THE vital role played by the New Forest in the D-Day invasion of Normandy 75 years ago next week will be marked by events across the area.
The Royal British Legion will play a major role as part of international commemorations on the south coast and across the Channel in France.
Ceremonies will remember June 1944 when 876,000 troops in southern England awaited orders to begin Operation Overlord for the D-Day operation that started the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.
There will be the highest levels of security as US President Donald Trump joins the main event along the Solent at Southsea in Portsmouth, marking Hampshire’s pivotal role as the UK base for the invasion.
Activities in the New Forest will be more relaxed with a blend of sombre remembrance, salutes to armed forces and freedom celebrations.
At Lepe Country Park Hampshire County Council is celebrating the spot’s special significance by hosting the Lepe into History Festival tomorrow (Saturday) and on Sunday.
On display will be a rare piece of Pluto (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) fuel pipeline and other exhibits from the Second World War to bring the D-Day anniversary to life, along with film footage, guided walks and a range of activities.
Pluto supplied fuel from storage tanks at locations including Lepe, across the Solent and Channel to the advancing armies in France.
A park-and-ride service will be available from Gang Warily Community Centre in Blackfield between 10am and 5pm, cost £2 per car. Visit www.hants.gov.uk/lepe to plan a visit.
Across both days visitors to Lepe can see fascinating artefacts and take part in interactive activities, guided walks – with advance booking – down to the embarkation beach with children’s heritage trails. The education room will host a D-Day exhibition.
Lepe’s events tomorrow are rounded off at 6pm with a theatre performance.
On Sunday, from 10.30am to noon, there will be a parade along the Lepe road to the clifftop for a short remembrance service beside the anchor memorial.
At Bolderwood, near Lyndhurst, the annual service will be held at 3pm on Sunday at the Canadian Memorial, Mogshade Hill, to commemorate the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division which held its last service there before embarking on the D-Day landings.
Lyndhurst was an important base for military training during both world wars because of its position near the ports.
On Tuesday night the community centre will be a stopping-off point for the Veterans Charity 75-mile run via Portsmouth to the iconic Pegasus Bridge in Normandy as part of its fundraising for a Lifeline for Veterans Facing Hardship.
The run starts from Tarrant Rushton airfield in Dorset, from where Halifax bombers flew secret missions deep into occupied Europe.
The first runners are expected in Lyndhurst around 11.30pm for community centre volunteers to provide refreshments. They will continue to Portsmouth for the ferry to Caen to complete their run.
At Christchurch the commemoration programme runs from Monday to Saturday next week, with a D-Day exhibition at Christchurch Library, High Street, and a D-Day model exhibition at Druitt Hall also in High Street open 10am-6pm on Tuesday and Wednesday and 10am-noon Thursday.
Events on Thursday start with a drumhead service at 7.45am at Christchurch Priory where standards of the Allied nations in the landings will be displayed in the nave.
Timed to coincide with the time of the D-Day landing of the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Regiments deployed in the invasion of Normandy, the service will be led by the Rev. Canon Charles Stewart with members of the Christchurch Royal British Legion Band, Royal Navy Association, Royal Air Force Association, local churches and community organisations joining in.
From Thursday to Saturday a Keep Smiling Through live show/concert will be staged by the Glad Rag Production Company at 2pm and 7pm daily at the Regent Centre in High Street, with the iconic film The Longest Day screened there on Sunday 9th June at 2pm.
Burton will host its Armed Forces and Veterans Day on Sunday 9th June, 1pm-6pm, on Burton village green, Christchurch, with the aim of bringing together the armed forces, veterans and the surrounding communities.
There will be a parade, drumhead service, Christchurch and District Band, Ringwood Pipe Band, Miss Annie, Andy Whittaker with his popular George Formby singalong, and dancing from Jitterbug Jive.