• D-Day75 veterans to be at the heart of commemorations

Events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy and Portsmouth, including the charter of a special ship, have been announced today by the Ministry of Defence, The Royal British Legion and Portsmouth City Council.

The plans were announced in Portsmouth with a visit to the D-Day Story by Vice Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Gordon Messenger.

Commonly referred to as D-Day, the Normandy Landings began on the 6 June 1944, when allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on occupied Europe.

Events will be held in Normandy and around the UK this June. Portsmouth, where much of the landing force sailed from in 1944, will be the focal point of the UK commemorations and will host the UK national event on 5 June. The council is also planning a series of events over 5 days to reflect the area’s unique role in one of the largest and well-known military operations ever.

The commemorative event will include a military parade along the seafront, music including performances by military bands, readings by VIP's and a flypast featuring period aircraft. Other features will include a Royal Collection Trust exhibition, screenings to show the Normandy Commemorations live and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The first 'Portsmouth Revival festival' celebrating the food, music, dancing and vehicles of the time will also be held. Portsmouth’s activity will culminate in a Sunset Concert for Heroes, acts include the Military Wives Choir and the D-Day Darlings.

Before sunset on the 5 June, MV Boudicca, a specially-chartered ship for 300 Normandy veterans, procured by funds from The Royal British Legion and a LIBOR grant from HM Treasury, will then transport veterans across the channel to Normandy escorted by a Royal Navy vessel, representing their famous crossing 75 years before.

The ship will accommodate the veterans for the duration of their visit to Normandy and is being provided to the veterans at no cost. Veterans who wish to travel on the ship should contact The Royal British Legion to register interest.

The key events will include an inauguration at the site of the Normandy Memorial Trust’s British Normandy Memorial and The Royal British Legion’s services at Bayeux Cathedral and Bayeux Cemetery before concluding with an evening of music and entertainment beside the beaches in Arromanches. Throughout the commemorations around 2000 current serving personnel will offer support to veterans both in the UK and in France, while also taking part in the various ceremonial events.

Combined with the launch the Defence Secretary has written an open letter to Normandy veterans and the wider community seeking help from any member of the public who may know a Normandy veteran, and asking them to contact The Royal British Legion to ensure they are aware of plans to commemorate D-Day and how veterans can participate should they wish to. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“75 years ago the forces of 13 Allied countries gathered in Britain before launching the historic operation to liberate Europe. Winston Churchill rightly said that D-Day was “undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult” operation that had ever taken place. This June we will show our veterans that the debt to them is never forgotten for the price they paid for the freedom and peace we now enjoy.”

The Royal British Legion’s Commemorative Events Lead, Bob Gamble OBE: said:

“As we mark 75 years since the largest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen we salute the bravery and sacrifice of all those who took part in liberating Europe. We invite those who wish to attend the events to commemorate their historic achievements to get in touch with the Legion and join our all costs covered journey by ship back to France. The veterans will be the VIPs at this event and we will make sure their every need is catered for as they travel back to Normandy to take part in this landmark event.”

Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson, CBE, Leader, Portsmouth Council said:

“This June the city will be the focal point for reflection on the events of 1944. Veterans, military personnel and civilians will commemorate those lost and celebrate the achievements of the operation that sailed from Portsmouth 75 years ago. It's fitting that we're revealing the programme of events for D-Day 75 at The D-Day Story - the museum which has captured the human stories of those involved in that epic event.”

The D-Day Story opened last year after a £5m National Lottery-supported transformation and is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the Allied Invasion in June 1944.