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Operation Overlord and D-Day

Operation Overlord

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 their lives. 

[3415] German prisoners of war

magnifyGerman prisoners of war arrive at Royal Pier
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’.


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