In  June 2004 Portsmouth hosted the 60th Anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landings of 1944, and on the 3rd of June the following event took place.

Music, if you have a care? -beat_the_retreat.wav

It was a beautiful day [no rain, plenty of sun and just a pleasant breeze] and the celebrations took place on  Southsea front, using the D-Day Museum and the associated areas, the full length of the promenade from South Parade Pier to Clarence Pier - all car parking was on Southsea Common, and Castle Green for the event proper. 

The celebrations which lasted from 1500 to approximately 1700 and involved a Canadian Police Pipes and Drums Band, the band of the Royal Marines Portsmouth, a full Royal Naval Guard of Honour with The Queens Colour being paraded, followed by a march past of the veterans from the Services which were involved with the landings.

The salute was taken by HRH The Prince of Wales dressed in his naval uniform as a Vice Admiral.  He was accompanied by HRH The Duke of Gloucester dressed in the uniform of an Air Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Both royals arrived separately in a small motorcade of modest vehicles none of them wearing flags or having marks of distinction. On mounting the dais, HRH The Prince of Wales's standard was broken on the castle flag pole.

There were many guests, but the main guests [apart from representative from the British Armed Forces] were sailors from visiting Canadian, American and French warships who were seated in large numbers immediately behind the saluting dais.

On completion of the march past [which included many veterans being pushed past in wheel chairs by a whole army of volunteers] we were entertained by the usual splendid marching/music display of the Royal Marines.  This was followed by a Beat Retreat and then the moving Sunset ceremony. The White Ensign flew proudly in the breeze, and during the Sunset ceremony, it was lowered with great dignity, folded, carried in ceremony and placed on a receiving-desk by three veterans each bedecked with several medals.

I was very proud of the Navy and the Royal Marines who were immaculately turned out, and their marching was simple excellent but difficult to achieve over an uneven grass surface. The drill of the Guard of Honour was honestly without fault.  The crowd, not large by any means, showed their appreciation from beginning to end, and HRH The Prince of Wales thanked the crowd on behalf of all those on parade, by waving and smiling to the gathered audience.

Here are a few photographs of the event. The music you hear is the recording I took on my digital camera [movie too long for this medium] so it is 'hot off the press' as they say!

Click to enlarge Pipe and drum band. Click to enlarge the Guard of Honour marching on.  Click to enlarge the Guard of Honour approach the saluting dais.  Click to enlarge HRH The Prince of Wales returns to the saluting dais after having inspected the RM band. Note the parachute wings high on the right sleeve by the shoulder: he wears his aviators wings on his left sleeve above the curl of his top stripe. Click to enlarge the Standards being paraded. Click to enlarge what's this? Two GI's for just 10 Chelsea Pensioners, and bullying tactics too! Come on, frame yourself man - push down on that thumb and get in step ....eft eft eft right eft.  Click to enlarge Chelsea Pensioners eyes right.  Click to enlarge Guard of Honour about to march off.  Click to enlarge RM band coming towards us. Click to enlarge close up of the RM band. Click to enlarge sunset.   Click to enlarge wheel chair veterans pass the saluting dais.  Click to enlarge HRH The Prince of Wales inspect the RM Band.  Click to enlarge HRH The Prince of Wales with the Guard of Honour Commander. The Guard came from HMS Collingwood Click to enlarge HRH The Prince of Wales with HRH The Duke of Gloucester on the saluting dais. To the right can be seen RN, USN and French sailors.  Click to enlarge RM Band with White Ensign.  Click to enlarge badges of local organisations painted on the grass bank using coloured marking paint. In picture is the shield of St John's College [a Portsmouth school], a soldier carrying a rifle under which it says D-Day Anniversary, but there was one other by the Co-op congratulating the veterans.