Beacons light up across the UK to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day landings

Topic: PeopleHonours and awards Storyline: HMNB Portsmouth

On the evening of 6th June, over one thousand beacons were lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and UK Overseas Territories to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, and to pay tribute to those who contributed to the liberation of north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.

The Principal Beacon lighting took place at His Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth, leading the nation in the initiative with a commemorative ceremony.

Members of the Royal Marines Band Service opened the ceremony with a marching display and musical entertainment for the guests, before the beacon lighting event in Starboard Arena.

Tributes were led by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Burns CB OBE, and Royal Navy Chaplain Ralph Barber. The event began with a prayer and the blessing of the ceremonial torch and beacon from the Chaplain, both of which hold samples of sand collected from the five beaches in Normandy. The beacon was then ignited by 99-year-old D-Day veteran, Vera Brett.


Vera lived in Kent at the outbreak of the war, and applied to support the war effort through the Royal Navy as soon as she was able. After training, she was initially employed on a radar station, protecting Falmouth, as part of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS).

At the time of D-Day, Vera was just 19 years old and was stationed in Portsmouth, at the radar-controlled gunnery based there. Living in WRNS’ quarters in Southsea, she recalls leaving work for the day on 5th June 1944 and seeing the Royal Navy vessels docked in Portsmouth Harbour, but when she woke up the next morning they had all left.

The ceremony concluded with a sunset performance by the Royal Marines Band.

Naval Base Commander of HMNB Portsmouth, Commodore John Voyce OBE ADC said “It’s been a historic event tonight here at Portsmouth Naval Base, the home of the Royal Navy, and an honour to witness the lighting of the principal D-Day 80 Beacon. It is important to hold commemorative events, such as tonight, to remember the courage, service and sacrifice of those who served and supported the 6th of June D-Day landings and ensure their stories live on.”

The lighting of the beacons was accompanied by hundreds of Lamp Lights of Peace, their flames representing the ‘light of peace’ that emerges from the dreadful darkness of war.

This event, and those similar across the country, marked the climax of special commemoration events throughout the week in tribute to the many thousands of men and women that sacrificed their lives fighting for the freedom we all enjoy today.

More information around the Beacon Lighting initiative can be found on the D-Day 80 Beacon website: