NORMANDY veterans gathered at York's Memorial Gardens today for a service to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The memorial service has taken place 11 days before the anniversary date of June 6, because members of the York branch of the Normandy Veterans Association are planning to return to France next week for a series of services and ceremonies.

Yesterday's service to honour those who died in the Normandy campaign during the Second World War was conducted in bright sunshine by the Reverend David Porter and attended by the Lord Mayor of York and the Sheriff of York.

Spring Bank Holiday tourists looked on as bugler David Ventress sounded The Last Post and Reveille, following prayers and an Act of Remembrance.

A wreath was then laid at a Normandy memorial stone, accompanied by the message: "The Veterans of the York branch will always remember those who died in Normandy, having served their country in the greatest way, never to return."

Branch secretary Ken Smith said the veterans and their wives then went on to the Masonic Hall in Duncombe Place for a buffet, taken there by a minibus provided free of charge by York firm Anytime Travel, as it was every year.

He said seven veterans from across the York area, all in their late 80s or early 90s, are still set to travel to France next week to attend a service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral and a series of other ceremonies, despite increasing mobility and health problems.

He said he had not yet received the passes needed for them to get through a security and congestion cordon thrown up around the area by the French Government, but was hopeful these would arrive shortly.

The ceremonies will be the last big commemoration planned for D-day, and the Normandy Veterans Association nationally will be wound up in the autumn, although York may keep its branch going.