D-Day, 6th June 1944
“OK let’s go!……..With these words, the greatest invasion force that the World has ever seen prepared to hurl itself across the English Channel at Hitler’s much vaunted ‘Fortress Europe’.
Nestling beneath the northern slopes of Portsdown Hill, the escarpment that stands sentinel over the Naval base of Portsmouth, the village of Southwick with its thatched roofs and half-timbered cottages remains largely unchanged from that day in June 1944 when this little Hampshire settlement became, quite literally, the centre of OPERATION OVERLORD.
It was at Southwick House, the elegant Georgian mansion and ancestral home of the Thistlethwayte family, that General Dwight D Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, made his historic and momentous decision committing three million men and 2,727 ships to the operation which turned the tide of World War II. In the spring of 1944 the house became the forward headquarters for the Normandy invasion. The large, specially produced, wall map on which the progress of the Operation was plotted still remains; the room in which it stands is now part of the Officers Mess of Southwick Park.
Many WRENS were employed in the Map Room updating the map with the positions of ships of all descriptions as the night and days of Operation Overlord unfolded. They worked round the clock using information received from the Underground Headquarters of UGHQ, the communications “nerve centre” 100 ft (30 m) underneath Fort Southwick, well out of reach of any bombs of the era. The call sign of this base was ‘MIN’. We wonder if anyone recognises any of the WRENS in these photos from June 1944? Email [email protected] if you do!
In the village itself the lounge bar of the Golden Lion public house became the unofficial Officers’ Mess, where members of the planning staff, General Eisenhower, General Montgomery and other senior Allied Commanders, could relax over a beer from the adjoining Brewhouse.
Over the weekend of 10th and 11th June 2023, visitors can breathe in the atmosphere of those historic days at the nerve centre of Operation Overlord with an all inclusive package which includes:
- Free car parking in event car park
- Period Shuttle Bus to Southwick House
- Entry to Southwick House and the famous D-Day Wall Map, preserved in its original position and set for H-Hour, D-Day
- Special 45 minute presentation in the Map Room by museum staff will give you an insight into the enormous scale and detail of the planning of Operation Overlord
- Entry to the Royal Military Police Museum, next to Southwick House. The Museum Shop stocks a number of D-Day related books
- Return Shuttle Bus
- Entry to the special exhibition of wartime village life staged in the Church, the Peculiar of St James Without the Priory Gate
These visits are the centrepiece of the Southwick Revival event and sell out as soon as tickets are released. To avoid disappointment when the Revival returns, subscribe to our newsletter by filling in the form at the bottom of the page.
Wherever the RMP training is undertaken, the Museum remains an integral part – first at Woking, then from 1954-2006 at Chichester, and today at Southwick. By learning from the experiences of the Military Police since 1812, both new RMP trainees and members of the public can gain an insight into their vital work.
The Military Police have served in every conflict since the Napoleonic Wars, and exhibits reflect the broad range of roles they undertake from route signing in the trenches, though the battlefields of El Alamein and Arnhem through to mentoring the Afghan Police and Army.
The Museum is open Monday to Friday 9.30 – 4.30
Visits are by appointment only
Tel 023 9228 4372
With thanks to our 2023 event partner:
With thanks also to our event sponsors:
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