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Thousands pay D-Day tributes at Southsea spectacle

By Connor Steel

THOUSANDS of local residents paid their ultimate tributes to D-Day veterans on Wednesday evening as they attended a breathtaking event held on Southsea Common; which formed part of the national UK commemoration marking eighty years since Allied Forces launched the “largest amphibious invasion” in history and thus began the liberation of France.

A total of 150,000 troops left the South Coast late on the evening of June 5, 1944 to launch ‘Operation Overlord’; which started in the early hours of June 6 as five thousand ships / landing crafts landed at five Normandy beaches. It resulted in 4,414 deaths across the Allied Forces throughout this day itself whilst five thousand were further wounded in fighting.

Residents from Gosport, Fareham, Portsmouth, and afar were all attendees on Wednesday evening; the ticketed event being held in a cordoned space close to the war memorial on Southsea Common. Proceedings began at approximately 8:25pm with a loud and joyous singalong of We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn; which became famous during World War 2.

Attentions were then turned to a memorial occassion being held at ‘Bayeux War Cemetery’ which was broadcast to the crowds using multiple television screens. This featured an analysis and inspiring stories from D-Day veterans with links led by BBC Presenter Kirsty Young; whilst many powerful readings, poems, and music were heard amongst quiet hush.

Once the special ceremony at ‘Bayeux War Cemetery’ was concluded at 9:45pm; the BBC Television cameras returned live to the stage at Southsea Common to broadcast Julie Fowlis performing ‘The Parting Glass’. Those watching at this event were encouraged to shine phone torches to the skies, adding to a poignant scene as the “natural light” darkened.

This paved the path for a spectacular drone display over the skylines that was watched across this region; many sitting on the Common and across Gosport to watch. It featured various shapes including a spitfire, a soldier, and the line of ‘I remember’ as it showed the story of D-Day itself; the show joined by voiceovers from veterans who had “played a part”.

It concluded a huge day of commemoration in Portsmouth as a separate service was held earlier in the morning; which was watched by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Prince William, and His Majesty, King Charles III, amongst others. They were joined by D-Day vetarans and worldwide representatives for the ‘special event’.

Readers can re-watch the morning service on BBC iPlayer by clicking this link, whilst the evening spectacle is available to watch here. A photo gallery of the drone show can be viewed online as shared by the staff behind Portsmouth News.

PICTURED BY CONNOR STEEL: Drones light up skies around Southsea to conclude an ‘unforgettable’ day of events.