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Royal Navy’s role in D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations revealed

Published: 26 May 2024

Three days in June will put Portsmouth and the Royal Navy at the heart of 80th anniversary events remembering the Normandy landings.

A series of events spanning June 3-5 will be the focal point of national commemorations on this side of the Channel, before the focus shifts to Normandy and a string of acts of national and international remembrance from Pegasus Bridge in the east to the Cotentin Peninsula in the west.

Key to all events is passing the torch to a new generation so that the flame of freedom never dies out – the 80th is likely to be the last milestone anniversary marked in the presence of those who were there, the youngest of whom are now 98.

Despite the passing of years, many Normandy veterans are determined to make the pilgrimage either to Portsmouth or France for a last salute.

On June 3, they will share their stories with local schoolchildren as well as serving Royal Marines from 47 Commando – the UK’s experts in amphibious operations in 2024 – as part of a unique ‘generational’ event in Portsmouth.

Afterwards, the veterans will be shown around Southwick House – including its famous ‘map room’ – from where General Eisenhower directed operations back in 1944 and will be treated to a fly-past from the Battle of Britain Memorial Fight.

The vintage aircraft will be back in the skies over Portsmouth the next morning, June 4, this time to salute a Brittany Ferries vessel carrying veterans over to France on behalf of the Royal British Legion to partake in anniversary events.

Simultaneously warships and merchant vessels in harbour will sound their sirens in tribute, while a flotilla of serving and vintage vessels – minehunter HMS Cattistock, patrol boats Trumpeter and Dasher, TS Royalist, WW2 motor launch HMS Medusa and tugs – are due to accompany the ferry, with the three RN warships continuing across the Channel to the Caen Canal to support the Parachute Regiment and ceremonies at Pegasus Bridge, the Allies first objective on D-Day.

The trio and their sailors will remain in France to support other ceremonies,
Also crossing the Channel on June 4 will be the 47 Commando personnel, whose landing craft will deliver a piper to the beaches on D-Day itself, before offloading a troop of marines to yomp along the Normandy shore to Port-en-Bessin… the village/harbour liberated by the unit’s forebears in 1944.

“Our humble beginnings will not be forgotten,” said Colonel William Norcott, Commanding Officer of 47 Commando based in Devonport.

“We follow in the footsteps of giants, who exemplified our unique mindset – Operation Neptune was fraught with danger and adversity.”

Those veterans choosing to remain in the UK will be guest of honour at a multimedia celebration of the greatest generation and how they forced their way through Hitler’s vaunted Atlantikwall on June 6.

Dame Helen Mirren will compere the show which will feature the testimonies of veterans, contemporary music performed by a 70-piece orchestra, a 40-strong choir and drummers from the Royal Marines Band, and involve more than 500 serving members of the Armed Forces, who will also form a guard of honour.

Both the VIP (for veterans and dignitaries) and public enclosures (for 6,000 people) to watch proceedings in the flesh on Southsea Common are full, but the event will be broadcast live on BBC1.

That same evening, two stunning lightshows will take place in Portsmouth and Bayeux War Cemetery, linking the commemorations on both sides of the Channel. It too will be shown on TV.

With just three weeks to go to the anniversary, Portsmouth Naval Base Commander Commodore John Voyce said the pieces of the enormous jigsaw were coming together.

“In many ways the preparations have been much like 1944 – a ‘whole force’ effort,” he said.

“Military planners, Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary, the BBC, and a host of other agencies have worked tirelessly to produce not one, but two outstanding events for the city and I can’t wait for them to see the results of all that hard work.”

More details about next month’s commemorations can be found at and


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