It’s the weekend of Friday, June 2-Sunday, June 4, 1944, and in a quiet siding in a rural Hampshire station prime minister Winston Churchill has escaped Downing Street for a weekend break in the country.
It’s the weekend before D-Day, which, of course, was originally scheduled for June 5.
But what was Churchill doing in his luxury train at Droxford station in the Meon Valley on the eve of the biggest amphibious invasion in history?
Lord Ben Stoneham of Droxford, recently gave a lecture, accompanied by these photographs, in which he suggested that it was during this weekend that Churchill heeded the King’s advice and reluctantly decided not to sail with the invasion force on June 6 in HMS Belfast. George VI had also wanted to go.
It was also from here that the PM went to Southampton and Portsmouth on June 3 to see for himself the invasion fleet formed up in the Solent ready to sail for France.
Churchill slept on board his train at Droxford on the Friday and Saturday nights before D-Day.
During his visit, just a short distance from Southwick House, Southwick, where Monty and Eisenhower were putting the finishing touches to the invasion plan, he had meetings with allied leaders including General de Gaulle.
The French leader in exile arrived at Northolt from Algiers at 6am on June 4 and was immediately given a note from Churchill written on the Droxford train.
It read: ‘Welcome to these shores! Very great military events are about to take place. I should be glad if you could come to see me down here in my train, which is close to General Eisenhower’s Headquarters. If you could be here by 1.30pm, I should be glad to give you dejeuner and we will then repair to General Eisenhower’s headquarters.’