D-Day veterans MV Boudicca

D-Day Veterans Sail To Normandy On Anniversary Tour

Sir Rod Stewart performed for the Second World War veterans onboard the ship as it left Dover.

D-Day veterans MV Boudicca

D-Day veterans arrive at the cruise terminal in Dover, ready to board the MV Boudicca (Picture: PA). 

Around 250 Normandy veterans have begun their journeys to D-Day events in Portsmouth and Normandy.

Veterans arrived in Dover on Sunday evening to board a ship chartered by the Royal British Legion ahead of commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The ship, MV Boudicca, departs ahead of a week of events to mark the anniversary of the biggest amphibious invasion in history.

Veterans from the charity D-Day Revisited have also left Portsmouth 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.

Sir Rod Stewart performed for the Second World War veterans on the ship before it left - serenading them with his 1975 hit 'Sailing'.

The veterans also had the opportunity to visit beaches in Dunkirk on Monday and will watch a display by the Royal Navy in Poole Harbour on Tuesday.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said she hopes "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".

Rear Admiral Jim Macleod, who was one of the chief organisers for D-Day 75, added:

"D-Day75 will be a commemoration like no other."

Watch: More than 4,000 personnel will be involved in the commemorations in both the UK and France.

Jim Docherty, 94, had not spoken of his role as an able seaman with the Royal Navy on D-Day until he was invited on the week-long voyage about five months ago.

"I was on board the HMS Obedient, a destroyer".

"I've never been back to Normandy before. I never thought it would happen.

"I might meet some of the people I used to know but I don't think there are many left."

Mr Docherty will be accompanied on the trip by his son Joe, 67.

The pair previously visited sites in Belgium in honour of relatives who fought in the First World War.

Royal Marine Commandos going ashore during D-Day (Picture: PA).

They will attend the National Commemorative Event in Portsmouth on Wednesday before travelling to Normandy for events in Bayeux and Arromanches.

The ship returns to Portsmouth on Saturday before concluding its journey in Dover on Sunday.

Veterans and their families were greeted at the port on Sunday afternoon, when they walked past a guard of honour and performances by the Dover Sea Cadet Band.

In total, 250 veterans will take part in the week-long voyage on MV Boudicca.

A further 80 UK veterans, with funded travel available through the charity and 60 international veterans will attend the National Commemorative Event in Portsmouth.

For those unable to undertake the ship's journey to Normandy, the Legion secured 30 purpose-built twin rooms in Caen to allow veterans to fully participate in events in France.

The Services of Remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral and at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Bayeux will be attended by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

A Service of Remembrance will also be held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, attended by 20 veterans.

In addition, the Legion's community teams will host hundreds of local events across the UK.