CROWDS gathered on a Hampshire beach to honour the memory of men who fought and died in the D-Day landings.

Lepe was one of the embarkation points used by thousands of troops who took part in the invasion, which signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

Groups marked the 70th anniversary of the event with wartime songs, re-enactments and guided walks to some of the surviving D-Day structures.

During the build-up to the Normandy landings Lepe came under the control of HMS Mastodon, a naval shore base situated at Exbury House.

The planned invasion was so secret that people living in the area were required to obtain passes allowing them to come and go.

Even the local milkman had to sign the Official Secrets Act before he could deliver a daily pint to the military canteen.

The commemorative event took place at Lepe Country Park on land that was occupied by 21 Army huts in the weeks leading up to D-Day.

A Hampshire County Council spokesman said the area was a hive of activity during the final countdown to the invasion on June 6, 1944.

“Tanks and other heavy vehicles were loaded directly from the beach after concrete mats had been placed on the foreshore to stop them sinking into the shingle,” he said.

Lepe was also one of the places where sections of the famous Mulberry Harbour were built.

The need to keep the invasion force fully supplied meant something the size of Dover Harbour had to be built and floated across the English Channel. The massive structure was capable of handling 2,500 vehicles a day, plus 12,000 tons of stores.

Lepe was also the British end of PLUTO, an underwater pipeline that supplied the advancing army with more than 170 million gallons of fuel.