D-Day - The local perspective

"...the southern portion of England became one vast camp, dump and airfield". General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces on D-Day.

5th June 2014

"...the southern portion of England became one vast camp, dump and airfield"
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces on D-Day.

Dorset's location on the south coast meant that it played a key role in the D-Day invasion. British, American and French soldiers were stationed in the county with large American camps at Poole.

bovtm_american_troops_dday (ID 52583)The American and Canadian soldiers were an object of curiosity, particularly to the female population. Elsie Ross a fifteen year old paper girl in Bournemouth in 1944, recalls:

“…..."Hey girl! Over here!" A voice straight out of the movies stopped me in my tracks. Never mind not speaking to strange men they didn't come much stranger than this. Six foot four, black and shining as ebony and a white smile like a crocodile...”

The American Rangers, given the job of capturing the German guns at Pointe-du-Hoc, trained on the cliffs at Burton Bradstock near Bridport. On the day of the invasion itself the American forces that captured Omaha beach set off from Poole and Weymouth.

bovtm_tetrarch (ID 52584)Glider planes carrying Tetrarch tanks were launched from Tarrant Rushton near Wimborne. These tanks aided paratroopers in capturing important points behind enemy lines diverting German forces away from defending the beaches. Find out more from David Fletcher's article - Airborne in Normandy.

Operation Smash

bovtm_operation_smash (ID 52585)Mounting a huge operation on the scale of D-Day required months of planning and practice runs. On April 4th 1944, Exercise Smash was held at Studland Bay with DD Valentine tanks.

Shortly after launching, the weather changed and the waves grew bigger. As a result, six tanks sank with the loss of six crew members.

Although tragic this was a valuable lesson. The tanks were not seaworthy in rough weather and so on D-Day, the DD tanks were launched in shallow water.



You can see a Sherman DD tank with original canvas screen on display in the Museum’s Tank Story Hall.

bovtm_practice_dday (ID 52586)The British army also held a large-scale invasion exercise, somewhere along the South Coast, when infantry and armoured troops made practice landings under cover of huge air umbrella.