D-Day 80 Portsmouth: Prime Minister to lead the commemorations at event on Southsea Common

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will lead Portsmouth’s D-Day 80 commemorative events on June 5, as more details have been unveiled about what will happen in the city.

The Red Arrows flay past over Southsea Common on June 5, 2019.The Red Arrows flay past over Southsea Common on June 5, 2019.
The Red Arrows flay past over Southsea Common on June 5, 2019.

Three days of commemorative events are set to take place, culminating in a two-part commemoration on Southsea Common on June 5. These will run alongside events in France on June 5 and 6 which also mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

Around 6,000 members of the public will join D-Day veterans, Armed Forces personnel and special guests at major commemorative events paying tribute to veterans of the Greatest Generation. Hundreds of schoolchildren from the city will also be invited to hear directly from the veterans of D-Day. On June 3 , D-Day veterans will gather in Portsmouth to meet modern-day Royal Marines personnel and local schoolchildren to pass on their wisdom to a new generation. They will then gather at Southwick House – the allies’ headquarters on D-Day – to watch a tribute flypast by The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

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Then early on the morning of June 4, the veterans will set sail from Portsmouth across the Channel, recreating their epic journey of 80 years ago. As The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flies overhead, Royal Navy vessels in Portsmouth Harbour will sail past in formation, sounding their sirens.

This builds up to two ticketed events organised by the MoD on June 5 on Southsea Common - one in the daytime and one in the evening - featuring powerful testimonies from military personnel and D-Day veterans as well as musical performances by a military orchestra. More than 500 members of the Armed Forces are involved in the event, including a 79-piece orchestra, a 25-strong choir and drummers from the Royal Marines and a guard of honour will be formed by Armed Forces personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.

Free tickets for local residents were quickly snapped up and the events are also expected to feature invited guests and dignitaries, including a member of the royal family. In a moving climax to June 5, those attending the evening event will be treated to a stunning lightshow, calling to mind the treacherous sea crossing taken 80 years ago.

However as previously reported by The News, those people not lucky enough to secure a ticket for either event will be unable to watch them on a big screen and soak up the atmosphere in the same way they did for D-Day 75. They have instead been told to watch the commemorations on the TV.

Portsmouth residents will be unable to enjoy the events on the big screen in the same way they did for D-Day 75Portsmouth residents will be unable to enjoy the events on the big screen in the same way they did for D-Day 75
Portsmouth residents will be unable to enjoy the events on the big screen in the same way they did for D-Day 75 | Royal Navy

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On June 5, hundreds of Armed Forces personnel will parachute into a historic D-Day drop zone to recreate the airborne liberation of Normandy 80 years ago. The Royal British Legion will host veterans at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bayeux War Cemetery in a solemn service of remembrance supported by the Ministry of Defence.

More than 1,600 Armed Forces personnel will lead the commemorations in France, including three military bands. The commemorations also involve contribution from a Royal Marines landing craft, five P2000 patrol vessels, the Portsmouth-based minesweeper HMS Cattistock and the British Army’s Red Devils parachute display team.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This June the nation will come together to honour our greatest ever generation. The country will pay tribute to the heroes who fought against the odds to liberate Europe 80 years ago. We can never forget those who sacrificed so much to defend the freedom of the UK and our closest allies.”

The south coast events will be followed by further commemorations on June 6, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer. The event will conclude with a traditional act of remembrance, including the Last Post and a two-minute silence, and accompanied by a special tribute from the Red Arrows and The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Following the ceremony, The Normandy Memorial Trust’s Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning at the British Normandy Memorial will be officially opened, thanks to funding from principal sponsor BAE Systems, the Ministry of Defence and others.

D-Day coverage supported by BAE SystemsD-Day coverage supported by BAE Systems
D-Day coverage supported by BAE Systems | BAE Systems

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The Plymouth-based Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans will be anchored off the beaches of Normandy to provide a spectacular backdrop to the commemorations, reminding veterans that their legacy lives on in today’s Armed Forces personnel.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The 80th anniversary of D-Day serves as a reminder never to forget those who fought and died so we might live in freedom and at peace. Their testimony serves as a timeless symbol of the importance of unity, the value of peace and the pursuit of freedom in the face of tyranny.

“The eyes of the world will rightfully once again be on these men and women, and I am proud of the work being done by the Armed Forces to pay tribute to the heroes of D-Day at the commemorative events in June.”

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