PORTSMOUTH is set to win a £4.1m grant that will make the city a national hub for telling the story of D-Day.
The windfall will transform the D-Day Museum in Southsea and bring exhibitions to life for visitors of the 21st century – ensuring that generations to come do not forget the bravery of the men.
The announcement, in a week when the eyes of the world focus on Portsmouth and Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, has delighted surviving veterans and community leaders.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given its initial support for the plans which will completely renew the museum and displays in time for the 75th anniversary in 2019.
It has already approved a development grant of £224,000 to enable the process of creating detailed proposals to begin.
D-Day veteran Eddie Wallace, 90, of Revenge Close, Milton, said: ‘It’s a marvellous gesture that we have got this cash.
‘The museum does need improving – without a doubt.
‘I go down there two or three times a week to talk to people as they come in.
‘It’s nice to know there will be improvements so that people coming in can learn about the events of D-Day.’
The plans include proposals to open up internal spaces and create dramatic new displays, using the experiences and words of Normandy veterans to bring the story to life for visitors.
There will also be work done to create a new activity space and to continue work with young people and schools to ensure that the museum remains relevant to present and future generations.
Dr Jane Mee, head of museums and visitor services for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘D-Day is a significant event nationally, internationally, and for Portsmouth. This is the last time to involve the veterans, while they are still with us. We feel we need to re-tell the story to take it into the 21st century.
‘The museum has been open for 30 years. It was great when the council first did it but it’s time for a refresh.’
She added: ‘One of the things I am keen to do is make sure the D-Day Museum becomes a national hub for D-Day.
‘We want to get people from all across the south of England to share their stories. We want to tell D-Day stories using the experiences of people who took part.
‘This city has been at the forefront of history and it’s no surprise that Portsmouth has so much heritage to share.’
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘It’s fantastic news. People have been doing so much work with the commemorative events and been fundraising for a long time – it’s testament to all their hard work.’
Carole Souter, chief executive of HLF, said: ‘The D-Day landings were a monumental moment in European history, involving more than 150,000 men from the British and Allied forces.
‘As we head towards the 75th anniversary, HLF’s trustees felt the plans set out for a refreshed, revamped D-Day Museum would help bring this story alive for a new generation.’
The museum now needs to raise £160,000 towards the development costs which are being supported by Portsmouth City Council and the Dulverton Trust, the founder of which commissioned the Overlord embroidery, the UK’s modern-day equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry and a centrepiece of the museum.