Allied soldier in his tent, D-Day Museum, Portsmouth

D-DAY MUSEUM PORTSMOUTH

D-Day Museum Portsmouth

Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, PO5 3NT
Telephone: 02392 827261

The D-Day Museum at Portsmouth tells the story of the events which happened in Normandy in June 1944, the D-Day Landings which were a turning point in the battle for Europe during the Second World War.

The museum itself consists of three distinct sections, as it's centrepiece The Overlord Tapestry, the extremely comprehensive D-Day Collection and the Portsmouth Memories section.

D-DAY 6th JUNE 1944

On the 6th June 1944 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces stormed ashore onto the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy in northern France. The operation, codenamed Operation Overlord, had as it's objective the creation of beach heads on the coast of Normandy which would enable the start of the Allied Forces liberation of Western Europe which was under Nazi Germany's control. The battle is now seen as one of the decisive turning points of the Second World War and is often referred to as the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

The invasion on D-Day was one of the largest amphibious military operations ever undertaken, during which there were an estimated 10,000 allied casualties including 2,500 dead, German casualties are estimated to have been between 4,000 to 9,000 men and this on just D-Day itself. The Battle of Normandy continued, claiming the lives of an estimated 110,000 people from both sides. As many as 20,000 French civilians also lost their lives in the fighting, shelling and bombing which took place.

The Allied operation was a success and by the end of August 1944, northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Germans had been defeated.

THE OVERLORD TAPESTRY

The Overlord Tapestry at the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth

The first area you visit at the D-Day Museum is the Overlord Tapestry. The tapestry, commissioned by Lord Dulverton, depicts the entire story of the Normandy Landings, Lord Dulverton is quoted as saying "It is not, and was never intended to be, a tribute to war, but to our people in whom it brought out in adversity so much that is good, determination, ingenuity, fortitude and sacrifice."

The tapestry consists of 34 panels, 2.4 metres long and 0.9 metres high and was inspired in part by the Bayeux Tapestry. The artist Sandra Lawrence was commissioned to design and paint the panels for the Overlord Embroidery, the original paintings now hang in the Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense, near Washington, USA.

The designs from the panels were then transformed into a tapestry, or embroidery, by needlewomen at the Royal School of Needlework it took 25 people 4 years to complete the work. The tapestry is 272 feet in length, the longest work of it's type in the world, 33 feet longer than the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Overlord Tapestry is beautifully displayed in the circular building of the D-Day Museum, with an informative film presentation at it's centre.

The Overlord Tapestry, Portsmouth, D-Day Museum

PORTSMOUTH D-DAY MEMORIES

When you leave the Overlord Tapestry exhibition hall there is a small section devoted to Portsmouth Memories of D-Day. Portsmouth was right at the heart of Operation Overlord, Portsmouth Harbour and the beaches at Southsea were used as embarkation points for troops en route to the D-Day Landings. Southwick House, just north of Portsmouth was the headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower Supreme Allied Commander, the control room can still be visited by appointment.

Civilian workers in the area also played a major part in the invasion effort, workers at Portsmouth Dockyard preparing vital Royal Navy vessels and workers at Portsmouth Airport were involved in building the Horsa AS 51 gliders used in the operation, including the attack of Pegasus Bridge. The Portsmouth Memories section houses some fascinating local records, document and artefacts, among them recordings of spoken accounts from local people of their recollections, introduced by the voices of local school children.

Military vehicles at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth.

THE D-DAY MUSEUM

The D-Day Collection part of the museum is full of historical artefacts, documents, maps and military vehicles and equipment.

The museum uses these items to tell the story of the Normandy Landings from the build up and planning stages, including information on the reconnaissance and intelligence gathering activities right through to the landing themselves.

There are several very detailed exhibits recreating scenes from the time such as a woman working in an engineering workshop operating a lathe (make sure you check the blackboard message on the rear wall here) and another scene showing a jeep being unloaded from a crashed Horsa glider.

The attention to detail throughout the museum is thorough and you could easily spend hours here. Towards the end of the collection there is a hall of military vehicles such as a jeep, a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle, amphibious vehicles and a full size landing craft as used on the beaches of Normandy. The museum has a large car park right next door, there is a cafe serving refreshments and an educational room is available for use by school parties.

D-DAY MUSEUM PORTSMOUTH DETAILS:

Opening Times:
Open daily except 24th - 26th Dec and 1st Jan
April - September 10.00am - 5.30pm
October - March 10.00am - 5.00pm