Helen Mirren to host D-Day commemorative event as BBC outlines coverage plan

Dame Helen Mirren will host the D-Day 80 national commemorative event in Portsmouth.

The Ministry of Defence, Royal British Legion, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Normandy Memorial Trust will celebrate the work of UK and other forces at the port city, where the Allies left for the beaches of Normandy during the Second World War.

Dame Helen, who won the best actress Academy Award for The Queen, will present the event, which takes place on the eve of the 80th anniversary.

It is broadcast through the BBC One programme D-Day 80: The Allies Prepare, which is presented by Woman’s Hour host Anita Rani and John-James Chalmers, a veteran and sports presenter.

The event in June will feature “spoken word testimony” by well-known faces and military personnel as well as performances from musical stars and the tri-service orchestra.

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Actress Helen Mirren will host the event in Portsmouth (Doug Peters/PA)

BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore said: “The 80th anniversary of D-Day is an important moment to reflect and pay tribute to those who were involved in 1944.

“We have a wide range of distinctive programming that will bring people together to commemorate across the BBC, including full live coverage of events from both sides of the Channel as well as special documentaries and editions of some of our most popular programmes on television and radio.”

BBC One will also have the programme D-Day 80: Tribute To The Fallen, which will be presented by former Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young at the Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy, France.

Young will be joined by special guests for the 90-minute show as tributes take place in the French location and on Southsea Common in Portsmouth.

The around 4,600 headstones will be individually illuminated across the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bayeux War Cemetery to commemorate the fallen.

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Kirsty Young will anchor the coverage in France (Ian West/PA)

To mark Operation Neptune, D-Day 80: We Will Remember Them will also air on BBC One, providing coverage of the event at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, which is being organised by the Royal British Legion and the Ministry of Defence.

It overlooks Gold Beach, the code name given to one of the places where the Allies landed on June 6 1944.

Broadcasting House host Paddy O’Connell, whose father Guy served during D-Day, will provide commentary, while BBC News presenter Sophie Raworth reports live from the British Normandy Memorial, joined by special guests.

Other BBC programming includes special editions of The One Show, Antiques Roadshow, Bargain Hunt, Countryfile and Newsround.

Actors will lip-synch the recorded accounts from British, American, German and French perspectives in BBC Two’s D-Day: The Unheard Tapes and surviving veterans will speak to the BBC News show D-Day: We Were There.

D-Day 80: The Allies Prepare will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from 10.15am to 1pm on June 5 ahead of D-Day 80: Tribute To The Fallen airing later that evening.

D-Day 80: We Will Remember Them airs on June 6.