D-Day 80 Ceremony In Southsea: A Moving Tribute to WW2 Heroes

On the morning of June 5th 2024, Flight Lieutenant Tony Gear RAF (and key VOS team member) had the honour of being invited by the Isle of Wight Lord Lieutenant Susie Sheldon to attend the D-Day 80 celebrations in Southsea, a coastal town steeped in D-Day history.

This is his account of a highly moving and very important day in world history.

The atmosphere was charged with reverence and gratitude as we gathered to pay tribute to the brave souls who changed the course of history. The opening flypast by two Dakotas produced an unexpected emotion in me as well as most of those attending.

It immediately hit deep, bringing a tear to the eye – something that continued for the next hour and a half.

A day marked by royalty and celebrity

His Majesty King Charles and His Royal Highness Prince William graced the occasion. Standing alongside veterans and dignitaries, their presence underscored the significance of this milestone anniversary.

The incomparable Helen Mirren served as our guide through the morning’s proceedings, bringing an eloquence and warmth that set the tone for a day of reflection and remembrance.

The sun bathed Southsea Common in a golden glow, and as we looked out toward the sea, it felt as if the heavens themselves were honouring the heroes who boarded the waiting vessels for Normandy on those very shores.

The essence of D-Day 80

However, the heart of the event lay in the words of a remarkable 100-year-old Veteran. His weathered face held the weight of memories – of comrades lost, of sacrifice, and of unwavering resolve.

Beside him stood his great-grandchildren, a living bridge between generations. Their innocent eyes absorbed the legacy of courage and duty as they confidently stood there, reading their thoughts for Great Granddad. This sparked off the emotions of many hardened Veterans and Regulars alike, myself included.

Then there was the D-Day Veteran who told of how he successfully disembarked from the landing craft in Normandy and managed to jump into a tank. However, after three days of courageous fighting he was seriously injured, with both his legs ultimately being amputated.

Nevertheless, he proudly stood onstage on his artificial legs with no assistance, reading his story in front of the huge crowd. As he finished and walked offstage unaided, he rightly received a standing ovation. It was a powerful story of bravery to the end, and by this time we were totally absorbed by emotion.

The Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force stood united

Their uniforms bore witness to a shared commitment to freedom and peace.

As the bugles, drums and the band played, we felt the echoes of camaraderie that once resounded across from the Solent to Normandy. We stood together, our collective breath held, honouring those who charged into uncertainty on that fateful day.

In those quiet moments, I realised that the legacy of D-Day transcends time. It lives on in the stories etched into the cliffs of Normandy, in the tears shed by families, and in the gratitude of nations. As the sun climbed higher, we vowed never to forget.

The whole morning was a tapestry of emotions—gratitude, pride, and a deep sense of connection. We left Southsea with hearts full, knowing that the sacrifices made 80 years ago continue to shape our world.

VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service) located in Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Gosport, Fareham or the Solent area, please pass our details along.

If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email admin@vosuk.org.

Please note that VOS is not a crisis service. If you need immediate support, please contact one of the following:

  • Your GP or NHS 111
  • Attend A&E or call 999 for medical emergencies
  • The Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
  • A trusted family member or friend

Get in touch your way

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