 80 years ago today when he was just a teenager

Mr Freeman read to the weeping crowd how Mr Mines had been forced to watch his friends leg get blown straight off while they were trying to clear the mines on the beaches

Mr Freeman read to the weeping crowd how Mr Mines had been forced to watch his friends leg get blown straight off while they were trying to clear the mines on the beaches

British WWII veteran Joe Mines, 99, greets from a car after a welcome ceremony

British WWII veteran Joe Mines, 99, greets from a car after a welcome ceremony

‘Joe Mines, clearing mines. One of our fellows trod on one and blew his leg off. The whole leg went. War is brutal.’

He wrote about how this would be the last time he would be able to pay his respects to his fellow comrades, and that was why he had to be there today. 

‘This is the last and only opportunity for me. The last there will ever be. And it is because of the lads. I want to pay my respects to those who didn’t make it. May they rest in peace.’

Mr Mines smiled and waved to applause from the audience as Mr Freeman concluded his speech and sat down next to the veteran. 

Freeman’s paternal grandfather, Leonard W Freeman, was a medic who died while fighting at Dunkirk. 

Mr Mines recalled the fine line between life and death on D-Day in an interview with The Westminster Collection last month. 

He said he joined up reluctantly, and suspected he was only picked to clear mines because of his surname.

The threats he faced included wooden Schu-mines, which exploded with ball bearings, in a horrific design intended to cause as much pain as possible. He said one of his friends stepped on one and was badly injured.

With only rudimentary tools at his disposal, he was ordered to dig them out of the beach using only his bayonet.

He said: ‘I was a very reluctant soldier, I didn’t want to be in the battlefield at all.

A veteran wipes a tear away from his eye

A veteran wipes a tear away from his eye

Veteran Jack Mortimer becomes emotional while travelling to France from Britain on Tuesday, June 4, ahead of D-Day commemorations

Veteran Jack Mortimer becomes emotional while travelling to France from Britain on Tuesday, June 4, ahead of D-Day commemorations

A veteran sniffs a white rose given to him by French schoolchildren on the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings in Ver-sur-Mer

A veteran sniffs a white rose given to him by French schoolchildren on the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings in Ver-sur-Mer

There were tears among the crowd, including from veterans, during the emotional service at Ver-sur-Mer in northern France this morning

There were tears among the crowd, including from veterans, during the emotional service at Ver-sur-Mer in northern France this morning

Tweets praising Martin Freeman for his speech, where he read out a letter from war veteran Joe Mines

Tweets praising Martin Freeman for his speech, where he read out a letter from war veteran Joe Mines

‘As soon as we landed, a mate of mine got machine-gunned… There were five people in front of me who all got gunned down, and he was one of them. I suppose I just got lucky.

‘I was never particularly proud of my Service – I didn’t feel I did enough. But once I started doing the Poppy Appeal, and getting positive reactions from people, I started to talk.’

Social media users wrote on X how special they thought the moment was and praised the actor for how well he delivered Mr Mines words. 

One wrote: ‘Just listening to Martin Freeman reading out joe Mind’s [sic] recollections of the D-day landing at the Memorial Service in Normandy. Stunning and so moving. He could not have read it better! Thank you.’

Another said: ‘Martin Freeman told Joe Mines story so well there, I would be in floods reading that…beautiful service, beautiful memorial.’

A third added: ‘WOW Martin Freeman has just read the most moving speech for #DDAY80.’

And a fourth wrote: ‘These last last few men we owe so much to recalling their stories. Mr eyes are leaking and I don’t care.’ 

D-Day veterans have been left in tears as the memories of decades past came flooding back while they were honoured for their service by world leaders and royals.

Soldiers who took part in the Normandy landings 80 years ago wept as they remembered their fallen comrades and were given standing ovations by the grateful younger generations at a series of touching commemorative events in northern France.

At the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, tribute was paid to the ‘remarkable wartime generation’, before wreaths of poppies were laid in memory of the more than 25,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the first stages of the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

The number of veterans in attendance was only a few dozen, as the numbers of survivors dwindles with each year that passes – at the 75th anniversary five years ago 255 travelled to France, compared to the 50 who have made the journey this time around.

King Charles and Queen Camilla led those present, which also included Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron, in a poignant silent prayer to remember those no longer with us, while memories of those who were on the beaches 80 years ago were also read out.

There were also moments of levity, with Queen Camilla being given a white rose by one veteran in a touching mark of respect, with Her Majesty seen clutching the tender gift as she spoke with the former soldiers. 

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