Queen and Donald Trump among those marking 75 years since Normandy landings.
D-day veterans and world leaders have taken part in an emotional ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, with a vast security operation safeguarding dignitaries including the Queen, Donald Trump and Theresa May.
Miles of fencing, roadblocks and checkpoints were in place and residents of nearby flats were told not to aim long-lens cameras at the national commemoration event on Southsea Common, or fly drones over the common.
Protests against the US president took place a mile away in the city center, but the focus on the common was on the stories of the operation three-quarters of a century ago and those who fought and fell, rather than the Trump circus.
The warmest applause was reserved for the veterans when they took to the stage. John Jenkins, 99, from Portsmouth, was a platoon sergeant with the Royal Pioneer Corps when he landed on D-Day.
He said: “I was terrified; I think everyone was. You don’t show it, but it was there. I look back on it as a big part of my life. It changed me in a way. I was a small part in a big machine. You never forget your comrades, because we were all in it together. We must never forget.”
Video recordings were played of other men who were at D-day. Bob Roberts, a Canadian veteran, recalled: “They said: ‘We are going to give you live ammunition and this is the real thing.’ That was the first we knew we were in action. I thought ‘My God, I was never brought up to be killing people’. There were so many cases where I could have lost my life. Thinking back now, I don’t know how I survived.”
Trump read a prayer written by the then US president, Franklin D Roosevelt, and originally delivered on the evening of D-day – 6 June 1944.
The Queen said the fate of the world had depended on the success of the operation. “The heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten,” she said. “It is with humility and pleasure on behalf of the entire country, indeed the whole free world, that I say to you all – thank you.”
May read a letter from Capt Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps, written to his wife, Gladys, on 3 June 1944. The letter was still in his pocket when he landed on Sword Beach on 6 June. Skinner was killed the day after, leaving his wife and two young daughters.
The letter read: “Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, read the final letter of Henri Fertet, a resistance fighter executed aged 16. “The soldiers are coming to get me. I must hurry. My handwriting may look wobbly, but it is just because I am using a small pencil. I am not afraid of death, my conscience is completely clear … A thousand kisses. Long live France,” he wrote.
There had been some complaints from locals that they felt excluded because of the huge security effort.
But there was a festival atmosphere in the public viewing area on Southsea Common, where visitors could watch the official ceremony on giant screens.
People brought deckchairs and picnics, and grabbed spots in front of the screens. There were burger stands and beer tents, and merchandise stalls selling everything from souvenir mugs to fridge magnets and tea towels.
In the center of Portsmouth, scuffles broke out after groups of football casuals marched through a protest against Trump.
A few dozen men marching behind a banner with the Portsmouth FC crest at the center of a union flag chanted “Scum, scum, scum” as they arrived midway through speeches by trade unionists and others who had organised a gathering of a few hundred people in Guildhall Square.
Police stepped in as the men scattered and tried to square up to those in the protest, who broke into chants of “Nazi scum, off our streets”.
Amid some pushing and shoving, one man with a US flag wrapped around his waist grabbed one of the protest placards and snapped it.
Ahead of the event, the 16 nations involved in the commemorations agreed a proclamation to mark the anniversary. The statement, coordinated by the UK, recognises the sacrifice of those who took part in the second world war and salutes the surviving D-day veterans.
In the proclamation, the countries undertake to work together to find common ground and recommit to the shared values of democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.
The text was agreed by Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US.
After a reception with veterans, the world leaders who attended the ceremony met to discuss Nato and security.
Later, from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, May was to wave off the hundreds of veterans who are to retrace the journey they made across the Channel, this time onboard a cruise ship, the MV Boudicca.