National event announced in Portsmouth to commemorate D-Day 80th anniversary

270224 Normandy Memorial Wall MOD MERIDIAN
The Normandy Memorial Wall next to the D-Day Story museum, Southsea. Credit: MoD

The names of 13 Normandy veterans are to be added to a wall commemorating those who took part in the key Second World War battle as the Ministry of Defence announces a national event to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

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 at Portsmouth on 5 June.

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.

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.

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.

“They will commemorate all those who died during the Normandy campaign and pay tribute to the surviving veterans of D-Day.

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

“The commemorations will bring Armed Forces personnel past and present together to remember the legacy of D-Day and the importance of our continued fight for freedom and peace.”

A major event is planned to be held at Portsmouth on June 5 to mark the D-Day campaign. Credit: MoD

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.

“It’s hard to imagine a more noble act than risking your life to defeat tyranny and oppression. I’m proud that the Armed Forces will lead the nation in tributes to the heroes of Normandy in Portsmouth in June.

“The 80th anniversary of D-Day will remind us that we can never take peace for granted.

“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 6 June 1944 are still vital to the UK’s security today.”

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer said: “We will forever owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and the allied forces who fought so courageously at Normandy.

“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 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) opened registration for veterans of the Normandy campaign to attend the British event, hosted in partnership with the MoD, at the British Normandy Memorial.

A public ballot for attendance at this event will also take place, subject to event capacity, with details on a D-Day 80 website on

The names of 13 veterans from 12 allied countries will be added to the Normandy Memorial Wall. Credit: MoD

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

Royal British Legion director of remembrance Philippa Rawlinson said: “The legacy left by the Second World War generation lives on in the freedom and democracy we have today.

“It is vital we continue to honour their service and sacrifice, so we are encouraging D-Day veterans and their families to register to attend one of the RBL commemorative events in France or the UK.”

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, the United Kingdom, the United States and their allies launched Operation Overlord, a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France.

The operation enabled the allies to relaunch its attack against the Nazi forces and liberate north-west Europe, leading to victory a year later.

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The names of 13 veterans from 12 allied countries are being added to the Normandy Memorial Wall to mark 100 days until the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

British veterans Stan Ford and John Roberts will be presented with their plaques at The D-Day Story in Southsea, Hampshire, on Tuesday before they are added to the wall which commemorates all those involved in the key Second World War battle.

Mr Roberts, who was in the Royal Navy from 1938 to 1978 and reached the rank of rear admiral, served on board HMS Serapis which 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, said: “It’s humbling to see the nation come together to remember D-Day and those who fell during the Normandy landings.

“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.”

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.

HMS Fratton was sunk, believed to have been by a midget submarine, off the Normandy coast on 18 August 1944.

Thirty-eight members of the crew were rescued but 31 were killed.

The Ministry of Defence has launched a D-Day 80 website so people can find out more about the official commemorations. Credit: MoD

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said: “The explosion was so severe that the gun platform that Stan was operating was blown off the ship and into the water, with Stan still on it.

“Stan was pulled from the sea and taken to a field hospital on Gold Beach. The injuries he sustained have meant that he has had to walk with leg callipers for the rest of his life.”

The other Normandy veterans having their names added to the wall are:

  • Richard Pirrie was one of 500 Royal Australian Navy personnel serving in the British fleet on D-Day.

He commanded the landing craft LCS (M) 47 and was tasked with getting as close as possible to Juno Beach to locate and destroy German gun positions.

He was killed on D-Day – his 24th birthday – when his ship was simultaneously hit by artillery fire and a mine.

He was posthumously awarded a mention in despatches for his “gallantry, leadership and determination” on D-Day.

  • Francois August Venesoen served in No 350 (Belgian) Squadron of the UK’s Royal Air Force and it is thought he was killed during a patrol mission on D-Day.

In recognition of his sacrifice, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy on 15 December 1943”.

The plaque honouring Normandy veteran Francois August Venesoen, who served in No 350 (Belgian) Squadron of the UK’s Royal Air Force. Credit: MoD
  • Miroslav Moravec was a Czech pilot in the UK’s Royal Air Force, who died on June 7 1944 while taking off from Appledram airport for a patrol flight over the invasion beaches in Normandy.

His mother, father and younger brother were among the closest collaborators of paratroopers Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, from the Anthropoid paragroup in Prague, who, on 27 May 1942, carried out the assassination of the Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich.

  • Kaj Birksted, from Denmark, served in 11th Flying Group Royal Air Force during the invasion of Normandy.

He was responsible for leading and directing the fighter pilots protecting the landing beaches from the air.

He continued in this role throughout the liberation of Normandy and for the remainder of the war.

  • Leon Gautier, of the Free French Movement, was the last surviving Frenchman to participate in D-Day.

In response to his death, President Emmanuel Macron described him as having “united the virtues of a warrior and those of a peacemaker”.

He joined the Free French Movement in London in 1940.

The plaque honouring Normandy veteran Commander Georgios Panagiotopoulos. Credit: MoD
  • Commander Georgios Panagiotopoulos, from Greece, was captain of HS (Hellenic Ship) Tompazis, one the two corvettes of the Hellenic Navy which participated in the Normandy Landings.

He was awarded a War Cross 3rd Class for his participation in the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 and with a Medal of Excellence for the actions of his ship during the operation.

  • Max Wolff, is the last surviving veteran of his unit in the Royal Netherlands Army.

As a Jewish refugee from Arnhem who lost 289 members of his family in the Holocaust, he spent four years on the run in Belgium and France.

He decided to join the Free Dutch Army in the UK and, with help from the Belgian Resistance, he travelled from Brussels to Normandy when he heard that the Allies had landed.

He received military training in the UK and was assigned to Prinses Irene Brigade, a Dutch military unit, and then was attached to a British Army unit as an interpreter.

He served in France and then Belgium in August 1944 to support the Allies’ liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The plaque honouring Normandy veteran Max Wolff, who is the last surviving veteran of his unit in the Royal Netherlands Army. Credit: MoD
  • William Howard Cameron, of the Royal Canadian Navy, was in charge of supplying ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns on board his ship, HMCS Kitchener.

The ship fired throughout D-Day to repel attacking German planes.

The MoD spokesman said he is hoping to attend this year’s commemorations in Normandy.

  • Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve Lieutenant Neil W Harton began his service in the New Zealand armed forces in 1940.

On D-Day he commanded Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) 630 and 741 in 55th Flotilla which led the invasion fleet across the English Channel.

He and his crew were responsible for searching for mines and clearing safe paths through the minefields.

After D-Day he was involved in patrolling the beaches between Arromanches and Le Havre.

  • General Stanislaw Maczek was a Polish military commander known for leading the 1st Armoured Division in the Second World War, notably during the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The plaque honouring Normandy veteran Jimmie W Monteith Jr, of the United States Army. Credit: MoD
  • Jimmie W Monteith Jr, of the United States Army, served in the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, and landed with the initial assault waves on D-Day near Colleville-sur-Mer under heavy enemy fire.

He courageously moved up and down the beach immediately following the landing to organise personnel for a further assault.

He then led a successful assault over a cliff and led two tanks safely through a minefield into firing positions.

He was killed by enemy fire when the enemy surrounded his unit.

He was awarded the Medal of Honour for his “courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership”.

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