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Operation Overlord and D-Day

Preparing for invasion

[5128] landing craft

magnifyLanding craft at Western Docks

Invasion supplies began to flood into the area. Landing craft lined the docks along with barges, jeeps, tanks and ammunition. In addition to this sections of the famous artificial ‘Mulberry’ harbour were being constructed in Southampton and being made ready for war. Whilst hosting hundreds of landing craft Southampton became the main Mulberry Centre in the country. 

When a large invasion force of American troops began to arrive the whole of Southampton became host to them. Most of the city’s schools, available because of the evacuation of children were turned into ‘billets’ or accommodation for soldiers and medical centres. Hospitals were cleared and admissions were restricted. Any available space was used including any empty warehouses in the docks, the military hospital at Netley to the East of the City, the Polygon Hotel and even the National Provincial bank in Canute Road, central Southampton. Eventually it became necessary for the whole of Southampton Common to become an American camp. Even areas cleared by bomb damage became parking spaces; every available inch of space was used. 

[4643] Landing craft

magnify Landing craft lowered into water
It is surprising that the operation successfully caught German forces unaware. Today in the age of satellites and sophisticated equipment it is hard to imagine decoy techniques being used such as inflatable tanks in Kent to throw enemy scouts off the scent. From 31st March 1944 strict controls were in place on the south coast of England. Guards at train and bus stations and main roads checked identity cards and restricted movement, no one was allowed to enter or leave the city without a permit. Some areas on the coast were out of bounds to all visitors. In an effort to maintain secrecy the main routes through Southampton had been covered with camouflage netting to prevent the long columns of tanks and troops making slow progress down to the docks being seen from the air.


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