Portsmouth will be the focus of the “entire country” on the 80th anniversary of D-Day this June.

Plans for the “maximalist” national commemorative event, similar to the D-Day 75 ceremony in 2019, were discussed in a Portsmouth City Council meeting last Friday.

The meeting heard from Cathy Hakes, the council’s head of museums, who said the event will mark a “turning point of history”. She stressed the importance of “keeping the stories alive” given the advanced age of Second World War veterans.

The D-Day landings took place on June 6, 1944 and were the catalyst in freeing north-west Europe from the Nazis.

Passing stories over to the younger generations will be the “biggest focus” of the event – the council has an ambitious target to get 10,000 students to visit the D-Day Museum between now and 2025.

Portsmouth will also lead a project named D-Day in 80 Objects in partnership with other museums including the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Bletchley Park and museums in Normandy and the United States.

The project involves posting an object on social media, curated by the various museums, daily during the 80-day countdown to D-Day, starting on March 18.

Councillor Steve Pitt, leader of Portsmouth City Council council, acknowledged the event’s national significance but emphasised the value of shedding light on local stories.

When visiting a pop-up exhibition in Cosham library, Cllr Pitt remarked on meeting a woman of 98 years who told him she “was at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing”.

“All our mouths dropped open,” he added.

“It just goes to show how strong the local connections are to this story.”

Councillor John Smith asked the leader about the “talk” of a Spitfire flyover and whether the event would be highlighted on national TV “as much as possible”.

In response, Ms Hakes said information about the Spitfires, which are located in Goodwood, will be announced soon.

Cllr Pitt added: “National TV is fully engaged – yet again Portsmouth is going to be the focus of the entire country on June 5.”

The national commemoration event is being planned by the Ministry of Defence, the Secretary of State stated he wants a “maximalist” approach but so far there are no clues as to what shape this will take.

Toby Paine

Local Democracy Reporter