D-Day veterans ‘honoured’ to have names added to Portsmouth memorial wall

  • Report by ITV News Meridian's Derek Johnson

Two D-Day veterans have described the “honour” of having their names added to a memorial wall of all those who took part in the Normandy landings.

A total of 13 names from 11 countries are being added to the Normandy Memorial Wall at the D-Day Story museum, in Southsea, Hampshire, ahead of a national event which has been announced to mark the 80th anniversary of the key Second World War battle.

In what could be the last chance for a significant number of veterans – who are all aged above 90 – to gather to mark the D-Day campaign, a major event is planned to be held in Portsmouth on June 5.

The Hampshire city played a key role in preparing for the invasion of the beaches of northern France in 1944 which became a turning point in the war.

D-Day veterans Stan Ford (left) and John Roberts receive their memorial plaques Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

British veterans Stan Ford and John Roberts were presented with their plaques on Tuesday before they were added to the wall.

Mr Roberts, who joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 and served until 1978 having reached the rank of rear admiral, was aboard HMS Serapis on D-Day.

The Serapis was at the front of the D-Day convoy arriving at Sword beach at 7.30am on D-Day and continued to fire on German positions along the coast for 11 days.

The 99-year-old from Kent, who has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, said: “It’s wonderful, it’s an honour and it will be there for my great-grandchildren to be brought down to see.

“I hope they will not only remember me but remember World War Two and all who gave their lives.”

The Normandy Memorial Wall Credit: Sgt Jimmy Wise/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Mr Roberts said it was important to continue remembering the sacrifices of the Second World War and added: “Well, we don’t want another one and if the next generations remember what it was like. Things like the Blitz where so many innocent people died, we never want that to happen again.

“It was the war to end all wars but here we are with four wars raging and in Gaza it’s almost 100 dying every day, it’s terrible.”

He added: “It’s more important every year because there will be less and less veterans alive still, I’ll be 100 by then but in 10 years’ time there will be no veterans left and I think it’s important to go on.

“I enjoy it because I’m so pleased it’s remembered.”

At the age of 19, Mr Ford served on HMS Fratton, an escort ship that accompanied vessels taking men and supplies across the Channel on D-Day and afterwards.

D-Day veteran Stan Ford Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

HMS Fratton was sunk, believed by a midget submarine, off the Normandy coast on August 18 1944. Thirty-eight members of the crew were rescued but 31 were killed.

Mr Ford, 98, from Bath, said: “I hope the young people will hear of the exploits, take it on board and see that it doesn’t happen again.”

He added: “It wouldn’t say it was a pleasure but it was a necessary evil that it was done.

“I survived and there are 31 reasons why I keep going back to Normandy and that’s the 31 guys that never made it.”

To mark the anniversary, thousands of members of the public will join D-Day veterans, Armed Forces personnel, local dignitaries and VIP guests for the ceremonies taking place on Southsea Common which will be broadcast live across the UK and the world.

The Ministry of Defence has launched a D-Day 80 website so people can find out more about the official commemorations Credit: Sgt Jimmy Wise/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

An MoD spokesman said: “The personal stories and reflections of surviving D-Day veterans will be at the heart of the event, which will also feature military musicians, a Royal Air Force flypast and moving tributes from special guests.

“This may be the last time veterans are able to gather in significant numbers, as they are all over 90 years old.”

For the 75th anniversary, world leaders including Queen Elizabeth II, then-US president Donald Trump, former UK prime minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron and former German chancellor Angela Merkel were among the guests at the Portsmouth commemorations.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We must never forget the sacrifices made on D-Day and the selfless courage of the veterans of Normandy.

”Minister for veterans’ affairs Johnny Mercer said: “On the 80th anniversary, we will remember all those who put their life on the line for our freedom during D-Day, and continue to pay tribute to their brave service to this day.”

The Ministry of Defence has launched a D-Day 80 website so members of the public can find out more about the official commemorations and sign up for information on how to register to attend.

The Royal British Legion (RBL) has opened registration for veterans of the Normandy campaign to attend the British event, hosted in partnership with the MoD, at the British Normandy Memorial.

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