NEW EXHIBITION ON D-DAY BY THE LEPE HERITAGE GROUP
Our friends at the Lepe Heritage Group have been working hard to put together an amazing exhibition on the role of Lepe and the New Forest in the run up to D-Day. The exhibition will be at the Hampshire Records Office, on Sussex Street, Winchester, from 1st March to 14th April 2022 during normal opening hours. Entry is Free.
The DDLHG website contains a wealth of detailed information that can be viewed via the link https://www.ddaylepe.org.uk
Anyone intending to visit the exhibition is recommended to take a prior exploratory look at the website, including the embedded links. The exhibition will feature a detailed documented and focussed look, supported by models and artefacts, at the contributions made by Lepe and those of the surrounding areas of the New Forest. These collectively became bases for the marshalling and embarkation points of thousands of troops and equipment all destined to play their part in the largest seaborne invasion in history, ‘Operation Neptune’ being the Code name for the initial phase of ‘Operation Overlord’, the invasion of Normandy, on D-Day 6th June 1944. Lepe Beach and Stanswood Bay were the locations for specially constructed hardened beach areas (still visible today) Code name Q and Q2 Hards. Over these Hards troops and highly specialised ‘secret equipments’, including Duplex Drive Tanks, AVRE’s etc. were embarked from their adjacent Marshalling Camp B9, onto LCT’s. Stanswood Bay was the location of the construction and launching of 6# Type B2 concrete caissons (Code named Phoenix), each to be used, along with 200 others, to form the outer breakwaters for the Mulberry Harbours. There will be a particularly exciting presentation of a generally unpublicised and unavailable Combined Operations Study Report of British Force ‘G’. This was produced between the 2nd and 4th October 1944 prior to any published reports being available.
Missing Presumed Dead – a Poem written on D-Day
This moving poem was written by Dennis Hawes, of the 1st Battalion on 6th June 1944 and added to on 6th June 1984.
Missing presumed dead
I searched for you my friend,
The morning after the invasion,
As I listed the dead and wounded
Of our depleted battalion, for the adjutant.
Searching in first aid stations, bunkers,
Field ambulances, makeshift mortuaries,
Temporary graves, but you were not there.
Then I could not search the sea
Which entombed so many beneath its choppy swell
And only with capricious arrogance,
Deigned to deposit back some sodden, waxen corpses,
Among the detritus of the wreck littered shoreline.
We faced the dawn of D-Day together
For after all it was our third seaborne assault
Wakeful as the steely light, broke over the slate coloured sea,
Picking out the straining shapes of the vast invasion fleet
Moving relentlessly towards the flaming shoreline.
Orange, black belching tongues of the battleships,
Awesome sight and sound of the drenching rocket ships,
Tanks blasting from the bellies of their flat craft.
All drawn inexorably to the fiery vortex of the beaches
Overhead aircraft weaved, criss cross in ceaseless motion.
Then we climbed about our tank to storm ashore,
But the Churchill only trundled forward a few yards,
Before being drowned by the incoming tide,
Swept over by the cold and greedy waves,
Dashing and foaming over the slippery hull,
Clawing and clutching at its overladen victims,
Now clinging fearfully with a tenuous hold.
In range shells hit out parent craft,
Fountained the water, as it drew back.
My friend I did not see you go,
As I went into the icy waves,
Nor think of you in my frenzied swimming
And the dangers before my final beaching.
In my panic to survive the sea,
The call of friendship went unheeded.
Then on the beach, all thoughts were lost,
In the savage whine of bullets,
The whistle and thud of mortars and shells.
Sights of incoming craft shattered on stakes and mines,
Ships nearing the short, exploding with direct hits,
The mutilated, eyeless, shocked and dying,
The dramatic and pathetic dead.
I finally got back to the battalion,
Was reprimanded to taking so long to reach them,
But the MO calmed down, when I said,
I believed you were all lost.
No 40 years later, I stand in the Bayeux cemetery,
Close to where we marched, the day after the invasion
Now listening to the poignancy of the last post
And after searching for you, in the beach head cemeteries,
But of course you were not there.
Only a name among those missing presumed dead.
As the last notes of the bugle died away,
I tried to comfort myself, you were spared,
The horrors of the bridgehead battles,
Or later, life’s inevitable disappointments.
In vain, I stand tearful as the sound fades.
So, I went to Bayeux Cathedral, with a French family,
Lit a candle for you and the mothers of the fallen,
On their suggestion
And felt at last, I had found some part of you.