More than 300 Normandy veterans have begun their journeys to D-Day75 events in Portsmouth and in Normandy.
Around 250 veterans, who are now all over 90 years old, departed Dover last night on a specially-commissioned ship chartered with funds from The Royal British Legion and a LIBOR grant from HM Treasury. The Royal British Legion’s ship will offer the veterans and their carers accommodation and travel for the duration of their visit at no cost to them.
Veterans from the charity D-Day Revisited have also left Portsmouth today on a ferry that was escorted into the English Channel by Royal Navy vessels, the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans and four P2000 patrol vessels – HMS Puncher, Biter, Pursuer and Explorer. Alongside veterans up to 4000 service personal from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force are preparing to take part in commemorations.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:
“It is government’s hope that D-Day75 leaves a lasting legacy and provides an opportunity for people young and old to reflect on the achievements and sacrifice of our Second World War generation. Over the next few days it will be a privilege for us all to learn more of these extraordinary men and women.”
One of the chief organisers for D-Day75 Defence Services Secretary, Rear Admiral Jim Macleod said:
“Good luck to all those veterans taking part in D-Day75 commemorations. The Armed Forces alongside key stakeholders have worked hard to ensure D-Day75 will be a commemoration like no other. Wholly fitting of the amazing acts of courage and sacrifice that were made by so many in the summer of 1944.
“Over the next few days carefully planned events will rightly place our Second World War generation at the heart of the anniversary of one of Britain’s greatest ever achievements.”
Over the next week there will be a series of events and activities. The Royal British Legion’s ship will first visit Dunkirk before arriving in Poole, Dorset where the veterans will watch displays by the Royal Marines.
They will then arrive in Portsmouth on the 5 June for a major international event on Southsea Common attended by HM The Queen, the Prime Minister and world leaders including President Trump, President Macron and Prime Minister Trudeau. Veterans will watch an hour-long performance on Southsea Common – produced by the BBC – telling the story of D-Day and the meticulous planning by allied forces that paved the way for the invasion of Normandy. The event will feature testimony from veterans, theatrical performances and live music, culminating in a flypast of 24 aircraft – old and new – including the Red Arrows and the historic Spitfire.