The D-Day Story Museum – Portsmouth UK

The recently refurbished D-Day Story (formerly the D-Day Museum) in Portsmouth is the only museum in the UK dedicated to Operation Overlord and the 6th of June 1944.

Portsmouth News Photo 1940
British soldiers negotiating a barbed wire defence during a seashore invasion exercise near Portsmouth in 1940. Photo: The News archive.

Portsmouth, situated on the coast 110km south-west of London has been a significant naval port for centuries. During the Second World War it was a critical embarkation point for the 6 June 1944 D-Day landings. It’s role as a major Naval Base and Dockyard had seen the city bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe from August 1940 and by August 1943 the Southsea seafront, which included the city, was declared a restricted zone. At the beginning of April 1944, in preparation for Operation Overlord, Portsmouth became part of a 16km deep coastal strip from the Wash to Lands End which was closed to all visitors. By this time, the whole of Southern England had become a huge armed camp in the build-up for the invasion of Europe, with Portsmouth being the headquarters and main departure point for the units destined for Juno Beach on the Normandy Coast.

The D-Day Story (previously known as The D-Day Museum) is located near Southsea Castle in Portsmouth and recounts the story of Operation OVERLORD and the landings on the Normandy coast. Originally opened as a the D-Day Museum in 1984, it was closed in March 2017 for refurbishment before reopening in March 2018 as the D-Day Story. (Note that some of the photographs featured here include images of the older displays taken during a previous visit in 2015). The new museum tells the story of Overlord by recounting the experiences of the people who participated in the invasion or lived in the area at the time.

D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth 2015 -01
A Sherman Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV), nicknamed ‘Vera’, War Department No. T145523 as displayed prior to the 2018 refurbishment. The Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle was developed specifically for the Normandy landings. It utilised a modified Sherman Mk.III M4A2 tank that was able to wade into water up to feet deep and push or pull ‘drowned’ vehicles out of the sea. They could also help refloat beached landing craft. Trials of the BARV began in December and by D-Day, 5 were available for service. This particular tank was originally built in 1943 as a regular gun tank. Markings on the hull suggest that its parts were produced in a modular fashion by several different companies and then assembled together. It was produced with “LO”, a type of steel particularly adapted to cast large pieces of armour. The tank was assembled at Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio as part of contract S/M 1012 for the British Government. The hull (part number E4151) was built by American Steel Foundries East St. Louis (Illinois) Works, and the bogies were made by several companies including the Continental Foundry & Machine Company of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. This BARV’s exact wartime history is not known, but it is known that a relatively small number of BARVs were converted. It shows the markings of a beach recovery section of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Sherman BARVs remained in British Army service until the early 1960’s.

The museum exhibits around 500 artifacts, from a collection of over 10,000, which are combined with touch screens, audio and video presentations to allow the visitor to understand the complexities of planning such a huge operation and its impact on the people involved. To tell the D-Day story, the museum is divided into three sections: Preparation; D-Day and the Battle of Normandy; Legacy and the Overlord Embroidery.

Preparation covers the period from the Dunkirk Evacuation (1940) until just before 6 June 1944. It gives visitors an overview of the planning for Operation OVERLORD including some of the equipment specially developed to assist in the invasion, plus details of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and the German defenses.

D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth Preparation Gallery-09
Betty White’s coat. Five year old Betty White collected 89 badges from the British, American and Canadian troops who passed her house in Gosport on their way to Normandy. Her mother sewed them onto her coat.
ALLIED PREPARATIONS FOR D-DAY
Preparation for D-Day. Troops storm ashore from LCAs (Landing Craft Assault) during Exercise ‘Fabius’, a major invasion rehearsal on the British coast, 5 May 1944. Nearest landing craft is LCA 798. Photo: Imperial War Museum Collection. Object ID: 205359422

portsmouth_d-day_museum-15

The D-Day and the Battle of Normandy section describe the landing, fighting in the bocage and the breakout leading to the Liberation of Paris. This section features displays of personal items, weapons and equipment, accompanied by an audio-visual display to give an overview of the experiences of the troops fighting on the five beaches.

