DAYS of commemoration culminated on Thursday – the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

And the Chambers Institute Quadrangle was packed for a memorial service at 11.45am, led by Tweeddale Lord Lieutenant Professor Sir Hew Strachan, in front of the Peeblesshire War Memorial.

The eldest veteran at the service, John McOwan, 103, who landed on Gold Beach in Normandy, said: “Today was very emotional for me and I am very proud to join veterans and respect the real heroes, who did not survive, of whom we are all thinking.”

Earlier army and air force cadets, veterans and some members of the Peebles Ex-Servicemen’s Pipe Band paraded from the Old Parish Church up the High Street to the War Memorial.

Sir Hew said: “We are assembled here five hours and 80 years since H-Hour, one hour after dawn on June 6, when the landings began.

“John McOwan, 103, has seen war. He landed on Gold Beach having already served in North Africa and Italy. We are privileged to be in his company.

“An amphibious assault is possibly the most hazardous and complex operation in war – going from one environment to another – from sea to land, given the vagaries of wind and weather against the opposition of a determined enemy.

“Operation Overlord could not be allowed to fail.”

Kayla Bisset and Rory Clark, of Peebles High School, read extracts from Mr McOwan’s ‘A Centenarian’s Memoirs of WWII’.

Retired Major Tony Willmore, 73, from Innerleithen, who served with the 16th/5th Lancers, said: “I am here to remember the individuals who gave their lives so we can have our freedoms today, God help us if it had not been a success.

“I am cycling the World War One battlefields in July and on July 16 will be in Arezzo, Italy, which was liberated that day in 1944 by the 16th/5th Lancers.”

Sir Hew praised those who set up the commemoration in Peebles particularly Adrian Lucas who could not attend.

Father Tony Lappin said: “An entire generation gave everything for us to live in freedom and it is imperative that we never forget their sacrifice.”