To commemorate 75 years since the D-Day landings, we asked our older residents to share their stories about such an important time in our history.
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France; the largest naval, air and land operation in history and momentous first step in the end of the Second World War.
It is not only important to remember and honour those whose bravery made the landings a success but to share their memories and keep their stories alive for future generations. Memories and stories surrounding D-Day live on in many of our residents and we’d like to share them with you.
“I remember the D-Day dinner dance celebration in 1984 when I worked at Southampton College. We all dressed in uniform and some ladies did their hair up in the fashion of the day. Despite the ‘Ration’ style food which included the powdered egg, we had a great evening of dancing which included the Jitterbug and the Lambeth Walk.” – Sandra
“I was eight years old and living in Horsham, West Sussex when the preparations for D-Day were being carried out and well under way. We lived in a semi-detached house with a rear garden not unlike many others but on this particular day in June 1944, we were very surprised to see lots and lots of troops coming up the field next to our house. They were all in single file keeping close to the hedge for protection. In all, there must have been two or three hundred soldiers coming close to our garden when we were able to identify them as Canadian infantry men. They clambered through a hole in the hedge and then into a field again adjacent to our garden.
“My Mother then let out a scream and said: “I’m sure that’s my cousin Reggie!” This particular soldier responded to her yell and broke ranks to have a hug and very brief chat with Mum. We never knew what happened to him and can only hope he survived the battle for Normandy.
“The odds of this happening must be incalculable but it’s absolutely true!” – Joe
“It was a very long time ago and my memory isn’t great, but I remember I was living in Ruislip, 20 miles away from the coast. It was all over the news, just like Brexit is today.
“My mum and I were sitting in the garden and we could hear the gun fire but we didn’t know at the time what it was. Also living near RAF Northolt Airdrome, spitfires were going up all the time.
“I had a cousin who was in the forces who got through the landings safely.” – Doris
“My Uncle Norman was with the ‘Black Watch’, on landing in Normandy. He was shot by a German sniper through his heart, but the bullet went through his wallet. My sister still has the wallet. He was 21 years old.” – Malcolm
“I was a 14-year-old boy and working at Southampton docks. Although it was a sad time, it was also a very exciting time for us youngsters. It was trying times and a lot of people were killed. We did not get much sleep because of the bombers overhead. We had Anderson and Morrison shelters in our homes which we used to stay safe, a lot of Southampton was bombed.
“I remember it being a very secretive operation, Southampton docks were key to the operations and the inner docks were chocker block with tank landing craft and war boats. I helped with loading the tanks. One day I went to work, and all the tank landing craft and war boats were gone, nothing was left except a few rowing boats. It was that day I knew it had started. It wasn’t until later that it was announced on news that the invasion had taken place.” – Harry
“My Uncle Ted was part of the D-Day landings and survived the war. His half brother was sadly killed just before the end of the war.” – Fredrick
“In 1944, to get away from the air raids over Portsmouth, my parents rented a converted railway carriage in the village of Horndean. My memories of the build-up of troops who were to take part in D-day are very clear; from the night we were kept awake by the noise of heavy traffic moving in, to the day we said ‘Goodbye’ to the soldiers we had made friends with.
“They arrived at the end of May, and the day after, when we went to school, we were surprised, and very excited, to find the main London Road full of tanks, armoured vehicles and hundreds of soldiers sitting by the roadside eating their breakfast.
In the days that followed, the children of the village spent every spare minute with them. They let us sit on their tanks, while they enjoyed telling us about their families back home. Our parents often invited some of them in for tea but had no idea what they were doing as there were not allowed to say. We had an orchard in our garden, and our mother often filled a basket full of fruit for us to take to them. They were very grateful and in return gave us chocolate, which was great because sweets were on ration.
“On 5 June, they started moving towards Portsmouth, and it was with a heavy heart that we watched them go. We knew many of them by name and, before they left, out mother gave a Sergeant our address and asked if he could write and let us know how they were. Sadly, when the letter came, it was to say that many of the soldiers we had known had died in the D-Day landings on 6June, although he, himself, had survived.” – Eileen
“My Mother’s cousin was a para-trooper and was dropped into Normandy – behind the lines, the troopers had to take and bridge and hold it until the main attach at 5 in the morning. His name was Reg Furse and he survived the war.” – Roger
“I was in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war. We lived in North End, Portsmouth with a double mattress under the Stairs in case of bombing. At one point a bomb landed in Laburnum Grove which was the next street.
“We never slept for the noise of the boats and planes on the build up to D-Day. There were soldiers from Wigan camping on the railway embankment at the end of our street. The beach was cordoned off near us, but although they left from Southsea, which was several miles away, there was still so much noise.” – Brenda