There is an awful lot to be proud of in Portsmouth and yesterday we showed the world – yet again – that when it comes to performing on the world stage, nobody does it better.
For the second time in a quarter of a century our fiercely proud little island city puffed out its chest and hosted a phalanx of world leaders to commemorate the success of the biggest seaborne invasion the world had ever seen – D-Day.
Once more we had to pinch ourselves that the Queen, the president of the USA and that host of other nations’ figureheads had accepted the offer of a day trip to our city again, just as they had for D-Day 50 in 1994.
But as impressive as that list might seem, down-to-earth Portsmouth people like nothing better than celebrating the bloke next door, the humble chap they might buy a pint for in the pub on the corner simply to say ‘thanks’ for a job supremely well done.
And when you cut through all the pomp and ceremony of the national D-Day commemoration on Southsea Common yesterday, we proved that’s what we do best.
For the thousands there and the millions watching on television around the globe, the ceremony came alive when the crowds rose as one to applaud the creakingly-proud D-Day veterans on to the stage. After all, these were the men this was all about and there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
Lifelong Portsmouth resident John Jenkins was one of them. At 99, the man who took part in the Normandy landings is still a steward at Fratton Park, retains a waspish sense of humour and will never forget his mates who failed to return from France 75 years ago.
‘You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together. We must never forget,’ he said.
And we must not – for one thing’s certain, we shall not see the likes of yesterday ever again.