“Ok, let’s go!” with those words, and paraphrasing that great man Dwight D Eisenhower, Tony, Annie, Dee and I climbed into Trucky (our Honda CRV) and headed for Southwick village and their D-Day Event.
This event commemorates June 6th 1944 when Operation Overlord – the biggest seaborne invasion ever staged – took place and in particular the contribution made by the village.
For Tony and I it was our second visit to the event and because of its wide appeal and carnival atmosphere we decided to take the girls. We 4 all enjoyed the event very much – Tony and I as much as last year – and the day flew past to the extent that we could have done with more time. For us particular highlights were:
- The visit to Southwick House (ticket only tour, must be booked in advance)
- The morning lecture by Colonel Paul Beaver on Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, quite possibly the most successful aviator of all times.
- A pint in the Golden Lion, unofficial officers mess during World War 2 frequented by Eisenhower and Montgomery.
- A ride on the HMS Sultan Steam lorry
The pictures that follow describe the day rather better than my words.
The captions are informal which you should interpret to mean that they have been produced from my own knowledge and that I haven’t, for example, gone to the trouble of researching in detail specifically which unit a re-enactor might represent or exactly which model a classic car may be. Enjoy the pictures and I’m happy to hear from anyone who may have a more precise description of a photo.
Southwick House was the Allied Naval Headquarters in the weeks leading up to D-Day. It was here that General Eisenhower took the momentous decision to begin the operation and where the, now famous, naval map of the landings was and still is located.
Because Southwick House is still within a military establishment visits are by appointment only. Our visit lasted a little over 75 minutes and included a talk on Operation Overlord by the curator of the nearby Royal Military Police Museum.
This page would not be complete without a look at Normandy and indeed what remains of Operation Overlord, and what a lot does remain. Almost everywhere one looks there is a memorial or museum to that day. Back in 2006 and 2007 Tony, Brian and I visited Normandy very much on the ‘D-Day trail’ and took many, many pictures – below are just a very few of those snaps.
The captions are by design brief, to learn more just put the caption into any web search engine for a wealth of information.
Talking of ‘learning more’ here a just a few references that I found to be of use when reading up on D-Day
- The longest Day – the original black and white movie with almost 50 international stars and Eisenhower playing himself. One point to note avoid the ‘colour’ version, it just doesn’t work and looks terrible.
- Ike Countdown to D-Day – Tom Selleck plays Eisenhower. For me this film, perhaps above all others, captures the essence of the time and place.
- Saving Private Ryan – a modern classic and perhaps best remembered for its opening sequences of the beach landing.
- Band of Brothers – the first 3 episodes are an excellent portrayal of the US parachute assault.
- D-Day Beaches by Delta productions – a fairly recent look at the D-day beaches and what remains.
- Battle Zone Normandy – for me this series of books is without doubt the best guide to the invasion and subsequent battles. There are 14 books in the full set each one dealing with a particular location and aspect of the battle. The format includes informative history, archive photographs, contemporary photographs, maps and battlefield tours to guide the contemporary visitors.
- Normandy 1944 – Campaign Series 1 – for an overview that can be read in 2-3 hours I recommend this publication, in fact I’d suggest reading it before ‘dipping’ in to the Battle Zone Normandy series.
- D-Day Fortifications in Normandy – Osprey Publishing – much has been written about the German Atlantic Wall fortifications, but for most of us the information contained in this handy publication will be sufficient.
- Gold, Juno, Sword – Georges Bernage (Heimdal ISBN 2-84048-168-5) – this truly excellent book provides a wealth of information on the British and Canadian assault. It’s primarily a photo essay backed up by fine detailed maps and drawings of the German defences. Extended captions and text is provided in both French and English.
- Utah Beach , Sainte-Mere_Eglise and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont – Georges Bernage 7 Dominique Francois (Heimdal ISBN 2-84048-193-6) – this is in the same format as Gold, Juno Sword and is equally impressive.
- Institut Geographique 1 :25 000 Maps – for anyone doing more than just following the brown French tourist route signs these maps are invaluable. Before embarking on our Normandy trips we marked these maps up with the beaches, drop zones and other important features such as German defence Zones. The following maps cover the Normandy invasion area, 1210 OT, 1310 OT, 1311 OT, 1312E 1412 OT, 1512 OT, 1612OT and 1623 OT.
- Institut Geographique 1 : 100 – Normandie Jour J 6 juin 1944 Map – as the title suggests this is a tourist map but nonetheless useful. It includes dispositions of the German and Allied forces.
The above are just a very, very few of the publications on Normandy and are the ones that have found favour on my library shelves. In selecting these for comment I mean no disrespect to all of the other -many undoubtedly very worthy – publications that are available.
The UK D-Day Museum
NOTE: the report below was from a trip to the museum made several years ago. Since then the museum has had a complete makeover with improved interpretation and new displays. An updated photo essay on the museum will appear later in the year.
Anyone wanting to learn more about the D-Day invasion can do no better than to visit the D-Day Museum & Overlord Embroidery in Southsea. Indeed it makes a perfect starting point for any trip to Normandy as it provides an excellent description of the operation and is conveniently located close to the ferry port that can take you straight to Ouistreham and Sword Beach.
The recommended route around the museum starts with a viewing of the Overlord Embroidery, a magnificent work telling the story of D-Day in an audio visual way. The rest of museum comprises a well balanced mix of original artifacts, models and set pieces using manikins all supported by authoritative narrative. For the young – and the not so young – there are interactive displays and one can even take the helm of a landing craft.
The 2017 Southwick Village D-Day Event was as at least as good as the 2016 event and provided an excellent value day out for all, ranging from families with children to professional, enthusiast anoraks. My thanks go to all involved for arranging the event whether they be the organisers, volunteers or re-enactors.
Based on the attendance it was certainly a great success and I hope very much that it is repeated in 2018.
I dedicate this page to all the allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who traveled to Normandy on the 6th June 1944 and the subsequent days to win for us the freedom that we still enjoy today. I also remember all of those young men who gave their all and were unable to return. Let’s remember that they did not have to go for in our democracy of that time a refusal would not have resulted in a firing squad but most likely war work in the factories or farms…. but they went anyway and did what was asked of them.
In particular I dedicate this page to my own D-Day Hero, Uncle Roy (Able Seaman, RN) who was there serving in HMS Cam escorting and protecting the invasion forces as they crossed the Channel.