D-Day 80th Anniversary – A reflection from Canon Jo

31st May 2024

In 2019, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day the foundations of a new memorial in Normandy was dedicated. The British Normandy Memorial was first opened to the public only two years later.

A reflection from Canon Jo, Canon Precentor Portsmouth Cathedral

I had the opportunity to visit last week, ahead of our Radio 4 broadcast and D-Day commemoration services on Sunday and through the coming week.

On a stunning location just above the central Gold beach of the Normandy landings, the British Normandy Memorial offers the chance to look out at the seascape and imagine what it was like for those who sailed overnight from Portsmouth and landed in the very early hours of D-Day on 6 June 1944. And it gives us a chance to remember what we owe to those brave souls who led the way to regaining freedom in Europe and the final Allied victory the following year. The walls of the central courtyard are inscribed with the names of the 1,476 who fell on D-Day itself, while the pillars around this central courtyard bear the names of all 22,442 whose lives were lost in the Battle of Normandy. The Memorial is well worth a visit, and The King will be there next week on 6 June to open their new Winston Churchill Education centre.

While we were there, assisting with some of the interviews that will form part of the Radio 4 Sunday Worship programme that is being broadcast live at 0810 this Sunday 2 June, we saw a wreath laying on behalf of the Belgian Air Force, and heard the Belgian version of the Last Post and witnessed a flypast by a WWII aircraft, while the details of a young Belgian pilot who died on D-Day offering air support to the sea convoy were related.

Later on Sunday, we have an 11am D-Day 80 Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance and then the evening Eucharist at 5:45pm will have a focus on peace in our world today. The Taizé service at 8pm will also include chants and songs praying for peace.

On Wednesday 5 June, some of our Cathedral Choristers will be again on the BBC, among a group of local children who will be directed by Dr David Price, singing for the international D-Day 80 event on Southsea Common, attended by a number of heads of state. And on Thursday 6 June, at the D-Day Memorial near Southsea Pier, our Cathedral Choir will again be leading the singing as a number of veterans, councillors and members of the Royal British Legion pay their respects and pledge themselves again to work for freedom and justice.

D-Day is a historic time for Portsmouth, and Portsmouth will be leading our country and our world once again this week, in honouring the Day that Changed the World and paying tribute to those who took part. It is only right and fitting that Portsmouth Cathedral will once again be at the forefront of the D-Day 80 Commemorations.

The Reverend Canon Jo Spreadbury,
Canon Precentor