D-Day 80: Fascinating wartime images from the Portsmouth area showing the city's crucial role

Fascinating wartime images help us to turn back the clock to show the crucial role the Portsmouth area played throughout the war – as well as the Normandy Landings.

Being the home of the Royal Navy, and a relatively short distance from London, the south coast and the city in particular found itself right in the centre of the efforts to turn the tide in favour of the Allied Forces. In particular the aea played a key role in the Normandy Landings with staff working diligently in a network of tunnels underneath Fort Southwick which was the Underground Headquarters for Operation Overlord – the codename for the military operation. This provided a bombproof, comprehensive Naval, Army and Air Force Operation Control and Communication Centre where reports from radar stations were crossed-referenced with messages from shipping to provide an accurate picture of what was happening in the English Channel.

This information was then plotted on a large table map at the Fort, and was passed to the Allied commanders nearby at Southwick House to which it was connected by a series of underground tunnels. On D-Day itself on June 6 1944 there were 700 staff working underground.

Ahead of D-Day, troops were also camped nearby in areas just outside of the city including in Creech Wood in Denmead and in Stokes Bay in Gosport where they trained and prepared for the operation which turned the tide of the war. On the seafront the area was also transformed with temporary piers and landing platforms constructed – and a huge quality of ships and craft in the Solent. Local people often said it looked like you could walk to the Isle of Wight by going from ship to ship.

However Portsmouth’s role also saw it become a target for the Nazis with the city officially suffering 67 air raids between July 1940 and May 1944, three of these categorised as major attacks. The three major raids took place on August 24 1940 during the Portsmouth Blitz, January 10 1941 and March 10 1941.

As a consequence much of the city was rebuilt after the war. However Portsmouth remains incredibly proud of the city’s contribution to the war effort – and its role in the Normandy Landings which this year marks its 80th anniversary.

Here we share a selection of images showing the build-up and aftermath of D-Day across the city and the surrounding area including Southsea, Gosport, Waterlooville, Fort Southwick and in Normandy. Many thanks to The D-Day Story for supplying and captioning many of these images

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