Portsmouth pauses to mark D-Day anniversary with thoughts focusing on the war in Ukraine

TRIBUTES were paid to ‘the greatest generation Britain had to offer’ during a poignant service marking the anniversary of D-Day.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 6th June 2022, 5:59 pm
Updated Monday, 6th June 2022, 9:24 pm

Dozens of veterans, civic leaders and residents rallied at the D-Day stone, in Southsea, to mark the 78th anniversary of the Normandy beach landings.

The invasion, planned in secrecy at Southwick Park and launched from Portsmouth, proved pivotal in liberating Europe from Nazi tyranny.

And with war again raging in Europe, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, thoughts were focused on the tragic toll of conflict on the continent.

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Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP – who laid a wreath at the memorial in Southsea Esplanade – said: ‘Freedom needs defending and the actions Ukrainians are taking now, on our behalf, echo the actions that these brave men took 78 years ago.’

The poignant ceremony, attended by about 100 people, was led by Canon Bob White, vicar of Fratton’s St Mary's Church.

Military standards were raised and the National Anthem was sung. Prayers to the fallen were also said.

The Portsmouth City Council and Royal British Legion D-Day 75 memorial service on Monday 6th June 2022 at the D-Day Stone, Southsea Pictured: Standard-bearers at the event Picture: Habibur Rahman

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP - who was among the dignitaries at the event - was moved by the service.

The Labour politician has a close family tie to D-Day; his late grandfather, James Kaminski, was among the thousands of other soldiers who stormed the beaches in Normandy.

Mr Morgan said: ‘My grandfather was a D-Day veteran and he left Southsea on his 17th birthday for Operation Overlord. So I know that services like this one are very dear in the heart of the people of Portsmouth.’

D-Day was the largest invasion ever assembled, before or since, and landed 156,000 Allied troops by sea and air on five beachheads in Normandy

Pictured: Laying of the wreath by Nigel Atkinson, Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, left, and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Hugh Mason, right. Picture: Habibur Rahman

But the opening day of the invasion was bloody and saw as many as 4,400 Allied troops die.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Large numbers of people lost their lives. But they did it to make sure that Europe and the world was saved from dictatorship. We need to remember today as that battle continues in Ukraine.

‘The battle for freedom can never be relaxed. We always have to be vigilant. We always have to make sure that we are fighting and supporting the people who benefit and need that freedom - which are the citizens of the whole world.’

Pictured: Visitors laying the wreath by the D-Day Stone, Southsea Picture: Habibur Rahman
Pictured: Laying of the wreath by MP Penny Mordaunt, Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson and MP Stephen Morgan Picture: Habibur Rahman