D-Day 75 anniversary: Gosport commemoration had 'an identity of its own'

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ON the morning of Operation Overlord 75 years ago, thousands of brave men set off for Normandy from a humble slipway in Gosport.

This week, hundreds of people paid tribute to those who took part in the D-Day operation, heading to Hardway for a commemoration service on the green.

The procession marches down Priory Road for Hardway's D-Day service. Picture: Richard Bourke

The procession marches down Priory Road for Hardway's D-Day service. Picture: Richard Bourke

Hardway was one of the three main embarkation points in Gosport for British and Canadian troops bound for Normandy.

A military parade commenced the service, which was led by Reverends Karen Mitchell and Bob Lucas.

Wreaths were laid by veteran’s relatives, community and military groups – with piper Tom Smith playing Amazing Grace – followed by addresses from MP Caroline Dinenage, and mayor of Gosport Cllr Kathleen Jones.

Ward councillor for Hardway, Cllr Jamie Hutchinson, says he was delighted with the turnout for the event.

The service was held on the green next to Hardway Slipway. Picture: Richard Bourke

The service was held on the green next to Hardway Slipway. Picture: Richard Bourke

He said: ‘I was originally worried that we might have too many people as the Green is not that big.

‘With the great weather we had today, we believe, there were well over 800 people, possibly a thousand, which we managed to accommodate, all enjoying the atmosphere’.

Children from St John’s and Elson schools sang a medley of wartime songs, before being presented with special souvenir badges.

This was followed by another speech by Captain John Voyce, the commanding officer of HMS Sultan.

Visitor Suzy Mitchell, from Chichester, said: ‘I had no idea that so much went on in Gosport during that time.

‘People, obviously, because its so close to Portsmouth always assume that it is the same place, but it is obvious Gosport has an identity of its own’.

Alongside the commemorations was complimentary tea and cake, D-Day exhibits hosted by Hardway Sailing Club, and author David Maber talked about what it was like to live in Priory Road in 1944, watching the landing craft transport thousands of men, hundreds of vehicles and all the equipment needed for the invasion force.