The D-Day Story reopened on March 30 following a £5m transformation ahead of the 75th D-Day Anniversary in 2019. It is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the Allied invasion of June 6 1944 and tells the stories of those involved both professional and civilian from the UK, France, USA, Canada and Germany. ‘The epic made personal and the personal made epic’ – here’s ten key exhibits
The pencil that started the invasion
This pencil was used by Lieutenant Commander John A H Hamer, OBE to sign the order for Force G (naval forces that landed on Gold Beach) to depart for Normandy. Lieutenant Hamer has shaved off part of the pencil end to create a flat surface, and has written on it “this is the pencil that started the invasion”.
Betty’s coat of many badges
Five-year old Betty White collected 89 badges from British, American and Canadian troops who passed her house in Gosport on their way to embark for France. Her mother sewed them onto her coat. They include British Army regimental and RAF metal cap badges, British and Canadian fabric shoulder titles, Canadian and British metal uniform buttons, and many others.
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The Lady Connaught ensign
The Allies assembled a huge fleet for the Normandy landings. The HMHS Lady Connaught flag is a blue ensign flat from the hospital carrier ship His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (H.M.H.S.) Lady Connaught, which served off the US beaches at Normandy after D-Day. She left The Solent on June 7 1944 and arrived at Utah Bach on June 8 1944.
Ginger turns 21 on invasion day
A home-made 21st birthday card given to Lance Bombadier W J (Ginger) Edgar by his friend, Bob Dunn both with 39th Regiment, Royal Artillery. The pair landed on Juno Beach on Ginger’s birthday. Inside the card Bob has written a poem. “You’re 21 but once in your life. It may be in peace or in times of strife. But one thing with rage will sure make you dance. To be 21 when landing in France”.
A page from a sketch book with a drawing by Moira Cruickshank, who served in the WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service), of a British landing LCPR type craft at H.M.S. Northney, Hayling Island. Moira made drawings of different landing craft types, which were photographed and widely used throughout the Royal Navy for training purposes. H.M.S. Northney was a shore base at a pre-war holiday camp, at which sailors received initial training on landing craft.
A yellow dress of parachute silk
A dress made from yellow silk material from a British parachute, from the Aunay-sur-Odon and Villers Bocage area of Normandy. Its yellow colour signified that it supported a package of medical supplies. It was presumably collected by a local French person during the Battle of Normandy, who then made it into a dress.
Bertie the ventriloquist dummy
A ventriloquist’s dummy, known as Bertie, which was used by Captain Edward Harold North (known as Ted). He made Bertie in 1935, before the Second World War, while stationed at Tidworth in Wiltshire with the 3rd Hussars. Ted used the dummy at regimental concerts and after he went to Normandy in 1944 as an officer with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment he used Bertie to entertain the troops.
He landed on Juno Beach, which probably means he was serving with 1/7th Warwicks, part of 59th Division. Bertie wears the arm badge of the 2nd British Army, plus several imaginary medals. Ted North was a member of the Magic Circle and continued to use Bertie to entertain people after he left the army. According to a newspaper article, Ted had also served in the First World War, being awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal and General Service Medal.
The Germans used extensive minefields as part of their defences of the Normandy Coast. This minefield warning came from 300 yards inland at Mike Sector, Juno Beach. After D-Day it was taken as a souvenir by Captain Edward North of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The hole two-thirds of the way down was caused by a bullet from a Bren gun.
The Mulberry harbours
Temporary harbours were developed to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After the Allies successfully held beachheads, two prefabricated harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army and assembled off Omaha (Mulberry “A”) and Gold Beach (Mulberry “B”).
Top: A drawing of Gooseberry Harbour. An easy way to create a protected area of calm water near the landing beaches was to sink ships that were no longer needed. This drawing belonged to Lieutenant William Brereton who was in charge of the Gooseberry Harbour at Juno Beach. Bottom: A cartoon of Mulberry Harbour. Different pieces of the harbour had their own code names which were easy to remember, such as Corncobs – old merchant ships sunk as a breakwater and whales, which were the bridges connecting ‘spud’ piers (landing wharfs) to the shore.
The Overlord Embroidery
At the heart of the Collection is the Overlord Embroidery, an 83-metre contemporary art textile commissioned by Lord Dulverton of Batsford in 1963 to commemorate those involved. Inspired in part by the Bayeux Tapestry, the Embroidery is 10-metres longer than the 11th century work and took 20 embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework four years to complete using a method dating back to Tudor times called “pricking and pouncing”. The original watercolour Cartoons, created by Sandra Lawrence, at the time only 22 years old, hang in the Pentagon, USA.
D-Day Museum and Overlord Embroidery
The D-Day Museum was established in 1984 to tell the story of Operation Overlord from its origins in the dark days of 1940 to victory in Normandy in 1944. The amazing Overlord Embroidery, a modern-day counterpart to the Bayeux Tapestry that tells the dramatic story of the Allied landings in…