D-Day 75: Worshippers to recreate 1944 service to honour brave soldiers

Presentation of the D-Day memorial windows at Christ Church in 1948. Pictured are (l to r): Rev RBS Gillman, vicar of Christ Church, Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, commander-in-chief of the Second Army; and Rev JWJ Steele, chaplain Second Army.
Presentation of the D-Day memorial windows at Christ Church in 1948. Pictured are (l to r): Rev RBS Gillman, vicar of Christ Church, Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, commander-in-chief of the Second Army; and Rev JWJ Steele, chaplain Second Army.
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ON the evening of Sunday, June 4, 1944, the planned date for D-Day, soldiers gathered for an Eve of Battle Dedication Service at Christ Church in Widley.

Seventy-five years later worshippers are set to mark D-Day with a series of services, events and concerts and the unique role their church played in history.

The commander-in-chief of the British Second Army, Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, who was supervising the build-up of hundreds of ships and landing craft in Portsmouth’s Naval Base and in the Solent, was a devout Christian and chose the church on London Road to hold a vigil service and dedicate to Almighty God the task before them.

On June 4, 2019, Christ Church will recreate that historic service in tribute to the British, Commonwealth and Free French soldiers of the Second Army and use hymns, prayers and readings that were used in the 1944 service.

Gen Sir Miles Dempsey returned to the church on June 6, 1948 and donated two memorial stained glass windows, which are still in the place today, as a thanksgiving for prayers answered.

On Sunday, June 9, Christ Church will also host its special parade service at 10.30am, attended by veterans, uniformed organisations and service personnel.

Two special concerts will also be held in churches in the diocese. St Mary’s Church in Fratton, will hold a concert entitled Veni, Vidi, Canto at 7.30pm on June 8 to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, with a visiting choir from Caen in Normandy. It will also feature the St Mary’s Church Choir, the Fine Voice Academy, 1940s performer Becki Short, the Oasis Community Choir and the Haven Community Choir.

On June 20, Portsmouth Cathedral will host a D-Day anniversary concert featuring Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, the Portsmouth Grammar School and other schools in a concert of British and French music. The evening starts at 7.30pm and includes a  performance of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony from cathedral organist David Price and the Solent Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets are £10 and can be booked at portsmouthfestivities.co.uk.