Parachute re-enactment and flypasts to mark 80th anniversary of D-Day

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will lead tributes commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day at major events in Portsmouth and Normandy next month, including a large-scale parachute re-enactment and flypasts by the Red Arrows.

In Normandy, where the landings took place on June 6 1944, hundreds of Armed Forces personnel will parachute into a historic D-Day drop zone in a recreation of the region’s airborne liberation.

Hundreds of schoolchildren from Plymouth will meet D-Day veterans on June 3 before a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast later in the day which veterans will watch from Southwick House – the allies’ headquarters on D-Day.

Some will then set sail from Portsmouth across the Channel ahead of events on June 5 and 6, mirroring their pivotal journey 80 years ago, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Thursday.

The national commemorative event in Portsmouth will feature testimonies from veterans and military personnel as well as musical performances by a 79-piece military orchestra.

Southport Air Show
The commemorative events in Portsmouth and Normandy will include flypasts by the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Peter Byrne/PA)

It will involve more than 500 members of the Armed Forces, a 25-strong choir and Royal Marine drummers alongside a guard of honour formed of personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.

The MoD said the “moving climax” of the June 5 events in Portsmouth will be a “stunning” light show.

The events in France include a joint UK-French thanksgiving service held in Bayeux Cathedral and a vigil around the Bayeux War Cemetery’s stone of remembrance as the 25,000 names of the fallen are read aloud.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will also join D-Day veterans to mark the occasion.

On June 6, the MoD and Royal British Legion will host the UK’s national commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer.

It will conclude with a two-minute silence, accompanied by a special tribute flypast from the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

PM to lead D-Day 80th anniversary events
D-Day veterans will witness a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast on June 3 (Kevin Walton/MoD Crown Copyright/PA)

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister began the anniversary commemorations as he handed a torch of commemoration to a 99-year-old veteran of the landings.

It was part of a relay which will see the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s torch accompany veterans on the ferry to Normandy and form the centrepiece of a light show at the war cemetery in Bayeux.

Mr Sunak said: “This June the nation will come together to honour our greatest ever generation.

“The country will pay tribute to the heroes who fought against the odds to liberate Europe 80 years ago.

“We can never forget those who sacrificed so much to defend the freedom of the UK and our closest allies.”

PM to lead D-Day 80th anniversary events
The June 6 event in Normandy will conclude with a two-minute silence (Craig Williams/MoD Crown Copyright/PA)

The D-Day operation – codenamed Operation Neptune – brought together the land, air and sea forces of the allied nations in the largest amphibious invasion in military history and began the process of ending the war in Europe.

Mr Shapps said: “The 80th anniversary of D-Day serves as a reminder never to forget those who fought and died so we might live in freedom and at peace.

“Their testimony serves as a timeless symbol of the importance of unity, the value of peace and the pursuit of freedom in the face of tyranny.

“The eyes of the world will rightfully once again be on these men and women, and I am proud of the work being done by the Armed Forces to pay tribute to the heroes of D-Day at the commemorative events in June.”