D-DAY - BRITISH FORCES DURING THE INVASION OF NORMANDY 6 JUNE 19
Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade led by Brigadier Lord Lovat (in the water, to the right of his men) land on Queen Red beach, Sword area, c. 0840 hours, 6 June 1944. Sherman DD tanks of 13th/18th Royal Hussars and other vehicles can be seen on the beach. Lovat’s piper, Bill Millin, is in the foreground about to disembark. Photo: Captain JL Evans, No.5 Army Film and Photographic Unit. IWM Object Number B 5103

Portsmouth d-day museum Overlord Embroidery

The final section, Legacy & Overlord Embroidery explores the experiences of loss and coming home through film clips of veterans recounting their experiences with some supporting artifacts, but is dominated by the Overlord Embroidery an 83m long tapestry consisting of 34 different panels takes up a significant section of the floorspace in a relatively small museum. It is underpinned by a small central gallery that explains the techniques used by the twenty members of the Royal School of Needlework who took seven years to complete its construction.

D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth Churchill tank-01
A Churchill Mk.VII Crocodile (flame throwing) tank. The history of this particular tank is not known. It has been given representative markings for tank T173174H named ‘Sandgate’. This Churchill Crocodile belonged to C Squadron, 141st (The Buffs) Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, and on D-Day was commanded by Lieutenant John Shearman (awarded the Military Cross for actions on and after D-Day). In late 2020 the tank was moved to its current location aboard the LCT 7074.
D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth LCT-01
Landing craft tank LCT 7074. Able to transport 10 tanks, LCT 7074 is the last surviving Landing Craft Tank (LCT) from D-Day.

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Outside the main building, visitors can go on a tour of LCT 7074, one of two hundred and thirty five MkIII LCT’s that were built for the invasion and the last surviving Landing Craft Tank in the UK. LCT 7074 transported 10 tanks and crew to Gold Beach at 02:00 on 7 June 1944 before returning to England carrying POWs.  On board visitors will find the Churchill and Sherman tanks that once stood at the front of the museum. The tour includes a series of short films showcasing the history of LCT 7074 including its post war life as a riverfront nightclub in Liverpool before falling into disrepair and sinking at Birkenhead Docks. It was rescued in 2014 and restored to its current state before being moved to the museum in 2020.

A visit to D-Day Story presents a good start point to develop a broad understanding of the invasion if you’re in the UK and are planning to head across the channel to visit the battle sites at Normandy. The museum opens at 10am every day and tickets can be purchased in advance. You should allow around two to three hours to examine all of the exhibits. Portsmouth’s long naval and military history is also commemorated in several other military museums in the area, so plan for a two or three days stopover to check out some of the other museums and to experience more of this interesting city’s attractions.

D-Day Story Museum Portsmouth-01

D-Day Story
Clarence Esplanade
Portsmouth PO5 3NT
England

Website: https://theddaystory.com/
Email:  theddaystory@portsmouthcc.gov.uk
Phone: +44 (0)23 9288 2555

Open: The D-Day Story is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5.30pm. Last admission is 3.30pm to LCT 7074 and 4pm to the museum.

Parking: There is a large 125-space car park located next to the D-Day Story. The car park is open 24 hours a day and has toilet facilities on site. There are 25 coach spaces, with a wash bay facility available. For parking charges please see The Seafront D-Day car park . There are marked disabled bays within the car park and on Clarence Esplanade in front of the museum. Parking is free for blue badge holders.

Park & Ride: Portsmouth’s Park & Ride is available from Junction 1 of the M275 motorway which is the principal route into Portsmouth from the north. Follow the brown direction signs to the Park & Ride car park. The nearest Park & Ride stop to The D-Day Story is at The Hard Interchange transport hub which is adjacent to Portsmouth Harbour railway station and Gunwharf Quays. Catch a connecting number 3 bus to Palmerston Road then it is an attractive 10 minute walk across Southsea Common to the D-Day Story on the seafront. On Sundays there is an hourly number 16 bus which will stop outside the museum.

Buses: The nearest bus stop is an attractive 10 minute walk from Palmerston Road across Southsea Common, to the D-Day Story. See directions above from The Hard Interchange to Palmerston Road.

