To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, a host of special events will take place across the UK and France. The Ministry of Defence has announced one of the biggest mobilisations of the UK Armed Forces in recent years, including over 4,000 personnel, 11 Royal Navy vessels and multiple aircraft, including Spitfire.
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. Portsmouth City Council is also planning a series of events over five days to reflect the area’s unique role in one of the largest and well-known military operations ever.
The main commemorative event on 5 June will include a flypast of 26 RAF aircraft. Later, the city will wave off around 300 veterans, as they set sail for France, where there will be events along the Normandy beaches.
Portsmouth International Port will play an integral role. 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 be berthed at the Port on the 5 June. It will then leave just before sunset, transporting veterans across the channel to Normandy. It will be escorted by a Royal Navy vessel, representing the 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. Any veterans that have not yet come forward are urged to get in touch with the Royal British Legion as there is still time to book a place board MV Boudicca for the journey to Normandy.
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. The commemorations will conclude with an evening of music and entertainment beside the beaches in Arromanches. 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.
Portsmouth will also host a Royal Collection Trust exhibition across the five-day commemorations, and screenings to show the events over in Normandy live. The first Portsmouth Revival Festival, celebrating the food, music, dancing and vehicles of the time, will also take place. Portsmouth’s activity will culminate in a Sunset Concert for Heroes, with acts including the Military Wives Choir and the D-Day Darlings. The Port will also host MV Boudicca on the 8 June, as part of her return journey.
The Portsmouth City Council website has links to further information about the events here.