The city of Portsmouth has paid tribute to Normandy veterans in the presence of world leaders, the general public and the Armed Forces.
At an international event on Southsea Common, an audience of veterans, military, senior figures and local residents watched an hour-long performance telling the story of D-Day and the meticulous planning by allied forces that paved the way for the invasion of Normandy.
The event featured testimony from veterans, theatrical performances and live music culminating in a flypast of 24 aircraft including the Red Arrows and the iconic Spitfire.
Veterans then enjoyed a reception where they met world leaders in person before the majority were moved to The Royal British Legion’s specially-commissioned ship, the MV Boudicca. The general public will then be treated to a display by the Red Arrows.
Over in France, troops have already begun to arrive with 150 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade jumping from RAF Hercules aircraft. Amongst those jumping with Red Devils parachute display team were 94-year-old Jock Hutton and 95-year-old Harry Read.
In the early evening the MV Boudicca will then set sail flanked by Royal Navy ships. Along the ships in port saluting the veterans as they go past will be HMS Queen Elizabeth, the biggest ship in the history of the Royal Navy. Onboard to bid wave the veterans off will be the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and the First Sea Lord.
As the ship makes its way out of the harbour the people of Portsmouth will pay their respects as a lone Spitfire passes overhead and nine Royal Navy ships from frigates to small patrol craft will line her route into the Channel in gratitude for their voyage 75 years before.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “The people of Portsmouth and our Armed Forces have demonstrated the eternal affection and respect the nation holds for our Second World War generation. These commemorations have given young and old the opportunity to learn why we should never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy.”
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said: “It was right here, in the waters around the Solent, that the majority of British and Allied assault convoys destined for Gold, Juno and Sword beaches on that fateful day were loaded and assembled.
“So there is surely no more fitting a venue for all of us to gather, 75 years on, to reflect on the enormity of Operation NEPTUNE, and to give thanks for the incredible bravery, determination and sacrifice of all those who took part in the biggest naval and amphibious operation ever mounted anywhere in history.”
Tomorrow veterans will arrive in France for further commemorative events. In total over 4000 personnel will be involved in the UK and France in one of the biggest mobilisations of the UK Armed Forces in recent years.