Stars and stripes salute US veterans leaving Portsmouth

The flag of the United States of America flying above the Semaphore Tower in Portsmouth Naval Base.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141624-8276)
The flag of the United States of America flying above the Semaphore Tower in Portsmouth Naval Base.''Picture: Sarah Standing (141624-8276)

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The stars and stripes fly proudly from Portsmouth Naval Base today as US veterans set sail from the city for Normandy.

Veterans heading for the commemorations in France are being given an unforgettable send-off by the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

Four cross-Channel ferries leaving the city this week, carrying a total of 400 British and American D-Day veterans, will be given special treatment as they pass the naval base.

Tugs leading the ferries out will spray water cannon, Royal Navy ships alongside will be dressed with flags and the officer of the day on each warship will salute the veterans as they sail past.

Naval base staff also plan to line South Railway Jetty as the ferries move past.

And the flag of the United States of America is being flown from the top of Semaphore Tower.

Colonel Mike Tanner, the Captain of Portsmouth Naval Base, said: ‘The naval base is proud to be able to pay tribute to the D-Day veterans in this way.

‘It is impossible to imagine how they must have felt when they first sailed from this harbour some 70 years ago.

‘It is even more difficult to imagine their feelings when they return to the landing site, the beaches of Normandy, where 70 years ago the ‘Longest Day’ must have felt like an eternity.

‘We in the naval base will do everything we can to ensure their return journey is as it should be.’

Col Tanner and Commodore Jeremy Rigby, the naval base commander, will accompany the veterans on some of the sailings out of Portsmouth Harbour.

The veterans’ sailings leave Portsmouth today at 9am and 2.45pm, and on Wednesday and Thursday at 2.45pm.

Forty American veterans will be sailing on the Tuesday morning crossing to Cherbourg.

One of the crossings, John Millin, son of legendary D-Day bagpiper Bill Millin, will travel with a replica of his father’s pipes which will be presented to the mayor of Colleville-Montgomery when the ferries arrives in France.

John will play the pipes on deck as the ship departs Portsmouth and arrives in Ouistreham in honour of his father, the returning veterans and those who gave their lives. He will be accompanied by a piper and drummer of the Black Watch.

There will also be a wreath laying ceremony at some point crossing the Channel.