The Royal British Legion invites Normandy veterans to sail in style to D-Day 75 anniversary events

The Royal British Legion has announced plans to take 300 Normandy veterans to France on a specially chartered ship for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The voyage will take veterans who helped liberate France during the Second World War, plus a relative or carer, to a series of commemorative events on both sides of the Channel at no cost to them. The journey is being funded by the Royal British Legion’s LIBOR grant, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence and Arena Travel.

The vessel will depart from Dover on 2 June, taking in the UK commemorative events in Portsmouth and Poole before crossing the English Channel and arriving in Normandy, on 6th June, exactly 75 years after the D-Day Landings.

The Legion, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, is leading the UK’s commemorations in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  The full programme will be announced in the New Year and will involve a series of events in the UK and Normandy including at Bayeux Cathedral and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Bayeux.  Portsmouth, where much of the landing force sailed from in 1944, will be the focal point of the Ministry of Defence led UK commemorations, along with a service of Remembrance to be held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Bob Gamble, The Royal British Legion’s Assistant Director for Commemorative Events said: “Seventy five years ago, the largest seaborne invasion force in history set sail for France on a mission to liberate Europe. Alongside their American cousins, nearly 160,000 men from Britain and the Commonwealth landed on the beaches of Normandy. Today we stand in awe of their achievement and salute their bravery and sacrifice. We invite any of them who wish to attend the events to commemorate their achievements to get in touch with the Legion and join our journey back to Normandy.”

95-year-old tank radio operator on D-Day Alan King from Suffolk said: “I’m looking forward to marking the anniversary with the prospect of travelling on the Legion’s chartered ship. It’s provides me with the opportunity to meet other veterans and also ensure I can visit the grave, as I do every year, of my tank commander who was killed in action. I place my beret on his grave and salute him.”

Veterans interested in travelling on the ship can download an application form, which needs to be completed and returned by Monday 4 February. Each veteran will be entitled to travel with one guest or carer. Should more applications from eligible veterans be received than available spaces, a ballot will take place. This will ensure that the process of selection is fair and that all veterans have a chance to travel on the ship.

Peter Deer, Commercial Director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We feel honoured to be part of the Royal British Legion’s commemorations, marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy, in what is set to be a very poignant and moving voyage for these veterans and their loved ones. The voyage will follow the same path as the ships involved on this momentous day, and we hope that Boudicca will provide a comfortable setting in which to retrace those important steps which brought peace and reconciliation to mark the Second World War.”