Operation Overlord and D-Day
Operation Overlord was to prove one of the Allies most dramatic
achievements during World War Two.
Although the invasion began on June 6th the troops embarked
several days earlier. Ships and landing craft were gathering at a
rallying point in the Solent. The ‘Millionth Yank’, Paul
Shimer, left Southampton on 25th October 1944 after a very brief
ceremony. He was singled out of the queue of men shuffling onto
their boat and photographed with the Mayor. Unfortunately he was
killed in action shortly afterwards. Coincidentally his brother was
just a few of men away from becoming the 'two millionth' troop
to leave. In all, over three and a half million troops passed
through the port and over eleven million tonnes of cargo were
shipped. Today in the age of containers and massive container ships
this would still take about 220 trips. Port Commander Colonel Kiser
was later to remark that ‘Never did a vessel miss its convoy’.
Records were broken and on the 27th October 1944 over 22,000 troops
were transported in a single day.
It was not long after the soldiers had embarked that the first
casualties began to return. In total 228,016 travelled through
Southampton. 10,000 men were killed or wounded on the beaches of
Normandy on the first day of fighting. On Omaha beach where the
Americans faced the heaviest fighting over 2000 Americans lost
The returning ships also brought with them German prisoners of war,
194,606 eventually. Long columns of the prisoners arrived at Royal
Pier and were marched to the temporary camp on Western
Esplanade. Fascinated local people turned out to see the
spectacle. A local woman remembers ‘We just had to go up there
and have a look at them…. Whether we thought they had two heads or
four arms I don’t know’.
of war arrive at Royal Pier