A MULTIMILLION pound bid to make Portsmouth the centre of national D-Day anniversary celebrations has been launched.
To mark 70 years since the Allied troop landing in Normandy turned the tide of the Second World War, Portsmouth City Council has announced a ‘ground-breaking’ programme of events and improvements.
The authority is aiming to bid for £4.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out major work to the existing D-Day museum ahead of the anniversary in 2014.
It is also planning to host a festival and conference in the city to mark the occasion, as well as organising projects with veterans, schools, youth groups and the military.
The council has already submitted an initial bid for around £400,000 of funding and is awaiting the lottery fund’s decision in November, if successful it will then bid for around £4m next year.
In a report officers describe D-Day as ‘undoubtedly the most dramatic and important single day in the history of Western Europe’ and argue that the anniversary could be used to inspire the whole community.
Lib Dem cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, Cllr Lee Hunt, said it was vital to make sure the anniversary, which could be the last many veterans see, is marked properly.
‘There is no question about it – the D-Day museum itself is the premier museum of its kind in the world, together with our French opposite number,’ he said.
‘And it will certainly be the focus for the national celebrations so we want to regenerate the front and put in a bid for £4m to improve the whole museum.
‘It is going to be very different to how it is now – I want to bring it up to the same standard as the Imperial War Museum in London.
‘Let’s not forget just how important D-Day and the liberation of Europe was and it was all started here in Portsmouth. That is often lost on people.’
Secretary of the Portsmouth branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, Frank Rosier, 87, said his group thought the council’s plans were a great idea.
‘We support them fully,’ he said. ‘Maintaining and improving the D-Day Museum is important to us because it is the only one in the world specifically about D-Day, rather than the Battle of Normandy which followed.
‘So some of the lads think of it as a memorial that should be looked after. And we have found the interest in the museum is increasing – we get people from all over Europe coming in to talk to us.’
Programme of events to mark occasion
The transformation of the D-Day Museum is the heart of the project and will see a new layout and displays making better use of large key vehicles, including a landing craft, and the Overlord Embroidery.
D-Day Perspectives will be a project to capture the first-hand reminiscences of those who took part in all aspects of the landings.
A scheme called Contemporary Conflicts will try to forge new links with the serving armed forces community in and around Portsmouth.
There will be a commemorative festival in 2014 including a community conference in Portsmouth.
Projects will be started with the Respect programme to tackle children at risk of social exclusion.
Projects will also take place with primary and secondary schools, families and military institutions.