Portsmouth bids to be armed forces commemorations host city

Crowds at the D-Day Museum area during the 65th anniversary of the landings in 2009.
Crowds at the D-Day Museum area during the 65th anniversary of the landings in 2009.
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PORTSMOUTH is bidding to be the host city for next year’s armed forces commemorations.

The city council’s David Evans, seafront manager, is masterminding the bid.

If successful, Portsmouth would become the international focal point of next year’s 70th D-Day anniversary, the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, and the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

It would also see the city being the national host for Armed Forces Day, which is held in June.

This year the honour has fallen to Nottingham.

‘Portsmouth would be a worthy host for forces’ - read The News’ view here

Mr Evans said the bid has been lodged with Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robathan, and the result will be announced in May.

He said: ‘We reckon we’re going to be in with a good chance of getting it.

‘We’ve got such a rich history of the military, not just the navy, so we’ve got everything going for us.

‘We’ve even had council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s opposite number in Caen writing to the minister urging him to support our bid.’

If successful, military ‘assets’, such as the Red Arrows, tanks and other vehicles will be made available to Portsmouth to help put on an international show.

And Mr Evans added: ‘I’ve been in touch with the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire with a view of having a royal visit as well.’

As reported yesterday, Portsmouth is already gearing up for next year’s commemorations. Not only has the D-Day Museum – the only one in Britain – been given £90,000 to encourage more young people to visit it, city leaders are also bidding for a £3m grant from the Heritage Lottery for an overhaul of the facility.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy is also putting on a series of events next year.

They will be spread between HMS Victory; the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport; the Royal Marines Museum and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.

That has already begun its commemorations of 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War after the gun which fired the first British round at sea was installed there this week on loan from the Imperial War Museum for the HMS – Hear My Story exhibition.

Lee Hunt, the councillor in charge of culture for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘In my view Portsmouth is the absolute ideal place to be the armed forces city next year.

‘There is so much going on here, not least at the World War One Remembrance Centre at Fort Widley, and then there’s the reopening of historic sites like the Hot Walls.’

The remembrance centre was due to open to the public this morning at 10.30am.

Its centrepiece is a recreation of a wartime trench, underneath a stark mural of no-man’s land.