We are honoured to carry D Day veterans to the beaches of Normandy, says Brittany Ferries

4th June 2024
  • Mont St Michel leaving Portsmouth
  • Mont St Michel at sea

04 June 2024 – 07:00

Brittany Ferries is carrying the largest group of D Day veterans from Portsmouth to Ouistreham (Caen) aboard Mont St Michel today, 4 June. In total 31 veterans and their carers, hosted by the Royal British Legion and Spirit of Normandy Trust, will travel on the cruise ferry. It will leave Portsmouth at 08:00 and arrive in Ouistreham port at 14:00 UK time, a port situated at the eastern extremity of Sword Beach.

Over the course of D Day 80 commemorations, Brittany Ferries will carry 60 veterans. This includes a group of seven from the United States who travelled on Saturday 1 June from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. This is the closest port to Utah and Omaha beaches, where around 2,400 troops lost their lives on 6 June 1944.

Veterans travelling today will be accompanied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and a torch of liberty. The torch is heading to France for a commemoration ceremony where it will be passed from a veteran to a young person, signaling the passing of D Day guardianship from old to young. The torch will go on to form the centrepiece of a vigil at Bayeux War Cemetery on 5 June.

Throughout their voyage, veterans will be given the VVIP treatment they deserve. Upon leaving Portsmouth at 08:00 they will be piped out by music from the Jedburgh Pipe Band. A flotilla of Royal Navy vessels will accompany Mont St Michel out of Portsmouth Harbour to cheers and waves of onlookers on shore, as well as the salutes of sailors on board aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales. Veterans and other travellers will be treated to a performance from the Royal British Legion Band in the main bar.

The ship’s plush à la carte restaurant, Les Romantiques, has been allocated as an exclusive space – and quiet haven for veterans and their carers. It has direct access to the exterior deck.

One hour from arrival in France, veterans and passengers will gather for a wreath laying ceremony, commemorating fallen heroes. Each veteran will then be presented with a commemorative bottle of Normandy gin by Brittany Ferries president Jean-Marc Roué, with compliments and thanks from everyone in the Brittany Ferries family.

“Every year it is our privilege to carry these brave gentlemen, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude that must never be forgotten,” said Nigel Wonnacott spokesman Brittany Ferries. “We are the guardian of seaborne routes to D Day beaches, from Utah to Sword, and we take that responsibility very seriously. As long as there are veterans who wish to travel to pay their respects to fallen comrades, it will be our great honour to carry them.”

As well as transporting veterans and their hosts, Brittany Ferries is carrying media from as far afield as Canada, Poland and Australia. In total around 100 journalists will join the crossing to report on the event.

The afternoon sailing from Portsmouth on board Brittany Ferries Normandie will host another large group of veterans. They are travelling in London cabs as part of the annual Taxi Charity for Military Veterans pilgrimage to the D Day beaches.