Names of two surviving D-day veterans to be put on Portsmouth memorial wall

<span>Stan Ford (second from left) and John Roberts (third from left) are among 13 former soldiers, sailors and airmen from 12 countries whose names will be added to the wall.</span><span>Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA</span>
Stan Ford (second from left) and John Roberts (third from left) are among 13 former soldiers, sailors and airmen from 12 countries whose names will be added to the wall.Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Two surviving British D-day veterans will have their names added to the Normandy memorial wall in Portsmouth on Tuesday as it is announced that the city will hold an 80th anniversary commemorative event on 5 June.

Stan Ford and John Roberts, who served in the Royal Navy, will have their names memorialised before what may the last major opportunity for veterans to gather in public and recall their contribution to liberating western Europe.

The remaining veterans of the largest seaborne assault ever undertaken are now over 90. The last major commemorative event was held in Portsmouth five years ago, attended by the late Queen Elizabeth and the then US president, Donald Trump.

This year members of the public will be able to join political leaders, veterans and members of the armed forces for ceremonies on Southsea Common which will feature an RAF flypast and musical tributes.

Ford and Roberts are among 13 former soldiers, sailors and airmen from 12 different countries who will have their names memorialised on the Normandy wall with a special plaque emphasising the allied contribution to the war effort.

Veterans from Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland and the US are among those being commemorated on Tuesday to mark 100 days until the 80th anniversary of the events of 5 and 6 June 1944.

An estimated 156,000 allied soldiers gathered in the south of England on 5 June 1944, and shortly after midnight began the long-planned invasion of Nazi-occupied western Europe. Invasion ships headed across the Channel to five beaches and other locations in Normandy, beginning the recapture of western Europe.

Roberts, 99, served aboard HMS Serapis, which was at the front of the D-day convoy. It arrived at Sword beach at 7.30am on 6 June and continued to fire on German positions along the coast for 11 days.

“I will never forget that day, and I’m proud to know that the British people won’t forget either. I hope that the commemorations in June will help a whole new generation understand the sacrifices made on their behalf,” Roberts said.

Ford, who was 19 on the day, served on HMS Fratton, an escort ship that accompanied ships taking men and supplies across the Channel on D-day and afterwards. The ship was later sunk, probably by a submarine, off the Normandy coast on 18 August 1944.

Ford was one of the few survivors: 31 of the 38 crew lost their lives in an explosion so severe that the gun platform where he was operating from was blown off the ship into the water. The sailor was rescued from the sea, and treated on Gold beach, but he sustained injuries so heavy he has had to walk with leg callipers for the rest of his life.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, said that the 80th anniversary of D-day was a reminder that peace could not be taken for granted, referencing the war in Ukraine and the need for western nations to come together to help Kyiv.

“With war raging in Europe once again, we must recommit to protect and defend Britain’s peace and freedom with our allies around the world. The alliances we forged on June 6 1944 are still vital to the UK’s security today,” he said.

The Royal British Legion has opened registration for veterans of the Normandy campaign to attend the event in Portsmouth. A public ballot for attendance will also take place, subject to event capacity, with details on a D-day 80 website on

Normandy veterans, family members and their descendants are also invited to register for planned commemorative events at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy on 5 June and at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 6 June.