Veterans remember the D-Day fallen 68 years on

RESPECTS From left, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chris Brunnen, 21, from Portsmouth, the deputy mayor of Caen Pascal Blanchetier, Cllr Terry Hall and Eddie Chamberlain from the Royal British Legion lay wreaths.  Picture: Steve Reid (121963-540)
RESPECTS From left, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chris Brunnen, 21, from Portsmouth, the deputy mayor of Caen Pascal Blanchetier, Cllr Terry Hall and Eddie Chamberlain from the Royal British Legion lay wreaths. Picture: Steve Reid (121963-540)
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MEDALS glinted in the sunlight as Second World War veterans gathered to honour their fallen comrades at a D-Day memorial service.

Passers-by stopped to join the 68th anniversary commemoration at the D-Day memorial stone at South Parade, Southsea, yesterday.

More than 100 people took part in the act of remembrance organised by the Portsmouth South branch of the Royal British Legion.

Among them were about 25 veterans of the biggest amphibious invasion ever staged.

One of them was 98-year-old Fred Lee of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment who landed on Gold beach on D-Day.

He was accompanied by his 21-year-old great-grandson Chris Brunnen, of Kimberley Road, Southsea, who laid a wreath at the stone on Mr Lee’s behalf.

Chris said: ‘I try to go with him to this service every year because it’s so important that people of my generation remember what he and thousands of others went through.

‘I always find it a very moving ceremony, especially the two-minute silence when we remember those who never came home.’

Chris added: ‘There were more there this year than there have been for several years, which was very good to see. We must never forget.’

The memorial stone is close to South Parade Pier from which hundreds of troops embarked for Normandy to launch Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.

Police officers provided an escort for the standard bearers, who held flags high as they marched along the seafront to the service.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, also laid a wreath and stood alongside members of the legion as hymns were sung and prayers said to remember those who died.

He was accompanied by the deputy mayor of Caen, Pascal Blanchetier.

Also among those paying tribute to the men who helped free mainland Europe from German occupation were French veterans 92-year-old Andre Heintz and Claude Andre, 88.

They are both from Portsmouth’s twin city of Caen, much of which was destroyed in the bitter Battle of Normandy which followed D-Day.

Andre fought with the French Resistance but Claude served in Portsmouth from 1942 as part of the Free French Navy.

He said: ‘It’s wonderful to be back here, although I can hardly recognise the city today. It’s marvellous that so many still remember.’

Wreaths of poppies and remembrance crosses were laid at the foot of the memorial stone, and heads bowed in unison as a lone trumpet marked the silence in remembrance of the fallen.

Cash appeal to get gun boat to France

SHE saw action on D-Day off the Normandy coast 68 years ago.

Now restored, the aim is to get her back to the French coast as part of the 70th anniversary commemoration in 2014.

But before Motor Gun Boat 81 can cross the Channel from her berth at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, she needs £70,000 spent on her.

And yesterday, on the anniversary of the D-Day landings, MGB81 was rededicated before a campaign was launched to raise the cash.

On D-Day the vessel and other small craft like her kept the Normandy beaches safe from marauding Nazi warships.

This allowed the Allied armies to get ashore and begin the liberation of Europe.

Rupert Head, the director of the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust, said MGB81 was the only motor gun boat in existence still in a seaworthy state. But she’ll need that £70,000 refit if she is to cross to Normandy for the 70th anniversary.

He said: ‘In short, we need a fighting fund for a fighting ship.

‘Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust has invested heavily in MGB81 since acquiring her, restoring her weaponry, repainting her and overhauling her two working engines. But this grand old veteran needs a complete refit.’

Six Coastal Forces veterans from the Second World War attended the appeal launch.

Reg Ellis, 86, from Waterlooville, a radio operator on a similar vessel, a motor torpedo boat, in the Adriatic, said: ‘It would be incredibly moving if she could make it to France.’