PORTSMOUTH was one of the main points of departure for soldiers in the D-Day invasion of 1944 – and now one of the first things visitors to the city will see is a memorial to their bravery.
Solent Juniors Year 6 pupils and D-Day veteran Frank Rosier have opened the Discover Wartime Memories exhibition at Portsmouth International Port.
It comes as the port prepares to see off more than 18,000 passengers who will cross the Channel to Normandy for events marking the 70th anniversary.
Mr Rosier, who is secretary of the Normandy Veterans’ Association in Portsmouth, said: ‘I’m pleased to see that the children are so keen to learn about D-Day and this exhibition will be incredibly helpful for their education.’
The display showcases the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which builds and maintains cemeteries around the world.
Mr Rosier, 88, of Cowplain, said he preferred to call the cemeteries ‘gardens of remembrance’. He said: ‘Given the First World War was 100 years ago their cemeteries throughout Europe are so beautifully kept. It’s the biggest compliment that could be paid to those who died in both world wars.’
Commission director-general Alan Pateman-Jones said: ‘The exhibition is an excellent opportunity to find out more about exploring the D-Day landing beaches, museums, war cemeteries and memorials in Normandy as well as in Portsmouth and its surrounding areas.’
Pupil Haydn Williams, 11, said: ‘I like to know about the D-Day veterans – we could be speaking German now if it wasn’t for them.’
Eleni Dodds, 10, said: ‘The learning is important so we can tell other generations about what happened and the thanks that should be given.’
Port manager Martin Putman said at least five school groups planned to visit the exhibition. He said the display was open to public.
Mr Putman said: ‘It will not only give people a better idea of places they can visit to commemorate the conflicts, but also help younger visitors gain a better understanding of the scale of the sacrifices made on behalf of all of us.’
The port will play host to six cruise ships which will retrace the events and places that led up to D-Day.
There will also be a veterans’ reception centre set up in the terminal.
(Additional reporting by Ty Tubbs)