On the morning of 4th
June 1944 (the eve of the D-Day Normandy invasion as it was
planned for the 5th), Christ Church, Portsdown was the venue for
one of the most important services of the 20th Century. The
service was the Knights' Vigil, a service organised by the Vicar
(the Reverend RBS Gillman) and General Sir Miles Dempsey
(Commander of the British Second Army).
Two miles to the west
and one hundred feet underneath Fort Southwick was the Underground
Headquarters; the nerve centre for Operation Overlord (D-Day).
On 4th June 1944 the
Headquarters staff of the Second Army, which was to represent British Arms in
the liberation of Europe, met at Christ Church on the eve of battle "to
dedicate to Almighty God the task which lay before them". The service was
organised by the vicar, the Reverend RBS Gillman, and General Sir Miles Dempsey,
Commander of the British Second Army.
On 6th June 1948 they returned to give
thanks to God and to rededicate themselves to His service by helping to heal the
wounds of war and to strive to create a world in which war should cease. To mark
their consciousness of God's help, without which they could not have prevailed,
they presented two windows to the church to commemorate their Vigil and these
were unveiled by their Commander, the late General Sir Miles Dempsey, G.B.E.,
K.C.B., D.S.O., M.C. It was the wish of Sir Miles that the practice of meeting
each year at Christ Church for thanksgiving and rededication should continue.
Every year, on the Second Sunday of June a special D-Day Service is held.
In dedicating the windows, the Lord
Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr Anderson, prayed that all who worshipped in Christ
Church, remembering the Vigil of the Second Army, its task completed and its
duty done, should likewise dedicate themselves to the service of God.