Portsmouth demands answers from government about D-Day 75 bid

Veteran John Jenkins as he collected France's highest military honour, the Legion d'Honneur for his heroism during the D-Day landings in Normandy.'Photo: Allan Hutchings
Veteran John Jenkins as he collected France's highest military honour, the Legion d'Honneur for his heroism during the D-Day landings in Normandy.'Photo: Allan Hutchings

WHITEHALL has been accused of ‘leaving Portsmouth in the dark’ over whether it would back the city’s bid to stage next year’s D-Day 75 commemoration.

D-Day survivor John Jenkins is among those calling for answers over whether or not the city will be named as the national focus of the major anniversary event next year. 

It comes amid growing concerns over the apparent silence from the government towards the city’s campaign, spearheaded by Portsmouth City Council and backed by The News.

The News understands the city was meant to have been told a couple of weeks ago whether or not Whitehall would stump up cash to help fund the commemoration. 

However, council sources have said they have heard nothing from the government.

Mr Jenkins, who works as a volunteer at Southsea’s D-Day Story museum and is one of the few remaining survivors of the pivotal 1944 invasion, was concerned.

The 98-year-old, of Milton, in Portsmouth, said: ‘Portsmouth shouldn’t be left in the dark.

‘This is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We really should have a special day to remember it.’

Portsmouth played a pivotal part in both the planning and the execution of the invasion, which took place on June 6, 1944.

Southwick House was where military chiefs mapped out the details of the invasion, while thousands of troops and scores of warships set off from the city on June 5, destined for the beaches of Normandy.

Portsmouth staged a commemoration event in 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. At the time, city leaders criticised the government for not providing cash to support this.

Earlier this year, the city council revealed ambitions to stage a massive tribute next year honouring all those who died or survived the invasion.

Both of the city’s MPs, Penny Mordaunt and Stephen Morgan, have pledged their support, along with a number of other neighbouring politicians and city councillors.

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, pledged to press the government for answers over the situation.

The Labour politician said: ‘Next year’s D-Day 75 commemoration has to take place in Portsmouth.

‘It’s only right that our city, synonymous with the bravery, sacrifice and history of the D-Day landings, plays host to this nationally important event.

‘We need to get planning, so the government needs to stop messing about and give us an answer on funding now.’

Councillor Frank Jonas, the Tory spokesman for culture, leisure and sport, said regardless of what the government came back with, the city will still stage its own event in Southsea.  

Cllr Jonas, who is one of the city’s armed forces champions, said: ‘I think there is an expectation that Portsmouth should be the focus.

‘Both our Portsmouth North MP (Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South MP are pushing very hard to get this for us. We just have to be optimistic.’