D-Day 70: Spectacular display of European ships

FS Somme (French tanker) passing Southsea on Thursday evening.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141628-8604)
FS Somme (French tanker) passing Southsea on Thursday evening.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141628-8604)
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IT was a spectacle that marked the importance of D-Day for all of Europe.

All eyes were fixed towards the seas as an international flotilla sailed past Southsea.

Whether you were a survivor of D-Day, a ship enthusiast, or a 10-year-old child learning about the story of D-Day for the first time, seeing the sheer size of the ships was awesome.

Several nations came together for the flotilla, which included HMS Bulwark; HNLMS Joan de Witte, a Dutch ship; FS Somme, a French tanker; BNS Crocus, a Belgian mine warfare vessel; and RDN Sabotoren, a Danish ship.

Young couple Emma Palmer and Michael Vernon, from Waverley Road, Southsea, were there taking photographs and remarked on the stark contrast between the size of the vessels and the much smaller amphibious vessels that would have been used for the Normandy landings.

‘It’s nice to see all the international ships,’ said Michael, 29.

‘It’s good to see the foreign forces are remembering not only what we did, but the co-operation that was involved between the different countries.’

Mary Tupper, 38, from Southsea, was sitting on a seafront bench waiting to get a good view.

‘I am proud of the navy and to witness it all,’ she said.

Sarah Simmons, 40, of Green Road, Southsea, said: ‘I am not going to see this again in my lifetime and there’s not many veterans left now.

‘It’s marvellous what Portsmouth is doing.’

Iris Day, 74 from Southsea, ‘My father worked as a medic on a landing craft during D-Day. He didn’t like to talk about it but I am sure that today he would be really proud of these commemorations.’

Sharon Burwin, 43, from Manchester, said: ‘I thought the day was brilliant.’

Southsea couple Eric Murray and Amanda Read, of Hunter Road, were cycling on the seafront and were wowed by the proportions of the vessels.

Eric, whose father Edwin Murray fought at D-Day, said: ‘He would be very proud we are keeping it going.

‘He lost a lot of friends. He went over with the Canadians and they were very brave.’

Jane and Tony Rickett, from Hythe, near Southampton, said: ‘It’s wonderful on this particular day to have a show and a gathering of pertinent countries.’

Click here for details of the 70th anniversary supplement published by The News to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day