Coronavirus restrictions have meant the D-Day commemorations in Normandy have been the smallest ever, with veterans and their families unable to attend for the first time.
But despite events being muted this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, people have still found ways of marking the 76th anniversary of the allied invasion, which played a decisive role in the liberation of Europe in the Second World War.
In France, flags have been raised in solitary ceremonies and tributes left at the graves of the fallen on behalf of those unable to travel because of the coronavirus.
Back in the UK, alongside low-key socially distanced services of remembrance, two D-Day veterans completed a 104-mile charity cycling challenge to mark the historic landings, which paved the way for the downfall of Nazi Germany.
Len Gibbon set out on his test of endurance using a static bike machine on VE Day and has been notching up the miles each day.
The 96-year-old crossed the “finish line” with fellow Normandy veteran Peter Hawkins, 95, at 11.24pm on 6 June – the 76th anniversary of D-Day.
The 104 miles is the same distance as Mr Gibbon’s historic journey from Portsmouth to Gold Beach, Normandy, in 1944.
Mr Gibbon lives at Care for Veterans, a charity in Worthing, West Sussex, which provides care and rehabilitation to physically disabled ex-service personnel and their families.
He has so far raised more than £6,000 for the charity.
James Bacharew, head of fundraising and marketing at Care for Veterans, said Mr Gibbon and Mr Hawkins were both “elated” to have completed the challenge.
“It has been inspirational to see them at their age get up and get out and cycle every day to reach the distance,” Mr Bacharew said.
Speaking ahead of completing the challenge, Mr Gibbon said: “By cycling the same distance as the journey I took 76 years ago, it feels like a fitting tribute to those who were part of the Normandy landings.”
Meanwhile, in France in sharp contrast to 2019’s extensive 75th anniversary commemorations, this year’s remembrance of the invasion have been far more subdued with many events cancelled.
Rules over the COVID-19 crisis mean people have been unable to make the annual pilgrimage to Normandy and had to honour the dead from afar.
They have been helped by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which has offered to place tributes at graves and memorials on their behalf.
Gardeners for the CWGC, which maintains thousands of sites commemorating the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two World Wars, have been placing special markers at the resting places of the fallen.
Xavier Puppinck, CWGC’s France area director, said: “When we welcomed thousands of veterans and visitors to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we couldn’t have imagined how different things would be just one year later.
“While it is sad that we cannot host any large gatherings this summer to pay respect in person, we can still pause and remember.”
The CWGC has also run a digital “Wall of Remembrance” on its website, where people can upload photos, stories and memories of those who lived through the hardships of the war.
On Saturday, the British ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn, alongside other British officials, attended a small, short ceremony at the Bayeux Cemetery in Normandy.
The allied forces’ combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France on 6 June 1944 was codenamed Operation Overlord.
It was described by the then British prime minister Winston Churchill as “undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place”.
It marked the beginning of an 80-day campaign to liberate Normandy, which involved three million troops and cost the lives of 250,000.