D-Day comes to life with reenactment of troops marching through Portsmouth

Soldiers ready to fight in Normandy have marched through Portsmouth  – as a reenactment of the journey troops made to embark for the D-Day invasion.

Thursday, 6th June 2019, 2:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th June 2019, 5:42 pm
1940s troops were seen on the streets of Portsmouth, as reenactment societies walked the routes taken by soldiers before D-Day.

More than 35 members of various reenactment societies marched in authentic 1940s military uniforms along two routes used by troops during Operation Overlord, as part of commemoration events earlier today.

The procession set off from the Mountbatten Centre at 8am, with residents lining the streets to cheer them on as they made their way to South Parade Pier in Southsea.

Nick Berry, a member of the Poor Bloody Infantry reenactment society, said wearing an authentic uniform with up to 100lbs of equipment ‘for four hours is nothing compared to what the men went through for five years.’

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He said: ‘The men where from every single walk of life.

‘They were not professional soldiers – they were civilians in uniform.

‘They had a job to do and they got on with it, with only a little bit of grumbling.’

For battlefield tour guide and historian Richard Knight, dressed in a 74 year old army uniform, the only grumbling of the day was historically accurate – focusing on the discomfort of their gear.

1940s troops were seen on the streets of Portsmouth, as reenactment societies walked the routes taken by soldiers before D-Day.

He said: ‘It’s itchy – you’ve got a coarse cotton underwear, flannel shirts, and woollen battle dress.

‘By wearing the uniform – feeling what it was like - you get a better perspective on what your family members must have felt like.

Despite the discomfort, Richard said the event had been ‘fantastic.’

He added: ‘It’s brought so many people together – a new generation is beginning to understand the importance of our history.’

He said: ‘It’s brought everyone together – a new generation is beginning to understand the importance of our history.

The central route saw a group march along Fratton Road, passing St Mary’s Church, while another group was greeted by the residents of Old Commercial Road with bunting and flags.

Julie Barnard, who lives on Old Commercial Road, said: ‘You could really put yourself back in time.

‘My granddad was stationed in Normandy – and he met my grandmother here in Portsmouth during the war.

‘So it’s been fantastic seeing the men walk past.’

The reenactment walk was organised by Portsmouth City Council and the D-Day Story Museum, as part of £4million investment into the museum funded by the National Lottery.

James Daly, a former curator of the museum and a coordinator on the walk, said: ‘What we’re trying to do is encourage more people to learn more about the D-Day heritage of Portsmouth.

‘These guys walked down their roads – and not a lot of people know about it.

‘Until relatively recently, when we thought about D-Day, we thought about Prime Ministers and generals, but now people are more interested in the personal.’

119 men from Portsmouth were killed between D-Day and the end of the Battle of Normandy.