They fought for our freedom – and hundreds of thousands of people turned out only a few months ago to remember their sacrifices. But now people are being urged to keep the memory of those who fought on D-Day alive, as the Normandy Veterans Association has disbanded due to declining numbers.
This new year will mark the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. But it will be the first time the events will not be officially marked by the association, which over the course of 32 years has gone from having 14,000 members to just 600.
Normandy veteran Frank Rosier, 89, of Cowplain, was the chairman of the Portsmouth branch of the association. He said: ‘We must never forget those boys who landed on those beaches.
‘I hope people do remember them for as long as they can. ‘It is so important, especially to the people of this area. ‘They fought for something we Brits get a little bit blasé about – it’s called freedom. ‘Portsmouth was the centre of that operation.’
City leaders have pledged that events will continue to be held in the future to mark D-Day anniversaries. Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘We know how special the D-Day events were last summer because there are very few of these guys around.
‘As years go on there will be fewer and fewer of them. I understand why the association might have to be wound up. ‘I don’t know much about their plans of how they will support the remaining veterans and their families but I would hope there still would be a support network out there.
‘I hope we still see them at remembrance services and similar events. ‘It shows how important those events over the summer were to really commemorate and celebrate their amazing achievements. ‘That’s why it’s so important that their stories are recorded and that we continue to have those events in the future.’
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said she was disappointed that the association was having to disband. She said: ‘It’s difficult for us in 2015 to fully understand and fully appreciate exactly what the men did who went out there and the significance of the Normandy Landings.
‘It was immense and I truly believe we have a duty, particularly civic people like myself, to make sure that we don’t lose important organisations and trusts and make sure children grow up learning and appreciating the importance of these individual battles.
‘It’s part of our history and legacy and we have a duty to future generations.’ Cllr Jones is a trustee of Portsmouth’s Second World War Memorial group and said she would look into a way of incorporating the Normandy landings into the group.
She said: ‘It’s certainly an item I would like to raise with my fellow trustees and see if there is any way we can expand our remit and include some of the Normandy veterans’ work carried out and make sure this important victory is not forgotten.
‘The Normandy veterans and the part they played was absolutely essential in the outcome of the war. ‘It’s important in Portsmouth, as the military city it is, that we continue to recognise it.’ On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 men left Britain – many of them from Portsmouth and Gosport – to free Europe from Nazi rule.
Many of them never returned, but the invasion was key to the liberation of Europe. The planning of the invasion was also done in the area – at Southwick – and the city played a vital role in the logistics of the operation.
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘Portsmouth will always hold a special place for Normandy veterans. ‘So many people have been back to Portsmouth since the 40th anniversary. ‘Ever since then they have come back in ever decreasing numbers.
‘Something special ought to be done with the Normandy standard they have proudly raised at various events. I understand why they are disbanding – it’s a consequence of time. ‘But their contribution will never be forgotten.’
- REMEMBER D-Day veteran Frank Rosier, 89, from Cowplain, looks at the statue of a soldier of the Second World War outside the D-Day Museum in Southsea.