The moment the Allied forces landed in Normandy on the 6th June 1944, the liberation of Europe began. From there the troops marched through Europe freeing the countries that had been occupied by the Nazis, which ultimately lead to the end of the Second World War in 1945. As a result, D-Day is often seen as the turning point in the war and the Battle of Normandy (codenamed Operation Overlord) the one that laid the groundwork for the liberation. 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of this historic event, with special commemoration events happening all over Europe. Here is our pick of the top D-Day 75 commemoration events happening in the UK this year.
If you want to find out more about the liberation of Europe, Rough Guides is commemorating the 75th anniversary with a new book, Travel the Liberation Route Europe. The book leads the reader along the routes taken by the Allies in the closing stages of World War II, and suggests remembrance sites that can be visited along the way. Set to be released on 1st July, it can be pre-ordered here.
Imperial War Museums, London and Cambridge
Imperial War Museums will be holding commemorative events at three historic sites in the UK that all had a part to play in D-Day; the Churchill War Rooms in Central London, IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire, and HMS Belfast, anchored near London Bridge. At HMS Belfast, visitors can find out about the role the ship played in leading the Allied fleet to Normandy and explore the shell room that supplied thousands of shells during Operation Overlord. At IWM Duxford there’s the opportunity to get close to the very aircraft that flew from Duxford on 6th June 1944, and at the Churchill War Rooms, visitors can see the campaign tables where Operation Overlord was devised. More information can be found here.
When? 1st-9th June
The Churchill War Rooms in London, where the War Cabinet made its plans © Suparee Chan/Shutterstock
D-Day 75 at Daedalus, Solent Airport, Hampshire
A weekend of fun in what was the busiest Allied airfield in the UK on D-Day 1944. More than 400 missions were flown over Normandy from HMS Daedalus, but it won’t be a sombre event. Visitors can expect music, funfair rides, stalls selling delicious food, and (of course) planes aplenty. There will be air shows and static aircraft to explore. This promises to be a great event for the whole family. More information about D-Day 75 at Daedalus can be found here.
When? 8th-9th June
Portsmouth's historic waterfront, where troops set out for the D-Day Landings © Laurin/Shutterstock
D-Day Story Museum, Portsmouth, Hampshire
The Allied troops set out for the D-Day operation from Portsmouth, so it’s not surprising that the English coastal town will be the focal point of the UK commemorations this year. The commemoration events will kick off on 5th June, with 300 veterans setting sail for Normandy in a ship specially chartered by the Royal British Legion. The following four days will be packed with commemorative events, including musical performances, film screenings, special exhibitions and displays, vintage markets, and even a Red Arrows flypast. More information about the Portsmouth D-Day 75 events can be found here.
When? 5th-9th June
The D-Day Story Museum in Portsmouth © Scott Joynt
Southwick Revival, Hampshire
Southwick House played a key role in Operation Overlord. It was here that the final plans for the missions were developed. In fact the whole village of Southwick was taken over by Allied command, which makes it a special place in which to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The hugely successful Southwick Revival festival has been commemorating D-Day for the past six years, but this year there will be a number of special events marking the milestone anniversary. Events include talks by World War II military historians, a 1940s school lesson in the old schoolhouse, swing dance lessons, walking history tours, and there will be several World War II military vehicles on display.
When? 8th-9th June
Southwick House, where Operation Overlord was finalised © Liberation Route Europe
Chalke Valley History Festival, Wiltshire
Billed as “The largest festival in the world dedicated entirely to history”, this event promises to be an absolute must-visit for history buffs. The Chalke Valley History Trust's festival promises five days of events, talks, interactive experiences and music. The festival is an annual event but this year there's a special focus on the D-Day anniversary. There's a D-Day 75 morning to open the festival, a D-Day dance on the Saturday, and a fully themed ‘D-Day Sunday’. Visitors can visit a reconstructed WWII trench to see what daily life was like for soldiers on the ground, and there will also be interactive activities for children and talks from eminent historians, second world war veterans, and a holocaust survivor.
When? 25th-30th June
Header image: Memorial service in Portsmouth © Portsmouth City Council