Train: The nearest train station is Portsmouth & Southsea – a 1.5 mile walk from The D-Day Story. The most direct route is via Isambard Brunel Road, Grosvenor Street, Cottage Grove, Grove Roads North and South, Palmerston Road and Avenue de Caen. There is also a taxi rank outside Portsmouth & Southsea railway station.

Alternatively, it’s a 1.7 mile walk from Fratton station to the museum, via Sydenham Terrace, Victoria Roads North and South, Lennox Road South and Clarence Esplanade.

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Operation Market Garden: Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45

Some of the military vehicles on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Military vehicles on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Arnhem oorlogsmuseum Arnhem war museum
Parachute Regiment beret. The caption indicated that this beret belonged to a dead British para and was found in Hartenstein, site of the British HQ. Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum. Photo: Julian Tennant

Like the Glider Collection Wolfheze, the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum (sometimes referred to in English language search engines as the Arnhem War Museum) is another private museum in the Arnhem area.

Owner Eef Peeters started collecting militaria as a boy, storing his collection at first in his home, followed by a shed and then finally, in 1994, moving the collection to its current location, an old school, in Schaarsbergen. The collection does not focus specifically on Operation Market Garden but paints a much broader picture of what happened in Arnhem and the surrounding areas during the war years. This includes a number of objects relating to less popular subjects including collaboration and the Dutch Nazi Party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (NSB).

This is an old-style museum concentrating on artifacts, rather than interactive displays. It’s a fascinating and at times eclectic collection of items squeezed into the available space. A lot of the memorabilia is not captioned in English, so I had to rely on my rusty Afrikaans/Dutch skills to interpret some of the captions, but the staff were helpful and friendly. When one of the volunteer staff members found out that I was a collector, after I asked if there were any antique or shops around which may have militaria for sale, he invited me into the office to show me some of the original items that were available for sale to help fund the museum upkeep. But, whilst I was tempted by a couple of period Dutch National Socialist badges, I decided that I had better try to maintain focus on my airborne interest and left empty handed.

Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Arnhem War Museum 40-45.
Display featuring uniforms worn by soldiers of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, nicknamed “The Polar Bear Butchers” after their shoulder sleeve formation sign and a 6 lb anti-tank gun as used by the 1st Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery during the battle for Arnhem. Photo: Julian Tennant

If you have a car, Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum is about 10 minutes drive from central Arnhem or if you are using public transport can be reached in under half an hour via the #9 bus departing from near Arnhem Centraal train station.

Arnhems Oorlogsmuseum 40-45

Kemperbergerweg 780
6816 RX Arnhem

Telephone: +31 (0) 26 4420958

https://www.arnhemsoorlogsmuseum.com

Opening hours:

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00, however the ticket office closes at 16:30 hrs.

Admission prices:

Adults: € 9.00
Children up to 4 years old:  free
Children 5 to 12 years old:  € 7.00,-
Adults 65+: € 7.00

Note that there is no ATM at the museum, and they do not accept credit cards.

Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Arnhem War Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
A T34-85 and Flak gun at the front of the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant

Operation Market Garden: The Glider Collection Wolfheze

Operation Market Garden. Glider Museum Wolfheze
Glider Collection Wolfheze. Horsa glider section. Photograph: Julian Tennant

The Glider Collection Wolfheze is a private collection relating to the British airborne assault on Arnhem in 1944. Operation Market Garden which occurred between the 17th and 26th of September 1944 is one of the best known allied airborne operations of World War Two. The goal of the operation was to push through the German lines from the Belgian city of Neerpelt to Arnhem in Holland, bypassing the German Siegfried Line and crossing their last natural obstacle, the Rhine river. This would allow them to sweep east into Germany, knock out the German industrial base in the Ruhr pocket and end the war before Christmas. But as history shows, things did not work out that way.

Operation Market Garden Glider Collection Wolfheze map-01
Operation Market Garden. Map showing 1st Airborne Division’s planned landing zones on the 17th of September. The Glider Collection Wolfheze is situated roughly midway between LZ ‘S’ and LZ ‘L’ on the map. Map source: wikimedia.org

As part of the operation, the British 1st Airborne Division had to secure bridges over the Rhine at Arnhem and hold them until linking up with the XXX-Corps who were advancing from Neerpelt. On 17 September, pathfinders from the 21st Independent Parachute Company marked the drop zones and landing areas near the small Dutch village of Wolfheze, approximately 10km northwest of Arnhem in preparation for the arrival of the 350 gliders ferrying the 1st Airlanding Brigade under the command of Brigadier Philip Hicks.

