Herts historian reflects on D-Day voyage after HMS St Albans leads Royal Navy salute

PUBLISHED: 10:06 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:06 13 June 2019

HMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of Defence

HMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of Defence

©UK Ministry of Defence CROWN COPYRIGHT, 2019

HMS St Albans led a Royal British Legion ship in a salute last week to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day landings at Normandy - with a Herts military historian sharing the experience alongside veterans who served.

HMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of DefenceHMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of Defence

On the evening of Wednesday, June 5, the eve of the anniversary of the landings, HMS St Albans led a ship from Portsmouth carrying more than 250 D-Day veterans.

The ship then embarked to Normandy, mimicking the voyage in 1944, with an escort from HMS St Albans and four smaller Royal Navy vessels. Other ships docked alongside to pay their respects, and members of the public lined up at key vantage points to wave off the veterans as they retraced their journey from 75 years ago.

Military historian Dan Hill - project co-ordinator for Herts at War, which has been commemorating the diverse experiences of the county in the First World War - was aboard the Boudicca with the veterans on their voyage from Portsmouth to Normandy.

He said: "We spent a week visiting various destinations including Portsmouth and Normandy itself, and took part in all the commemorations along the way.

HMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of DefenceHMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of Defence

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"It was fantastic. It really was a unique opportunity. 75 years on, the number of veterans is dwindling by the week and to be there with the largest group of veterans that there probably ever will be now is something that was a real source of pride, and something I was very grateful to be a part of."

On the voyage, Dan met world leaders including outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, French president Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump.

He said: "All three came in and spent some real quality time talking to the veterans and thanking them for their service. No matter what people's political affiliations are I respect the fact that they took time to do that."

HMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of DefenceHMS St Albans led the ship Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Ministry of Defence

Dan also got to meet the veterans - all over 90 years old - and hear their stories. He said: "Myself and the other historians got to spend time chatting to a huge number of veterans to hear their own experiences and reflections on the event as a whole."

Royal British Legion national president Lt Gen James Bashall said: "From the beginning of planning these commemorations it has been the Legion's guiding principle to ensure our Normandy veterans are treated with the honour, dignity and respect they deserve.

"The men and women of our Second World War generation lost loved ones and saw horrors of war we can only imagine today."

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