The D-Day Story, the only museum in the UK dedicated to the Allied Invasion in June 1944, is opening in time for Easter. It follows a £5million transformation undertaken ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.
The museum contains many exhibits not previously displayed to the public, in refurbished galleries which feature the words and perspectives of those involved — from both a military and a civilian viewpoint. There will also be spaces for learning, events, and interactive displays.
The revolutionised museum maximises the impact of its collection, to ensure that this important chapter in history is retold in a way that continues to inspire generations to come.
The D-Day Story is full of personal stories of courage and determination, comradeship, and sacrifice, secrecy and deception, innovation and tactics. It is a story in which ordinary people worked together to achieve an extraordinary outcome, exemplifying ‘the epic made personal — the personal made epic’.
Pictured: an aerial view of the D-Day Story area in Southsea, from Solent Sky Services — construction of both the D-Day Story building and the new Brian Kidd Way fountain continue at the time of writing
At the heart of the museum’s iconic collection is the historic 83-metre Overlord Embroidery, an art textile inspired in part by the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. Commissioned in 1963 by Lord Dulverton of Batsford, the embroidery documents the Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord.
One of the new items to be displayed for the first time is a pencil used by Lieutenant Commander John A.H. Harmer, OBE to sign the order for Force G (the naval forces that went to Gold Beach) to depart for Normandy. He has shaved off part of the pencil end to create a flat surface, upon which he wrote: ‘This pencil started the invasion’.
The D-Day Story includes a varied and eclectic collection of artefacts which each have a story to tell. A good example of this is Betty White's coat. Troops bound for Normandy (and on the way to the embarkation point at Hardway, Gosport around June 1944) passed by Betty White’s house in Albermarle Street. Soldiers gave Betty, aged five at the time, badges and buttons as mementos. Her mother sewed the British Army Regimental and RAF metal cap badges, plus British and Canadian fabric shoulder titles, uniform buttons and others, onto Betty’s coat.
Councillor Linda Symes, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, and Sport at Portsmouth City Council said: “The newly-transformed D-Day Story is a major addition to the world-class cultural and heritage offering that the waterfront city of Portsmouth has to offer. D-Day was a pivotal moment in the Second World War and the D-Day Story re-tells the human stories that underpin the history as the event passes from living memory.”
Dr Jane Mee, Portsmouth Museums and Visitor Services Manager and Programme Lead at Portsmouth City Council said: “Our aim in transforming the museum was to involve the remaining Normandy veterans in telling their stories and to ensure the D-Day Story maintains the international significance it deserves. It also enables new audiences to engage on a personal level with this remarkable event.”
Landscaping and further improvements to the outside of the museum building will be completed in 2019 when Landing Craft Tank 7074 will arrive in Portsmouth in time for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on 6 June 2019.
The D-Day Story transformation has been enabled in part by a Heritage Lottery grant.
Find out more on the D-Day Story website.