The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry)
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Astor of Hever, has made the following written ministerial statement:
On 6 June this year the United Kingdom, along with its friends and allies, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings—the largest amphibious landing the world has ever seen. The landings, which were crucial to the allied victory in Europe in 1945, will be commemorated on both sides of the English channel.
This year is especially important, as it is the final one which the Normandy Veterans Association will officially mark. Later this year, they plan officially to disband, and lay up their national standards at a service at St Margaret’s church, Westminster.
The Ministry of Defence is working closely with a range of stakeholders including the Normandy Veteran’s Association, the Royal British Legion, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Portsmouth city council and the French authorities in order to ensure that all commemorative events are a success.
Commemorations in the UK
In Britain, it is fitting that Portsmouth, which was one of the key strategic locations along the south coast and from which tens of thousands of allied servicemen left for Normandy, will be the main focus of commemorative activities. Portsmouth city council is organising an impressive line-up of events and activities, with the focus being on the 5 June. I would urge any veterans who are unable for any reason to travel to Normandy to consider joining the commemorations in Portsmouth.
Commemorations in France
In France, there will be three main events on 6 June. These are:
An international ceremony, organised by the French Government, on Sword beach. Heads of State will attend this event. A number of veterans will be invited to attend this event.
A United Kingdom/France service of remembrance at Bayeux cathedral, followed by a special event at Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.
A service organised by the local community and the Normandy Veterans Association at Arromanches.
UK military personnel from all three services will provide logistic and ceremonial support at these events. This work is being co-ordinated and led by the Army’s force troops command. Other events taking place in the Normandy region include ceremonies on 5 June to mark the liberation of Ranville by the British 13 Parachute Battalion—the first village to be liberated on D-Day. Members of 16 Air Assault Brigade will mount a mass parachute drop.
Travel to Normandy for the commemorations
As announced last year, veterans wishing to return to Normandy in June have been able to apply for financial support from the Big Lottery Fund, which has extended its Heroes Return 2 scheme until December 2015. The scheme helps second world war veterans and their spouses, widows and widowers, and accompanying helpers, to undertake commemorative visits.
Access to the commemorations in France
Given the scope of the commemorations, the security required by the presence of many VIPs, and the close nature of much of the countryside, the French authorities have decided to impose an anti-congestion zone in the Normandy area around the D-Day 70 commemorations from 0600 to 1900 on Friday 6 June. Access to this zone will be controlled by means of passes, issued by the French authorities. The Ministry of Defence is working in co-operation with the Royal British Legion, Normandy Veterans Association, regimental associations and others to register details of all veterans and those accompanying them in order that we can ensure that passes are available which will enable our veterans, and those accompanying them, to get to where they need to. This does not include members of the general public wishing to gain access to the area, who will have to apply direct to the French authorities.
Last-minute accreditation and travel
I would ask parliamentarians to do all they can to assist veterans who may come to them between now and June to seek assistance regarding accreditation or travel, firstly by looking at the website below: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/d-day-70 and then by contacting the Ministry of Defence at: PersTrg-DSSec-CECTMailbox@mod.uk or by telephone on: 0207 218 1431/ 0207 218 7917.
While the Royal British Legion, Normandy Veterans Association and the Ministry of Defence will do all they can to ensure that all veterans are able to attend these important commemorations, please also note that receiving funding from the Big Lottery Fund to travel to Normandy does not automatically guarantee accreditation —this must be applied for separately. I would urge applications to be made as soon as possible to avoid any disappointment.