By Ben Mitchell, Press Association
A ship has been chartered to carry 300 D-Day veterans across the Channel as part of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the “most complicated operation” in history.
A series of events are to be held in Portsmouth, Hampshire, where many of the landing boats sailed from, while the commemorations continue in Normandy.
The plans were announced by the vice chief of the defence staff General Sir Gordon Messenger during a visit to the D-Day Story Museum in Southsea.
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who had originally intended to attend the launch event, said: “Seventy-five 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.”
Bob Gamble, of the Royal British Legion, 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 at this event and we will make sure their every need is catered for as they travel back to Normandy to take part in this landmark event.”
The five days of events in Portsmouth starting on June 5 will include a military parade along the seafront with performances by military bands, readings by VIPs and a flypast featuring period aircraft.
Other highlights will include a Royal Collection Trust exhibition, screenings to show the Normandy commemorations live and a performance by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
The first ‘Portsmouth Revival Festival’ celebrating the food, music, dancing and vehicles of the time will also be held culminating in a ‘Sunset Concert for Heroes’ featuring acts including the Military Wives Choir and the D-Day Darlings.
Before sunset on June 5, the chartered ship MV Boudicca, funded by the Royal British Legion and a Libor grant from the Treasury, will take 300 veterans across to Normandy for the commemorative events there on D-Day (June 6).
The key events in France will include an inauguration at the site of the Normandy Memorial Trust’s British Normandy Memorial and the Royal British Legion’s services at Bayeux Cathedral and Bayeux Cemetery before concluding with an evening of music and entertainment beside the beaches in Arromanches.
Throughout the commemorations about 2,000 current serving personnel will offer support to veterans both in the UK and in France, while also taking part in the various ceremonial events.