Police prepare for D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations

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Hampshire police Marine Unit

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police are preparing for D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations.

A spokesperson said: “As the country prepares to pay tribute to the heroes of that most daring and dangerous of war operations, our teams are working hard to ensure a safe and respectful event for all.

“The veterans will be at the heart of the National Commemorative Event on Wednesday and we have been working tirelessly with organisers so that those who sacrificed so much are able to reflect and remember their fallen colleagues.

“Those living and working in the city will have already seen the work underway on Southsea Common by event organisers, the Ministry of Defence, and the broad range of visible security measures in place.

“From patrols on the land, out to sea and in the air with our drone team, we have deployed our specialist teams from across the force to prevent any disruption to the tributes and solemn reflections on the day.”

Residents, local businesses and visitors heading into Portsmouth on Wednesday can expect to see an increased police presence, including search dogs, roads policing officers and the marine unit, all carrying out patrols.

Assistant Chief Constable Robert France said: “This event is about honouring our veterans and ensuring they get the opportunity they deserve to commemorate this historically significant day.

“As a force, it is a real honour to be playing our part to make sure they can do this with dignity and respect.

“They made great sacrifices for us all, so it is only right that they are able to mark this poignant anniversary in the city that many of them set off from all those years ago.

“We have extensive experience policing such nationally significant occasions and we are working hard with the event organisers and local partners, including Portsmouth City Council, to help ensure this is a safe and respectful event for everyone.

“Residents and local businesses will have already seen our different police teams deployed in and around the city, conducting searches and carrying out targeted patrols both on land and out on the water in the lead-up to the event.

“And while there will be plenty you can see, there will of course be those that are less visible.

“This is all part of our policing operation to allow the veterans the time to remember those lost and ensure their legacy is passed down to the next generation so that their sacrifices made during the D-Day landings are never forgotten.”

Those living and working in the area are reminded that the events on the Common on June 5th are for those with tickets only and there will be no other public vantage points for these. However, both will be broadcast live on TV.

For more information about the National Commemorative event please visit D-Day 80 – D-Day 80 (dday80.campaign.gov.uk)

For information about other D-Day 80 events being held in Portsmouth between June 5th – 9th, visit D-Day 80 – Portsmouth (visitportsmouth.co.uk)

Visit https://theddaystory.com/ for more on the D-Day story.

A veteran’s story…

Alec Penstone, pictured below with Hampshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable Robert France, was 15 years old and working in a factory when war broke out in 1939.

“As the Blitz started in London, I volunteered as a part time (Air Raid Precautions) messenger and served all the way throughout the Blitz in 1940- 41 as a messenger.

“The moments at 15 years of age, pulling bodies out of bombed buildings you grow up very quickly.

“My mates are all going up, joining up, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to stay there any longer. I went and joined the Royal Navy, joined as a HO (Hydrographic Officer) and that was the start of it.

“I was offered the job of either radar or S-Techs – submarine detecting and as the submarine detecting paid nine pence more, I naturally went for the higher rate.”

Royal Navy D-Day veteran Alec Penstone with Hampshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable Robert France

Alec, who is now 99 and lives on the Isle of Wight, joined the Royal Navy after he promised his father, he would not serve in the trenches because of the horrors he witnessed in World War one.

He finished his training in December 1943 and was quickly drafted and assigned on board a submarine much to his surprise. Alec served on submarines before being moved to HMS Campania, an escort aircraft carrier, and took part in the Arctic Convoys to Russia.

The ship played a vital role in the D-Day landings as it was used to sweep for mines and search for U Boats. Alec spent his time three decks down on constant action station and on-watch listening out for torpedoes, mines and U Boats.

After a week in the Normandy area, Alec and HMS Campania returned to their duties in the Arctic Convoy and made a total of 10 crossings.

“Between convoys we used to poke into all the Norwegian fjords, did what we called shipping strikes with the swordfish torpedo planes.

“We were off doing that, we had no inkling at all that the war was finishing. It was only when it came on the news, on the radio, and I couldn’t believe it.

After VE Day Alec returned to the UK to his fiancé Gladys. But it wasn’t long before he was drafted to help in the war effort still waging in the Far East.

Alec had met Gladys on Christmas Eve 1943 whilst on unexpected leave from the Arctic Convoys. The couple decided to marry before Alec returned to the sea in the Far East.

After securing a few extra days leave, the couple married on 21 July 1945 and then two days later Alec returned to duty.

“We got married on the Saturday at 2 o’clock, and at 7 o’clock on the Monday morning I said goodbye to her.”

Alec served for a further 14 months after the war ended before he was finally demobbed in September 1946.

Words: Royal British Legion

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