Dorset Commemorates 70th Anniversary Of D-Day - Listen To Our Special Coverage On Wessex FM
6:40am 6th June 2014
Its 70 years ago to the day when thousands of troops left ports in Dorset, to take part in the biggest military invasion the world had ever seen, D-Day.
British and US troops launched from Weymouth and Portland in ships and boats bound for the sandy beaches of Normandy in France, on a crucial mission that was one of the key turning points of the Second World War.
156,000 Allied troops landed in France by sea and air for the invasion, somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 were killed on the first day of fighting. An estimated 9,000 Germans are also thought to have lost their lives.
Today (Friday 6th June) commemorations are being held across the county to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.
A service will be take place at Victoria Gardens on Portland at 11 o'clock this morning and outside the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester.
Weymouth's Poppy Butcher was just 15-years-old in 1944 and remembers watching the troops leave:
"We'd finished our exams and the Commander came over from Portland Naval base and took 5 of us girls to work at the naval base over the D-Day period. We saw all the vehicles being loaded on the land craft and the German prisoners of war."
Dorset played a vital role in the preparation and launch of the Normandy invasion, playing host to a full scale dress rehearsal called Operation Smash off Studland Bay where The British Prime Minister was joined by Supreme Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower and King George VI to watch proceedings.
Curator of Dorchester's Military Keep Museum Chris Copson says Dorset was right in the thick of it:
"The naval facilities in Weymouth and Portland were unbelievably important in actually setting the fleet off, but there was a lot happening inland too. Tarrant Rushton airfield launched a substantial portion of the glider born assault and there were US Army Rangers training on the cliffs in west Bay."
Chris went on to tell us more about Dorset's role in D-Day, you can hear it by clicking below.
In Lyme Regis commemorations started early this morning with a dawn service on the cliffs. 11 men from Lyme Regis died during the Normandy Campaign.
Meanwhile tomorrow - the D-Day Commemorations take a lighter theme in Weymouth where we're all invited to a picnic.
The event, organised by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, is in its 7th year, and will be held in the town's Nothe Gardens. We're being encouraged to pack our picnic baskets and bring them along between 1pm to 3pm.
The afternoon will have a wartime feel, with military vehicles on display, the opportunity to talk to local veterans and music from the 1940's. 'Weymouth Concert Brass' and 'The Decadettes' will be providing the live music and entertainment.
Councillor Ian Bruce, Tourism and Culture Brief holder, said: "The D-Day Picnic is a great opportunity for residents to pause and remember the sacrifice of so many so that we may have these special times to spend with our family and friends.
"Come up and really have a great time, it's a big family event."