D-Day 70: Veterans gather to remember the fallen

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Walrus-Class Submarine 'HNLMS WALRUS' of the Royal Netherlands Navy inbound to Portsmouth on a weekend visit.
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SCORES of veterans attended the commemorations taking place on Southsea Common.

Many had their own memories of leaving from Portsmouth shores 70 years ago.

Poppy Appeal coordinator Louise Purcell with Frank Sims, who fought in Normandy. Picture: Malcolm Wells (141684-3824)

Poppy Appeal coordinator Louise Purcell with Frank Sims, who fought in Normandy. Picture: Malcolm Wells (141684-3824)

A lunch was held for them and their families special guests in a special marquee set up on the Common.

In the crowd, was Louise Purcell, the Poppy Appeal coordinator for Portsmouth, who was with 95-year-old Frank Sims.

Mr Sims served as artillery in the 51st Highland Division. He had travelled from Reading for the event but is a regular face in Portsmouth as he has attended many of the commemorative events in the city.

Mr Sims, who served in the Middle East, Sicily and took part in D-Day, said: ‘I’m proud to be here. I still get about, nobody believes me when I tell them my age. I always attend these events, every year.’

Mrs Purcell, 47, from Fratton, said: ‘It’s great to take part and pay tribute to the veterans who lost so many of their comrades and subsequently must be remembered.’

For 89-year-old Muriel Drube it was a proud moment to see the veterans pay their respects for her husband Eric, who was a stoker on board HMS Cockatrice, which swept for mines ahead of the ships on D-Day.

Mrs Drube, from Milton Keynes, said: ‘We have been married for 65 years, Eric turned 90 two Saturdays ago and on his birthday he gave our granddaughter away at her wedding. With this commemoration, it has been a very important year for us.’

Mr Drube said he was one of the lucky ones. He said: ‘On D-Day we went straight into a minefield, I remember counting 300 flat mines around us, just one of them could have sunk a ship and we were in amongt them.

‘They were 10 yards from our ship. Whoever made them must have left them empty because otherwise we would’ve been blown away.’

Mr Drube said he felt it was important to remember D-Day was the largest and most important invasion in history.