D-Day anniversary: ‘Emotional’ event evokes wartime memories for many spectators

AS all eyes fell on Portsmouth to honour those involved in the Normandy Landings of 1944 many spectators recalled their own wartime memories.

By Fiona Callingham
Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 4:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 5:01 pm
Crowds and veterans enjoy the D-Day celebrations on Southsea Common.
Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (050619-7)
Crowds and veterans enjoy the D-Day celebrations on Southsea Common. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (050619-7)

Crowds gathered to Southsea Common to watch an historic ceremony on big screens that included speeches and readings from world leaders, live music and a salute to D-Day veterans, evoking strong emotions for a lot of people.

Diane Pearsall from Portchester was nine during the D-Day landings. The 84-year-old said: ‘I was living in Eastbourne when the war started and I remember there being barbed wire all along the beach, I imagine it was the same in Southsea.

‘Then we were evacuated to Tunbridge Wells in Kent. We used to see our bombers flying over as well as the Germans coming in.

Crowds and veterans enjoy the D-Day celebrations on Southsea Common. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (050619-7)

‘If we were walking to school and the air raid siren went off we would run back home because we didn’t want to sit in the shelter at school. It was really crowded and we would sit in the dark while the teacher read to us.

‘My father was in the RAF but wasn’t involved in D-Day. He was away for a long time, it was quite strange when he came back.

‘It’s so important that all these people are here today. We owe everyone involved a huge debt.’

She praised the event and added: ‘Today has been absolutely fantastic. I heard what the Queen had to say. I heard the lady singing Vera Lynn and thought she was amazing and I saw the fly past. I came down on my own today because I didn’t want to miss it.

Crowds enjoy the D-Day celebrations on Southsea Common as they sing along to We'll Meet Again. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (050619-8)

‘There is an incredibly wonderful atmosphere here.’

Southsea residents Brendan and Janet O’Malley were both young children during the Second World War but the memories have stayed with them.

For Janet, 78, her strongest memories were hiding with her family during air raids.

‘I remember being under a metal sheet with my mum and sisters. When we came out the next day I saw some of the destruction. I must have only been about five years old.

Portchester resident Diane Pearsall was nine during the D-Day landings

‘I also remember my dad and uncles being away. It’s impressed on my mind. It’s very emotional to be here knowing what these veterans did.’

Janet added: ‘We are really impressed with today. The police and organisers have got it spot on. ‘

Cosham residents Den and Sue Martin thought of their parents while at the commemorations.

Den, 72, said: ‘Seeing all of this has made me think of my father. He was a royal artillery soldier during the Second World War. Most people will know someone who was involved with the war in some way.

Brendan and Janet O'Malley from Southsea at the D-Day 75 commemorations

‘Today has just been fantastic. The whole show was great, Sheridan Smith was brilliant. And you’ve got to think you’re not going to see something like this again. It has definitely done Portsmouth proud.’

His wife, Sue Martin, 68, agreed. ‘It makes you so emotional that’s the trouble,’ she said.

‘My mother is 92 and I have to think she was alive during this. She used to talk about her memories all the time.’