Flag waving and flypast mark major D-Day commemorations for 80th anniversary

Flag waving and flypast mark major D-Day commemorations for 80th anniversary

Royals, politicians and flag-waving children gathered at a major commemoration in Portsmouth as part of events in the UK and France to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The King, Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are expected to speak at the event on Wednesday.

The commemorations in Portsmouth opened with a musical performance and a flypast of two historic Dakota military transport aircraft, widely used by the Allies during the Second World War.

William took his place in the royal box alongside military veterans shortly after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Dame Helen Mirren formally introduced the event on Southsea Common at around 11am, where she praised the bravery of the veterans in attendance.

Children waved miniature Union flags as actor Phil Dunster came on stage in 1940s military garb to read a letter written by Major Rodney Maude of the Royal Engineers written 48 hours before D-Day.

Some veterans will attend two days of remembrance events in Portsmouth to mark the historic milestone.

The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with the 1944 battle laying the foundation for an Allied victory.

D-Day 80th anniversary
The Brittany Ferries ship Mont St Michel passes the Round Tower as it sets sail from Portsmouth Harbour carrying 31 D-Day and Normandy veterans (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Troops from the UK, the USA, Canada, and France attacked German forces on the beaches at Normandy in northern France on June 6, 1944.

Allied troops departed from Portsmouth on June 5, so the UK and French governments will host memorial events at both ports to commemorate the D-Day landings.

Over the course of two days, the King, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, other dignitaries, and—most importantly—those who fought on the beaches in 1944 will come together to remember the battle that became the turning point towards an Allied victory.

However, the proceedings have already begun for dozens of other Second World War veterans.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, a D-day veteran leading an act of remembrance saluted fallen soldiers as the Last Post was played at an emotional ceremony in Normandy.

Some 11 veterans with the Spirit of Normandy Trust joined commemorations in Colleville Montgomery on Tuesday, sitting in the front row of the service with blankets on their laps.

Royal Navy veteran Alec Penstone, who served on HMS Campania, told the PA news agency: “I’m surprised I’m still here, I didn’t expect to be. I’m very lucky.”

About the ceremony, the 99-year-old said: “I realised how many of my wonderful shipmates… died. I don’t know how I’m still spared.

“It’s wonderful so many of us are here.”

On Tuesday, a number of former D-Day soldiers boarded a ferry to make the journey from Portsmouth to Normandy once again, retracing their steps 80 years ago.

D-Day 80th anniversary
The RAF Red Arrows (Joe Giddens/PA)

The morning will culminate in a flypast by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows.

The Prime Minister will then deliver a reading to the crowds and meet with veterans to hear their D-Day stories to mark the occasion.

In the afternoon, tributes will move to the beaches of Normandy, where hundreds of allied defence personnel will parachute into a historic D-Day drop zone to commemorate the airborne invasion of 80 years ago.

The Royal British Legion will host a commemoration service at Bayeux War Cemetery before the Ministry of Defence and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission host a joint UK-France thanksgiving service at Bayeux Cathedral.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Veteran Donald Jones returns to Sword Beach in Normandy, France on June 4, 2024, the same spot he landed 80 years prior on D-Day (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

On Wednesday night, as the sun sets, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bayeux War Cemetery will light up in honour of those who fought on the beaches. The light show will be streamed live on the BBC so all can witness the occasion.

On Thursday – the 80th anniversary of D-Day – commemorations will begin in Normandy at 7.25am, the same time the beach invasion began in 1944.

A military piper will land on the beaches of Arromanches-les-Bains in a Royal Marines landing craft and begin playing a lament in tribute to those who led the beach landings.

The official British commemoration for the 80th anniversary of D-Day will take place at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, where the King will join French President Emmanuel Macron and Mr Sunak.

The Prince of Wales will attend events in Normandy including a service hosted by Canada at Juno Beach and an international ceremony hosted by France at Omaha Beach which will be attended by more than 25 heads of state.

The UK’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron will also attend the Portsmouth and Normandy commemorations.

The Prime Minister will deliver a short speech at Ver-sur-Mer and lead a “heroes’ welcome” for the veterans.