COMMENT: D-Day 75 will focus minds on Europe’s problems today
‘June 6 is not a day like others: it is not just the longest day or a day to remember the dead, but a day for the living to keep the promise written with the blood of the fighters, to be loyal to their sacrifice by building a world that is fairer and more humane.’
The words of former French president Francois Hollande on Sword beach five years ago at a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
In 1994 Portsmouth was the epicentre for the 50th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion the world had ever seen.
The Queen and 12 other world leaders came to the city for a weekend of events which those who were present will never forget.
Anyone born that year in the city will be in their mid-20s now and have little idea what all the fuss was about or even understand why their home town was at the centre of world media attention for three days.
What happened on June 6, 1944, was truly remarkable and its legacy has shaped the world in which we live today.
But in June this year, thanks to a campaign by The News and Portsmouth City Council, those 25-year-olds will have a final chance to understand the significance of Operation Overlord, planned just up the road at Southwick House and partially in a secret railway siding in the Meon Valley.
They will also get one last opportunity to meet and thank the few remaining veterans who stormed those Normandy beaches – most now in their nineties – for the physical and mental sacrifice they made to start the campaign which would finally rid the world of Nazi Germany.
How pleasing it is to see that the government has taken seriously our cry for Portsmouth to yet again be at the centre of the commemorations – and to mark the occasion properly too.
For this will surely be the final remembrance of it kind as the veterans' number dwindles. And in these troubled times for Europe it is vitally important to remember that without their heroics we might well have ended up with a united Europe, not the one dreamed off by some Brussels’ bureaucrats, but one state ruled by Fascists.