We took our chance to pay respects to heroes

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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For many D-Day veterans, this was a last chance to return to the Normandy beaches and with it bring back a mixture of emotions of one of the defining moments of the Second World War.

For those who could not make it across the Channel, though, Portsmouth provided the focal point for this country’s 70th anniversary commemorations.

Southsea Common may not have been graced by the Queen, Barack Obama or other leaders from around the world. But this was all about honouring those brave men who on June 5, 1944, packed ships and landing craft – many from Portsmouth and Gosport – to help save Europe from Nazi rule.

And didn’t we do it well.

Over four days of commemorations, around 200,000 packed out events at the common, Gosport, Havant and Southwick to show D-Day veterans just what their selfless sacrifice still means to us 70 years on.

From thousands turning up for the drumhead ceremony and Red Arrows fly-past on the Thursday, to the parades and music events over this weekend, we showed why Portsmouth and the wider region has such a special role to play in the remembrance of the turning point of the Second World War.

While people of all ages came to lap up the many free events put on, the main focus never swayed from the 150,000 men who risked their lives in Operation Overlord, a third of that number never returning home.

Just what those four days meant can be summed up by Major Matthew Guymer.

The 90-year-old D-Day veteran said: ‘I’m honoured, delighted and proud... to celebrate D-Day in this wonderful city.

‘This is the most wonderful place with the warmest, friendliest people who are the very best ambassadors for this country.’

With the number of D-Day veterans dwindling, so too are chances to pay our respects to the veterans of D-Day.

But we can be proud that when the world was watching, the Portsmouth area showed them the huge sacrifices they made to ensure our freedom will never be forgotten.