Plaques to local men killed during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy have started to appear in Portsmouth streets as tributes, 75 years on.
The first of the Portsmouth City Council plaques went up in Jervis Road, Stamshaw today, outside the former home of Private Robert Johns, who died in France in July 1944, aged 16. He is believed to have been the youngest British soldier killed in the Second World War.
The council has made 119 plaques, each honouring a man from the city who fell between D-Day and the end of the Battle of Normandy. They will be put up around the city over the next week, as near to the men’s former homes as possible.
They can also be seen by going to www.portsmouth.gov.uk, clicking on ‘D-Day 75’ and following the links.
Members of Private Johns’s family, including two nieces and two nephews, were present as his plaque was put up by the council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Steve Pitt.
He said: “The immediate picture we have of the invasion is thousands of men landing on beaches. But these plaques on break down what happened into individual human stories, which is very important. So many people in Portsmouth had relatives involved in D-Day and the fighting that followed. The plaques show the level of commitment and sacrifice shown by the city.”
The 119 men were killed at a rate of more than one a day during the length of the campaign – a similar rate to battles like the Somme and Passchendaele during the First World War.
Portsmouth – from where much of the landing force sailed in 1944 – will be the focal point of the UK commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and will host the national event on 5 June. The council is also holding a series of events to reflect the area’s unique role in the operation that changed the course of the war.