D-Day 70: Skill is on show with a trip back in time

The field gun exercise taking place in the main arena.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141633-9406)
The field gun exercise taking place in the main arena.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141633-9406)
Detail from an exact replica of Lord Nelson's diamond Chelengk jewels. Picture:Andrew Matthews/Press Association

Replica of Nelson’s stolen jewel on display

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Spectacular displays of military prowess took place across the weekend at the D-Day Experience on Southsea Common.

Marines, marching bands, cadets and RAF parachutists entertained the crowds.

On Saturday afternoon the RAF Falcons parachute team did a spectacular freefall display showcasing their canopy stacking abilities.

The eight-strong team jumped from 5,000ft and landed to huge cheers from the thousands who had flocked to watch them descend.

Flight Lieutenant Chris Bailey said: ‘It was fantastic to be there to commemorate D-Day in Portsmouth.

‘We met Major Matthew Guymer who actually took part in the D-Day landings and he took the salute.

‘We met him, gave him the salute.

‘He is a fantastic gentleman and it was an absolute honour and pleasure to meet him.’

Maj Guymer, 90, was in the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s own) Cavalry Regiment.

He said: ‘I’m one of the oldest soldiers left here who landed on D-Day.

‘I’m honoured, delighted and proud to have been given the privilege of taking the salute on this very memorable occasion – and to celebrate D-Day in this wonderful city.

‘My wife Margaret is a Portsmouth girl and we’ve been married 67 years.

‘This is the most wonderful place with the warmest, friendliest people who are the very best ambassadors for this country.’

It was a nail-biting field gun competition between the talented cadets from HMS Collingwood and the Royal Marines on Saturday, with Collingwood just pipping the marines to the post.

The Royal Marines put on a fearsome display of unarmed combat followed by a gentler display from the Warsash Sea Cadets who used clubs to do a traditional Royal Navy dance to horn pipes.

Lily and Holly New, aged eight and four, dressed up as evacuees complete with home-made gas masks to enjoy the events on Saturday.

Mum Rebecca, of New Road, Portsmouth, said: ‘The girls absolutely love dressing up so it didn’t take much persuading for them.

‘I really wanted them to be able to understand the history of D-Day. Lily has been doing lots of research online. I wanted them to meet people from the armed forces too.’

Diane Lang, 50, from Broadsands Road, Gosport, wore a vintage 1940s outfit and finished it off with victory rolls in her hair.

She said: ‘We love the era, it was a time when the outfits were elegant and the women dressed like women.

‘I have been watching all the D-Day coverage on the television and it really brought a lump to the throat – lest we forget.

‘We really wanted to get down here and be part of it.’

Elsewhere there was a huge queue for the free vintage hair stall, and the tent housing a unique collection of vintage medical equipment used by volunteer nurses in the Home Guard.

Nicole Pharoah, 32, attended with her husband Ray and one-year-old daughter Hera.

Mrs Pharoah, from Hilsea, said: ‘Although I thought I knew about D-Day, over the past few days I’ve learned so much.

‘I’ve been to as many of the events as I could and it has been really moving.

‘It’s difficult to comprehend what the armed forces went through on D-Day but it has brought it home what a sacrifice all the soldiers and sailors made.

‘It’s been an amazing commemoration.’