Portsmouth veteran: D-Day 75 would be ‘one of the best things’ to ever happen in our city

D Day commemorations on Southsea Common in 2014. Picture: Paul Jacobs
D Day commemorations on Southsea Common in 2014. Picture: Paul Jacobs

A VETERAN who witnessed the drama of Operation Overlord first-hand has backed the bid to bring D-Day 75 commemorations to Portsmouth. 

John Jenkins had spent five years in the Merchant Navy when he was called up to work the ammunition at Gold Beach in Arromanches, France, as a young man. 

Now 98, the Portsmouth-born armed forces man still plays a key role in sharing tales of that fateful Allied victory  – as a twice-weekly volunteer at the revamped D-Day Story in Southsea. 

Today The News has launched a campaign to have Portsmouth be the national focus for the 75th anniversary of D-Day next year.

Should The News’ campaign with Portsmouth City Council launched today succeed, Mr Jenkins, who has an MBE, no less, says history would be made. 

‘It would be one of the best things that has ever happened to Portsmouth,’ he said. 

‘We were a national hub of the D-Day operation, let’s face it. And this is the home of the Royal Navy, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose, HMS Queen Elizabeth – the list goes on.

‘This city needs to be lifted up to the top in recognition of the role it played and this could give us a boost.' 

Mr Jenkins, who still enjoys a sprightly life and also serves as a boardroom steward at his beloved Fratton Park, says D-Day 75 is Portsmouth’s chance to pay the ultimate respect to those who, unlike him, did not return home after the Second World War. 

He said: ‘I don’t suppose there are too many survivors now and there are a lot of lads left behind in cemeteries overseas. 

‘It’s very important we remember those who paid the ultimate price.   

‘And Portsmouth – which to me is a place like no other and will always be home – could do that in style.’ 

Mr Jenkins added the possibility of a Red Arrows flyover would be ‘amazing’.