The landings were largely unopposed as the Germans were initially thrown into confusion and the 1st Airlanding Brigade moved off from the landing zones whilst the 1st Parachute Brigade headed east towards the bridges. The fields around Wolfheze remained one of the primary entry points for the Allied airborne troops, receiving reinforcements from the 1st Airborne Division on the 18th and troops from the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade on the 19th.

Around the town of Wolfheze are several sites commemorating the operation including a Glider Memorial at Liberation Route Marker 25. The Liberation Route follows the course of the Allies during the liberation of Europe. The route starts in Normandy and continues via Nijmegen and Arnhem in the direction of Berlin.

The memorial is also located close to the entrance of “De Lindenhof” Camping & Chalet Park which is also home to the private collection of Paul Hendriks who has assembled a collection of artifacts related to the gliders used during Operation Market Garden. The Glider Collection Wolfheze contains several pieces salvaged from the landing zones around Arnhem as well as sections of a Horsa and a Hamilcar glider plus other bits and pieces related to the battle.

This is a private museum so it is not open for viewing every day however his website lists the official opening days for the year. Alternatively, you can contact Paul by telephone or email to arrange a viewing.

Operation Market Garden Glider Museum Wolfheze
Glider Collection Wolfheze. Section of a Hamilcar glider setup. 39 Hamilcar gliders were used primarily to transport the newly introduced 17-pounder Anti-tank guns and their prime movers into the landing zones at Arnhem, in order to provide a significantly improved capability against the increased armour of the newer German Tiger tanks Photograph: Julian Tennant

The Glider Collection Wolfheze

Camping & Chalet Park “De Lindenhof”

Wolfhezerweg 111-113

Wolfheze

The Netherlands

Telephone:  +31 (0)610143467

Email: silentwings@online.nl

For opening times refer to the website

http://glidermuseum.nl/

Finally…. and to get you in the mood, Richard Attenborough‘s epic war movie about Operation Market Garden, A Bridge Too Far.

The Guards Museum – London

The Guards MuseumWellington Barracks. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Guards Museum Wellington Barracks

Located a short walk from Buckingham Palace, The Guards Museum contains information and artifacts relating to the five regiments of Foot Guards namely the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards.

 

This is a great little museum full of uniforms, medals, insignia and booty from their origins right through to current operational deployments. As a collector with an interest in airborne and special forces insignia, I was particularly impressed by the number of items related to G Squadron of 22SAS Regiment and the Guards Independent Parachute Company including a Burnous cloak worn by a guardsmen serving with the SAS during the first Gulf War. The exhibits are well laid out with good descriptions, but photographs are usually not permitted. If you would like to do a personalised ‘walk and talk’ with one of the staff, you can do so for an extra £10 per person on top of the current £8 entry fee (discounted for pensioners, students, serving and ex-military personnel).

Co-located just outside the museum, near the Birdcage Walk gate is the Guards shop known as The Guards Toy Soldier Centre, which is managed by MKL Models and features a range of toy soldiers from manufacturers such as William Britain plus Brigade of Guards related souvenirs such as mugs, blazer badges, spoons etc. The model figures are displayed in a range of dioramas as well the usual display cabinets and even just a trip to the shop is worthwhile in itself.

The Guards Museum                                                                                                                           Wellington Barracks                                                                                                                               Birdcage Walk                                                                                                                                          London SW1E 6HQ                                                                                                                                 United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 7414 3271 or +44 (0)20 7414 3428

Email: guardsmuseum@aol.com

www.theguardsmuseum.com

Opening Hours:

The Guards Museum is open every day from 10:00am to 4:00pm
(Last admission at 3:30pm)

The Guards Toy Soldier Centre is at the same address and has the same opening hours.

Phone: +44 (0) 207 976 0850

Office:  +44 (0) 1189 732569

https://www.mklmodels.co.uk/

 

Getting there:

The nearest underground train station is St James’s Park, but it is also close to Green Park, Waterloo, Charing Cross and Victoria stations.

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