D-Day 70: Praying for end to war, just as they did in 1944

D-Day 70 commemoration vigil at Christ Church Portsdown. Widley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (141724-877)
D-Day 70 commemoration vigil at Christ Church Portsdown. Widley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (141724-877)
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SEVENTY years ago they prayed for the liberation of Europe.

Last night, the service was relived at Christ Church Portsdown, in Widley, as scores of people gathered for a prayer vigil.

The congregation prayed for areas of the world facing conflict today.

On June 4, 1944, the headquarters staff of the British Second Army met at Christ Church in London Road on the eve of D-Day ‘to dedicate to Almighty God the task which lay before them’.

The Commander of the Second Army, General Sir Miles Dempsey, organised the service along with the then vicar, the Reverend RB Gillman.

Today the beautiful church windows commemorate the event, the D-Day landings themselves, and around 30 regiments.

The church also has a Commonwealth War Graves military cemetery.

The prayer vigil was just one of several events taking place at the church, which has been working with Purbrook Park and Purbrook Junior schools to research memories of the veterans and their families.

Heart-warming messages for home from the forces have been on display.

The church was awarded a grant of £450 from Hampshire County Council to help pay for the project.

Last month, a group of pensioners went into Purbrook Park school to talk to young people about what it was like to live during a world war.

The recollections were recorded and will be kept for posterity so future generations can learn about the war.

The Rev Annie McCabe, from Christ Church Portsdown, said: ‘They are precious memories that will not be here forever.’

A 1940s tea party will be held at the church today from 3pm to 5pm.

There will be oral history recordings from local people explaining their experiences of the Second World War.

Tomorrow, the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, will be guest preacher.

The Thankgiving service starts at 10.30am and finishes at midday.