Thousands Gather At D-Day Anniversary Event In Portsmouth

Some 60,000 members of the public were at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common.

Crowds watching the D-Day 75 commemorative event on Southsea Common have spoken of their appreciation of those who served during the Second World War.

Some 60,000 members of the public attended the Portsmouth Naval Memorial for the event which marks the 75th anniversary of the biggest amphibious invasion in military history.

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.

Speaking in Portsmouth, the Queen thanked those who fought on D-Day for their "heroism, courage and sacrifice".

The event included testimony from veterans, theatrical performances and live music (Picture: MOD).

The event also 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 audience loudly applauded British veteran John Jenkins, 99, who was a platoon sergeant with the Pioneer Corps when he landed on Gold Beach aged 23.

A flypast of 24 aircraft included the Red Arrows (Picture: MOD).

Sergeant Jenkins, from Portsmouth, spoke of how "terrified" he had been, adding: "We must never forget."

Paul Tipping, 53, described the service as "emotional" and said the fly-past of military aircraft was moving.

"It does conjure up the sacrifice that our grandfathers made.

"My grandfather was in the war, along with his brothers. They were all in the RAF.

"My grandfather was a medic in Burma, one was a Spitfire pilot who made it through, and the other was a bomber pilot who didn't make it.

"The sheer numbers involved were staggering.

"When the veteran came on stage, there was so much clapping. A lot of people who were sitting down stood up."

Royal Navy personnel, handing out programs to D Day veterans at an international event on Southsea Common to paid tribute to Normandy veterans 050619 CREDIT MOD.jpg
Royal Navy personnel hand out D-Day commemoration programmes to veterans in Portsmouth (Picture: MOD).

Captain Craig Wood, Commander of the Portsmouth Flotilla, said:

“It’s wonderful for the people of Portsmouth, the people of the local area to be able to be part of this today, because the generation who have gone before us actually had to sacrifice quite a significant amount during those long years of the war.”

Sally Pattenden, 42, from Southsea, said the day made her "very proud to be British".

She said a number of family members had served with the armed forces, including her grandfather during the war.

"I am very proud to be British and to have this connection in my life," she said.

"I think our armed forces are among the best in the world.

"When I stood and listened and sang along to the Vera Lynn song We'll Meet Again, I felt a sense of nostalgia."

Ms Pattenden lives near the common and had watched preparations for the event take place over a three-week period.

"They started coming out videoing houses and knocking doors and saying 'Don't hang things out of windows'," she said.

"We have had lots of warnings. We couldn't park anywhere for a while.

"But I think you get into the spirit of it. It is about the veterans.

"If you can't give up your parking space for someone who gave their life, what can you do?"

James Roser, 29, from Gosport, said he was struck by the "magnitude" of the war during the ceremony.

"I think it just brings it back, what they went through," he added.