Naval memorial renovated to make it ‘sparkling’ for D-Day anniversary

A naval memorial which commemorates 24,500 men and women who died during the two world wars is being renovated ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is carrying out the work at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common, Hampshire, which will be at the centre of national commemoration events in June.

Among those remembered on the memorial are 21-year-old Frank Sturmey from Retford, Nottinghamshire, who served with Number 48 Royal Marine Commando and died during fighting at Juno Beach on D-Day.

D-Day 75th anniversary
Among those remembered on the memorial are 21-year-old Frank Sturmey from Retford, Nottinghamshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A CWGC spokesman said: “Tragically, it is believed that Frank was killed very early in the assault, possibly before ever reaching the beach.

“He is commemorated on panel 87 of the CWGC Portsmouth Naval Memorial. He is one of more than 40 men of 48 Commando to die on D-Day.”

Max Dutton, assistant historian at CWGC, said: “This memorial commemorates 25,000 servicemen who died during the First and Second World Wars.

“They have no known grave, the only place you can come and see their names is here on panels like these.

Workers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission apply a bronzing solution to the names on one of the panels
Workers from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission apply a bronzing solution to the names on one of the panels (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We are re-bronzing these panels to ensure the memorial looks its very best for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“There are thousands of stories of individuals, there is the story of Frank Sturmey, he was a Royal Marines Commando, he hit Juno beach with the Canadians.

“He was sadly killed probably before he even made it on to the sand and his body was washed out to sea and never found.

“He is commemorated here, he was 21 years old.”

He added: “We need to remember these men because of what they did for us.

“Frank, for example, was willing to give his life for the liberation of Europe, to defeat Nazi Germany and the evil occupation they had over Europe.

“Men like him and many others died so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.”

Royal Navy Writer (Submariner) Jamie Martin examines the names on the memorial
Royal Navy Writer (Submariner) Jamie Martin examines the names on the memorial (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Work to restore the Grade I listed structure involves steam-cleaning each of the 95 panels before applying a bronze solution, cleaning the letters and buffing, which takes two days per panel.

More than 2km of repointing and horticultural works are also being carried out to the structure, taking a total of two months.

Mike Witham, CGWC stonemason chargehand, said the work needed to be done approximately every 10 years and added: “This is one of the closest memorials to the sea so it gets hammered by the sea and the salt and it gets sandblasted, but when the work is done it will look sparkling for the 75th anniversary.”

Commander Mike Dreelan, executive officer of Portsmouth Naval Base, said: “I recognise it commemorates nearly 25,000 naval service personnel who have no known grave, it’s a stark reminder to all of us in the service of the ultimate sacrifice our servicemen and women may be called upon to make for their country.”

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