Sailors preparing for D-Day commemorations

Tomorrow the men and women of five British warships will sail to France where they will play a pivotal role in the D-Day commemorations.

The Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Bulwark will lead Her Majesty’s Ships Richmond, Ledbury, Ranger and Express, as well as an international flotilla across the Channel to the Normandy Beaches where the 70th anniversary events will be held.

Onboard will be several hundred men and women – the faces of the modern Royal Navy – each of them keen to play their role on the day and stand shoulder to shoulder with their war time predecessors.

I want to attend D-Day to personally remember those who served before us to show that we are still committed to remembering those who fell and to represent my country at such an historic event.

Engineer technician Callum Edwards

Steward Steven Chatton, 29, said: “D-Day was a significant event; it changed the canvas of Europe and ultimately led to the end of the war. 

"I want to be there and see where it all happened and meet those who played such an important role.”

While his shipmate, Chef Nathan Vine, from Plymouth, added: “I want to take the opportunity to be there and see and understand the history. 

"It will be a real eye opener to understand what the veterans did and perhaps my final chance to meet with them.”

The D-Day landings on June 6 1944 involved a combined force of British, Canadian, American and French forces, which involved hundreds of units from the Royal Navy.

Around 132,000 Royal Marines and Allied soldiers were transported by ships and injected onto the beaches off Normandy by landing craft and sea boat with 23, 400 arriving by air.

It was the largest seaborne invasion ever launched and heralded the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Engineer technician Callum Edwards, from Fareham, in Hampshire, said it was important to remember: “I want to attend D-Day to personally remember those who served before us to show that we are still committed to remembering those who fell and to represent my country at such an historic event.”

While Leading Steward Jaqueline Bain, from York, said it was all about the veterans: “It will be an honour to meet the veterans, hear their personal accounts of the events that changed the course of history.”

With so many events taking place in France some sailors will be re-enacting some of the role carried out on D-Day, including 22-year-old Able Seaman Thomas Smith. He said: “I’m going to be following in the footsteps of the veterans and taking part in a 12 mile yomp to recreate what many of them had to do just moments after landing in Normandy.

“I will never understand the emotions they felt, or see what they saw, but taking part in this small way will allow me a chance to pay my respect.”

A breakdown of D-Day events across UK and France is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/d-day-70-events/d-day-70-events-across-the-uk-and-france