UK minister told – make us proud and put city first

NAVAL TRADITION HMS Illustrious leaving Portsmouth earlier this month
NAVAL TRADITION HMS Illustrious leaving Portsmouth earlier this month

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LET’S put Portsmouth at the heart of next year’s D-Day and First World War commemorations.

That’s the message to armed forces minister Andrew Robathan from senior figures in the city.

They are calling on the minister to choose Portsmouth as National Armed Forces City 2014.

This accolade would put it at the centre of events nationally.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said conversations with Mr Robathan and other ministers about the city’s application had gone well.

‘I’ve had discussions with some of the ministers at the Ministry of Defence as to why Portsmouth would top of the list for this title,’ she said.

‘As well as being the home of the Royal Navy, we are home to welfare and support organisations like The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and The Naval Families Federation.

‘I am doing all that I can to ensure we get that title. You would be hard pushed to find another city that has so many connections with the armed forces.’

If successful, Portsmouth would be the international focal point of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day – which the council has asked the White House if US President Obama will come over for.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has sent letters to Mr Robathan and Prime Minister David Cameron.

He said he wants things to get a move on as the council had expected an answer by Armed Forces Day on June 29.

‘Having this title means the nation’s eyes are on us,’ he said.

‘I’m quite surprised we haven’t had a response yet.

‘It’s frustrating because we need to get on and plan stuff.’

The council has received letters of support from Philippe Duron, mayor of Caen, which is Portsmouth’s twin city in France, Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel and Dame Mary Fagan, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire.

Princess Anne has also asked for dates so she can arrange a visit.

Lorraine Riley, who works in Dame Mary’s office, said: ‘Dame Mary is very supportive of Portsmouth’s bid.

‘Hampshire is the home of the Armed Forces and with Portsmouth having a naval base it would be an ideal site to host the main event.’

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘It would be very apt seeing as it will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day and we have a significant amount of armed forces in and around Portsmouth.’

It’s believed the winner will be announced by the end of the month.

Seafront manager David Evans, who is leading the Portsmouth bid, said major events for the armed forces would still be held regardless of the outcome.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘Material has been submitted in a variety of forms in support of each application to host the Armed Forces Day national event 2014, including Portsmouth.’

Mr Robathan said: ‘Portsmouth being the host would be a great idea.

‘But there are other competing bidders from all over the country.

‘It has a good chance. Plymouth has had already it so I am sure Portsmouth will soon.’

A different city gets the honour of the title each year.