Historic invasion planned close to home of navy

The front page from The Evening News on June 6 1944
The front page from The Evening News on June 6 1944
A look down traffic-free Bedhampton Hill, Bedhampton, in the 1920s.  Picture: Ralph Cousins collection

NOSTALGIA: They’re getting in a right old pickle about those Pickle Nights

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Tuesday, June 6, 1944. It’s the date indelibly etched in all our minds. The day that launched the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

Everybody in the Portsmouth area knew something big was about to happen, but when exactly was the huge secret.

For months tens of thousands of Allied troops had been encamped in the countryside around the city.

While in Portsmouth and most of the surrounding communities men were billeted in ordinary homes and tanks were parked in the streets beneath their camouflage netting.

All the while and in the utmost secrecy Operation Overlord was being planned by General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery at Southwick House in the shadow of Portsdown Hill, north of Portsmouth.

Suddenly the streets and woods were deserted. The men and their millions of tons of hardware vanished from the scene overnight.

Everyone guessed that the fight to regain mainland Europe had begun, but where? How?

And then this Extra Special edition of The Evening News hit the streets bringing the news that people had waited five long years to hear.

There was no reference to the phrase D-Day on the front page – that was saved for an editorial on page two.

This extra edition of the paper carried sober reports culled from the national news agency the Press Association, Reuter’s, and the Oversea German News Agency.

It included Communique No 1, issued from Supreme HQ, Allied Expeditionary Force which told the world that the first stage of the liberation of Europe had begun.

It said: ‘Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.’

It came at 9.33am, three hours after the landings started and confirmed they were made on the Normandy beaches.

The report said the ‘biggest minesweeping operation in history paved the way for our landing craft involving 70 miles of sweep wire and 10,000 officers and men.’

On page two the editor of the day said: ‘The greatest amphibian operation in history has now been launched.

‘Its success or failure will shape the history of the world for the next thousand years. We have no doubt that victory will be ours.’