Ike reveals D-Day decision to Evening News reporter in Portsmouth Guildhall

General Eisenhower on the Guildhall steps August 6, 1963
General Eisenhower on the Guildhall steps August 6, 1963
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017

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In August 1963, five-star general, supreme commander on D-Day and former president of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower, honoured Portsmouth with a visit.

He toured HMS Dryad and Southwick House, the headquarters for the European Campaign and home to the D-Day map room.

jpns-24-04-14 rw launch''Waiting for the  launch and slip into Portsmouth harbour for the first time dockyard men line the starboard side of King George V.

jpns-24-04-14 rw launch''Waiting for the launch and slip into Portsmouth harbour for the first time dockyard men line the starboard side of King George V.

Tim King, a former Evening News reporter tells me he managed to get Eisenhower alone for five minutes in a Guildhall ante-room, much to the chagrin of other journalists chasing this legendary figure of the 20th century.

Tim asked him exactly where he made the decision to launch the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944. Was it on a train ‘hiding’ at quiet Droxford Station on the Meon Valley line, or was it at Southwick House? There had been much debate about the venue for that historic decision.

Ike replied: ‘Right there in Southwick House on the fourth.’

Meanwhile, the marvellous Portsmouth Dockyard (shown here) was taken on October 9, 1911, and shows dockyardmen looking over the starboard side of the super-dreadnought HMS King George V.

jpns-24-04-14 rw No Mans Land Fort firing''Practice firing  at No Man's Land Fort in the Solent

jpns-24-04-14 rw No Mans Land Fort firing''Practice firing at No Man's Land Fort in the Solent

She was the first of four King George-class battleships built and should not to be confused with the later 1940 battleship. She was going to be named Royal George but her name was changed before launching.

She was only in commission for 12 years or so. After fighting at the Battle of Jutland she was decommissioned in 1919 and used as a training ship. She went for razor blades in 1926.

An old, 13-year refurbishment of No Man’s Land Fort in the Solent once cost £462,500 – that’s £44m in today’s money. Two hundred feet in diameter, the structure was completely armour-plated. The fort and its three sisters were never used in anger because by the time they were completed, a threatened invasion by the French had passed.

After being owned by several companies over the years and being converted into modern living quarters it is again going through a refurbishment.

It will have 22 en-suite bedrooms, a swimming pool, spa facilities and two helicopter landing pads.