D-Day 75: Portsmouth council leader left disappointed by Ministry of Defence’s support for commemoraiton

‘WE DESERVE so much more’ – these were the words of a disappointed council leader after the Ministry of Defence revealed how it would back this year’s D-Day 75 commemorations.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 2:03 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 3:05 pm

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written back to the MoD over its support of the event, due to be staged in Portsmouth in June, which the Lib Dem leader felt wasn't up to scratch.

The city has been earmarked as the national focus of the 75th anniversary of the pivotal Normandy invasion, which led to the downfall of Nazi Europe.

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However, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the government is refusing to stump up any cash to pay for it, forcing Portsmouth City Council to cobble together £300,000 from its own reserves to stage the show.

City leaders had hoped the MoD would lend a hand by providing key military assets to help make the commemoration a stunning spectacle fitting of honouring the nation’s brave D-Day heroes.

And Whitehall has answered, pledging to send two military marching bands to the event, as well as tasking a flypast by a Spitfire and the famed Red Arrows display team.

Military chefs will also be tasked to cook up a lunchtime feast for up to 2,500 people during the main part of the city’s commemoration on June 5 –  which is expected to be attended by royalty.

But councillor Vernon-Jackson was not impressed with the MoD’s overall offering and has written back, demanding an amphibious landing display from the Royal Marines – similar to the display staged five years ago during the D-Day 70 anniversary – as well as a Royal Navy ship to be visible off the coast of Southsea.

He is also urging Senior Service top brass to consider the temporary return of naval open days, allowing visitors to walk around warships alongside in Portsmouth.

Speaking to The News, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We have to keep pushing for more because the government is producing no money for this, not a penny.

‘We’ve had to go and find £300,000 from the council to do this. We’re doing this on the behalf of the nation and taking that hit because it’s the right thing to do.’

As previously reported, Portsmouth’s main event will take place on Wednesday, June 5, on Southsea Common.

It’s expected a military drumhead service will take place, attending by serving members of the armed forces and veterans.

The ceremony, due to be screened nationally, will kick start Britain’s commemoration of D-Day landing anniversary.

On the evening of June 5, hundreds of veterans will be ferried out from Portsmouth and across the Channel to France for the global commemoration the following day, due to be attended by heads of state.

While back in Portsmouth, events will be staged for the next few days, concluding on Sunday, June 9.

This will include a 1940s vintage festival in Southsea, as well as live music and entertainment on Southsea Common during the weekend.

A spokesman from the MoD said: ‘Portsmouth will be the focal point of the UK commemorations and the Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy are working closely with Portsmouth City Council to create a fitting commemoration.

‘We expect a significant amount of defence assets to be committed to activities to reflect the area’s unique role in D-Day.’