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Ship Chartered in Official Normandy 75 Plans

Photo: General Sir Gordon Messenger speaking at the D-Day Story Museum. (Vernon Nash)

 

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has announced plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings later this year.

Speaking from the D-Day Story Museum on 16 January, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger, outlined how the MOD, Royal British Legion and Portsmouth City Council would all be involved.

National commemorations in the UK will centre on Portsmouth on 5 June. Much of the invasion force sailed from the city on that date in 1944 and, 75 years on, the community will play host to a national tribute which is set to include a military parade, military bands, VIP speakers, and a flypast of period aircraft. A five-day programme – including the first Portsmouth Revival Festival and a Royal Collection Trust Exhibition, culminating in the Sunset Concert for Heroes – is planned by the local council to reflect the area’s unique role in the major and decisive operation.

Perhaps the centrepiece for veterans is the MV Boudicca, which is due to make the passage back to Normandy, recreating the courageous voyage. Royal British Legion funding and a LIBOR grant allocated from the Treasury has enabled the ship to be specially chartered to transport and accommodate 300 former Normandy personnel – at no cost to them (see contact information below).

 Perhaps the centrepiece for veterans is the MV Boudicca, which is due to make the passage back to Normandy, recreating the courageous voyage.

Events scheduled in Normandy include a parachute display at Pegasus Bridge, a service at Bayeux Cathedral, a reception for veterans at Arromanches, and the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial at Vur-Ser-Mer.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “75 years ago the forces of 13 Allied countries gathered in Britain before launching the historic operation to liberate Europe. Winston Churchill rightly said that D-Day was “undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult” operation that had ever taken place. This June we will show our veterans that the debt to them is never forgotten for the price they paid for the freedom and peace we now enjoy.”

The Royal British Legion’s Commemorative Events Lead, Bob Gamble OBE: said: “As we mark 75 years since the largest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen we salute the bravery and sacrifice of all those who took part in liberating Europe. We invite those who wish to attend the events to commemorate their historic achievements to get in touch with the Legion and join our ‘all costs covered’ journey by ship back to France. The veterans will be the VIPs and we will make sure their every need is catered for as they travel back to Normandy.” ∎

Travel Details for Veterans

Veterans interested in the MV Boudicca passage can download an application form from the Royal British Legion (www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/d-day-75/). Forms must be completed and returned by 4 February 2019.

Each veteran is entitled to travel with one guest or carer. The Legion will arrange the full return trip from their homes to the ship and back to their door free of charge.

A ballot will be held if more veterans apply than there are spaces on the ship. ∎

Service personnel with a Normandy veteran at the launch. (Barry Swainsbury/Royal Navy)

Open letter from the Secretary of Defence, The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson

“To the veterans of Normandy; the sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen who helped pave the way for the liberation of Europe,

Her Majesty’s Government is proud to announce plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings planned for June 2019, when the eyes of the world will be upon you once more. Your actions in 1944 were the vital springboard to the liberation of Europe and the end of the Second World War.
The breathtaking bravery and ingenuity you showed during those days still echo through our nation’s armed forces and society as a whole.

This year, veterans of the Normandy campaign have been invited to register with The Royal British Legion to take part in the official commemorations. The Royal British Legion has announced that a ship has been specially chartered to provide a fully-funded tour for around 300 Normandy veterans from 2 June to 9 June.
Each veteran can bring one carer who will also be fully funded by the Legion and Libor grants distributed by the Government.

Veterans will be the VIPs of the commemorations and we want as many of you as possible to be able to mark this major anniversary. The Ministry of Defence, The Royal British Legion and our many fellow delivery partners are working together to let veterans know what is being planned, and to encourage them to register their interest to take part. We also call upon members of the general public to take part in commemorations in both the UK and France and to help us locate Normandy veterans they may know of.

 It is our intention that this June we show you, our special generation, that we will never forget
the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we
now enjoy.

Portsmouth will be the location of the national events in the UK and the Ministry of Defence, in conjunction with Portsmouth City Council and The Royal British Legion, is planning a series of events to reflect the area’s significant role in the preparation of one of the most audacious operations in military history.

Official commemorations will start with a ceremonial event on Portsmouth’s Southsea Common on the 5 June commencing a full five days of activity, including flypasts, military parades, festivals, music and more.

Before sunset on 5 June, the specially-chartered ship will transport veterans across the channel to Normandy. Once there, key events will include The Royal British Legion’s services at Bayeux Cathedral and the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Bayeux Cemetery before an evening of entertainment in Arromanches. Throughout the commemorations, current serving personnel from our armed forces will be there to assist veterans in both the UK and in France.

Five years ago, the President of France advised the Ministry of Defence that it wished to award the Légion d’Honneur, their highest honour, to all surviving Normandy veterans. Since then, we have processed 6,000 applications. If there are any of you who have not yet applied, then please do in order that you too can wear the medal with pride.

To register for the commemorations and apply for a place on the ship please visit The Royal British Legion’s website. To apply for a Légion d’Honneur or learn more of events happening in Normandy and the UK please visit GOV.UK.

It is our intention that this June we show you, our special generation, that we will never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy.” ∎

Provisional Timetable of Events

2 Jun – MV Boudicca sets sail from Dover.

5 Jun – MV Boudicca alongside Portsmouth.

5 Jun – The main UK D-Day 75 Commemoration Event on Southsea Common including a military ceremonial event, flypasts, Gala lunch for Veterans, Vintage Fair (to 9 Jun), screenings & much more.

5 Jun – MV Boudicca Sails Portsmouth to Normandy, escorted by a Royal Navy vessel and flotilla.

5 Jun – A Parachute Display from the RAF and Parachute Regiment Ranville, Pegasus Bridge.

6 Jun – Music to awake the city at Portsmouth/Southsea.

6 Jun – Inauguration Ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial at Vur-Ser-Mer.

6 Jun – Remembrance Service at Bayeux Cathedral.

6 Jun – Bayeux Cemetery Remembrance Ceremony.

6 Jun – A reception for veterans, Arromanches.

6 Jun – Screens at Southsea Common and Portsmouth Guildhall Square relaying events in France.

6 Jun – D-Day 75 Commemoration Event at National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.

7 Jun – Veterans from MV Boudicca visit Sword and Gold Beach and the military museum at Arromanches.

7 Jun – Gala Night onboard MV Boudicca.

7 Jun – MV Boudicca sails from Normandy to Portsmouth overnight.

8 Jun – MV Boudicca returns to Portsmouth; Veterans Welcome Home Reception.

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