Portsmouth braced for a surge of foreign history buffs eager to visit city for D-Day 75 commemorations

AMERICAN veterans and French history buffs will pour into the area in their thousands as Portsmouth braces itself for a D-Day tourism storm.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 4:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 5:44 pm
The Royal Marines storm Southsea beach as part of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014 Picture: L(Phot) Will Haigh

City culture bosses have revealed a huge surge in eager overseas visitors who have earmarked Portsmouth as a prime heritage holiday destination on their travel maps this year.

Tour groups, made up of American or French travellers, have already bombarded tourism sites in the city with enquiries.

Portsmouth International Port is braced to welcome 578ft-long D-Day cruise ship Marco Polo, which will be packed with up to 800 military history enthusiasts for a six-day culture trip.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Royal Marines storm Southsea beach as part of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014 Picture: L(Phot) Will Haigh

The news comes as the city continues preparations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the pivotal Second World War invasion in June.

Already named as Britain’s national focus of the D-Day 75 tribute, Portsmouth will stage a stunning series of events, with the main show taking place on June 5, the day before the official anniversary event in France.

Portsmouth’s culture boss, Councillor Steve Pitt said the city was ready to play its part - and eager to welcome the hordes of foreign guests.

He said: ‘We expect to see tens of thousands of overseas visitors coming to Portsmouth. It’s going to be an incredible opportunity to showcase the city on a global stage.’

Among those to be inundated with calls from tourists has been Southsea’s D-Day Story museum.

James Daly, collections researcher at the award-winning heritage attraction, said there had been a record level of interest in the museum and city as a whole.

‘D-Day is Portsmouth having a front seat in world history and people want to experience that,’ he said. ‘So it hasn’t surprised me that there’s been a real interest in Portsmouth this year.

‘We’ve always had it but it’s way more than ever before. We have had a huge interest from American and French groups coming over especially for the anniversary.

‘There are small cruise ships coming into the port with all of the passengers coming as part of a D-Day cruise.

‘They’re seeing Portsmouth as a destination to come to specifically for D-Day which is great for the city.’

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said the city had a ‘rich culture’ and ‘wealth of heritage’ sites and was thrilled by the news tourists were eager to visit the island in June.

The international development secretary - who is currently on a ministerial trip to Bangladesh - said: ‘Portsmouth puts on some of the country's finest commemorations and we should be proud of this.

‘The fact that people from Europe and the USA wish to come to Portsmouth to celebrate the D-Day 75 commemorations speaks volumes.

‘The city should be proud and I look forward to commemorating this historic landmark with veterans, our armed forces, the people of Portsmouth and tourists who are visiting.’

Portsmouth D-Day commemorations begin on Wednesday, June 5 and end on Sunday, June 9.

As well as the major ceremony on June 5, residents will also be treated to a huge event across June 8 and 9 on Southsea Common, which will include a vintage 1940s festival and live entertainment.

The Ministry of Defence is also due to be announcing exactly what support and military ‘assets’ it will provide the city with.

This could include troops, musical bands and vehicles.