As a lover of history and the daughter, grandaughter, great-grandaughter of a British Royal Naval family raised in the heart of Naval City, Portsmouth, Hampshire, my heart connects with the commemoration of D-Day.
Proudly participating (as a local PR Company in Portsmouth) with the 50th commemoration prior to leaving my home-town area and moving to Canada, I reflect one particular artifact that has brought me joy during my early years in Canada.
Within my personal archives, I have two supplements produced by “The News.” The first outlining the D-Day and Overlord operation, the second a commemorative supplement detailing the events that took place Portsmouth/Southsea in 1994.
When ‘Poppy Day” came around (Remembrance Day – 11 November) I discovered a wonderful connection with the Canadian Servicemen selling poppies at the grocery store, Zerhs, and A & P.
The map featured in supplement laid out where the various battalions were camped-out in readiness for 6 June 1944 – D-Day.
Before leaving I was living in the village of Horndean just north of Portsmouth – this is where 1st Battalion Queens Own Rifles of Canada and 1st Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment were posted. In nearby villages of Emsworth and Wickham were Le Regiment De La Chaudiere and 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment and at the top end of Portsmouth’s island at Hilsea, the Highland Light Infantry of Canada. Just around the harbour at Lee-on-Solent (an area close to where my father was stationed in the Fleet Airarm unit at HMS Daedalus) was another group of Canadians, the 6th Armoured Regiment.
I hadn’t realized the significance of this wonderful map, which included British, American troops…. until I chatted with an elderly gent in Zerhs, Orangeville, Ontario, selling his poppies. He knew of the various villages very familiar to me – Clanfield, Cowplain and Horndean. We chatted a little…. about the region, and what it was like at that time.
Over the years, via Portsmouth ferries, I’ve taken trips to Normandy, to the beaches, cemeteries and Pegasus Bridge.
Sometimes it is particularly heart-warming to have an exchange with someone who knows where you were, and what you are referring to….. and can connect with your past memories.
Every year since, each November, I’ve made a point to drop by and chat to whoever is on duty selling poppies. Of course as time goes along the service men and women are of a different generation, and don’t have first-hand experience of this event.
We will remember…. Operation Overlord, and all the service men and women who contributed to keeping us free!