City children will sing as part of D-Day 80 event

    Children and Young People
    30 May 2024

    TEN-YEAR-OLD Luca Shaw will play the part of a schoolchild from the 1940s as part of a national event to mark 80 years since D-Day.

    The chorister from Portsmouth Cathedral will be part of the national commemorative event on Southsea Common on Wednesday 5th June to mark the 80th anniversary. He’ll dress in 1940s clothes to read a personal testimony from 12-year-old Trevor Butler, describing what it was like in Portsmouth in the build-up to D-Day in June 1944.

    He’ll also sing alongside schoolchildren from across Portsmouth during the event, in front of thousands of members of the public, D-Day veterans, Armed Forces personnel, and VIP guests – including HM the King, HM the Queen, HRH the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

    The specially-formed D-Day 80 Children’s Choir includes pupils from St John’s RC Primary, Langstone Junior, St George’s C of E Primary, St Jude’s C of E Primary, Mayville, Portsmouth High and Portsmouth Grammar Schools, and will be conducted by our cathedral’s Master of Choristers David Price.

    The 30 children will sing the Beach Boys’ song God Only Knows, as a tribute to the D-Day veterans, accompanied by musicians from the Royal Marines. This is the UK’s biggest event to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day and comes the day before commemorations in Normandy on the anniversary date itself.

    Luca, who has been a chorister at Portsmouth Cathedral for the past year, and is also a pupil at Portsmouth Grammar School, said: “It was definitely an experience that was different from their ordinary lives, to be caught up in preparations for D-Day. It must have been weird to open your curtains and see tanks and military vehicles and soldiers in the streets. They must have wondered what was happening.

    “I’m really excited about doing this reading, but quite nervous, because I want to represent Trevor – who originally wrote it – really well. I had to audition for it, and I only heard a week ago that I’d be doing it. I’m also looking forward to singing. We’ll be telling the D-Day veterans that ‘God only knows’ how things would have been if they hadn’t done what they did.”

    D-Day veterans will be at the heart of the event, which will also feature military musicians, a Royal Air Force flypast and moving tributes from special guests. The event will be hosted by Dame Helen Mirren, presented by Anita Rani and JJ Chalmers. It will be broadcast live on BBC One and can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer here.

    Veterans who choose to travel to Normandy for the commemorations will be given a spectacular send-off by the Armed Forces as they cross the Channel. The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will perform a flypast overhead, while Royal Navy ships in Portsmouth Harbour will sail past in formation, sounding their sirens.

    And that evening of Wednesday 5th June, there’s a community vigil in Southsea to honour Allied soldiers who fought and died during D-Day operations, which will include live music performances and a broadcast from Bayeux War Cemetery in France.

    The events in Normandy on Thursday 6th June will centre on the British Normandy Memorial, which lists the names of the 22,442 people who died under British command on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy.

    D-Day 80

    Ahead of that, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir will premiere a brand new piece of music as part of BBC Radio 4’s Sunday worship programme. This new work by George Richford will be broadcast during the programme at 8:10am on Sunday 2nd June.

    The work takes its text from the poems broadcast across France by the BBC which were coded to signal the French Resistance into action ahead of D-Day itself in 1944. It will include a reading by Bella Stuart-Smith, the granddaughter of Field Marshal Montgomery, who was in command of all Allied ground forces during the Battle of Normandy (Operation Overlord), from D-Day in June until September 1944.

    The service will include a sermon by the Dean, the Very Rev Anthony Cane, and an Act of Remembrance and blessing by the Ven Andrew Hillier, Chaplain to the Fleet. You can listen to it here.

    There will also be the annual Act of Remembrance at the D-Day Memorial Stone in Southsea at 11am on Thursday 6th June, the 80th anniversary of D-Day itself. It will include a parade of veterans from Canoe Lake and music from our cathedral choir. You can read more details here.

    Latest News

    More news