Open every day | 10:00 - 4:30 (last entry 3:30pm)
Castletown D-Day Centre
Admiralty Buildings, Castletown,
Portland, Dorset, UK, DT5 1BD
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Learn
The D-Day Story

3 SEPTEMBER 1939

The Beginning

Britain and France declare war on Germany following Germany’s invasion of Poland, marking the start of World War Two. This begins with the ‘Phoney War’ (winter of 1939-1940) in which neither Germany nor Britain and France launches a major attack.

The first major assault from British forces would result in a large scale evacuation from Dunkirk between 26 May and 4 June 1940.

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10 July – 31 October 1940

10 July – 31 October 1940

The Battle of Britain

The German air force, the Luftwaffe, tries and fails to dominate the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during The Battle of Britain. This prevents Germany from being able to invade Britain. In the months that followed, Germany would conduct a series of heavy bombing attacks on British cities; known as the Blitz.

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7TH DECEMBER 1941

America enters
the war

Japan attacks the US fleet at Pearl Harbour, inflicting serious damage. Later, Germany declares war on the USA, officially bringing America into the war in Europe.

At the Washington Conference (22 December 1941 – 14 January 1942), Britain and the US agree a strategy of ‘Europe first’ meaning they will concentrate on the defeat of Germany before Japan. This begins the train of events that would lead to D-Day.

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APRIL 1942

APRIL 1942

Operation Bolero

Operation Bolero sees the build-up of US forces in Britain, beginning the preparations for D-Day. However, realising they were not yet ready to launch, the Allies choose to fight forces in North Africa. Operation Torch landings sees British and American forces land in Morocco and Algeria, commanded by General Eisenhower. In January the following year, the Allies are still not ready and set their sights on Sicily.

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MARCH 1943

The Quebec Conference

In March 1943 an Anglo-American staff was formed under the command of British Lieutenant General Morgan to develop a plan for landing in occupied Europe. He is given the title of COSSAC (Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander). The Supreme Allied Commander has not yet been appointed.

Between 17 and 24 August that year, the Allies adopt COSSAC’s outline plan for D-Day at the Quebec Conference. Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory is appointed commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Forces. British Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay is appointed as the Allied naval commander for D-Day in October.

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November 1943

November 1943

Mulberry Harbours

Construction work begins at various points along the English coasts on the first sections of the Mulberry Harbours. These two artificial harbours will be made in huge sections from steel and concrete. After D-Day they will be towed over to Normandy and assembled off Gold and Omaha Beaches. The Mulberry Harbours will enable the Allies to land troops and equipment at a faster rate than is possible straight onto the beaches.

Also in November, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is given responsibility for improving the German defences on the French coast, which the Allies will have to overcome on D-Day including minefields, obstacles to sink landing craft, and pillboxes.

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28 NOV - 1 DEC 1943

The Teheran Conference

The British, American and Soviet leaders – Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin – meet together for the first time, at the Teheran Conference. Stalin urgently wants to know when the Allies will land in France, to aid the Soviet armies fighting on the Eastern Front. Churchill and Roosevelt tell him that the planned date is May 1944.

Later that month, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower is appointed as Supreme Allied Commander in overall charge of Operation Overload. General Sir Bernard Montgomery is appointed to command 21st Army Group, with responsibility for all Allied ground troops in the assault.

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31 DEC - 2 JAN 1944

31 DEC - 2 JAN 1944

D-Day Exercises

The first amphibious exercise for American troops takes place at Slapton Sands, Devon. It involves 16,000 assault troops. In the new year, planning for D-Day intensifies and the original plans are adapted to include more troops, naval forces and aircraft. The target date for D-Day is moved from 1 May to 31 May to allow time for the additional preparations. Later in January, midget submarines secretly visit the Normandy beaches to take sand samples. These are important to confirm that the beaches will support the weight of the tanks. Meanwhile, across many parts of Europe, French, British and US aircraft drop weapons and supplies to the Resistence.

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FEBRUARY 1944

Air Assault on Germany

Over a long period, RAF Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Force conduct heavy air raids against German cities. German fighter aircraft defend against these attacks and there are heavy casualties on both sides. The Germans are less able to replace these losses of airmen and aircraft than the Allies and, as a result, by the time of D-Day the German air force will not be strong enough to oppose the Allied landings in France.

In March, bombing raids would move on to the French railway network with the aim of reducing Germany's ability to transport troops and military supplies.

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APRIL 1944

APRIL 1944

Plans for D-Day

The Allied commanders and their staffs have completed the overarching plan for D-Day. Now the less senior officers, in charge of the units, (brigades, regiments and battalions) that will land on the beaches, begin to draw up plans. For the vast majority of troops, however, it will be at least a month before they know when and where the invasion will take place.

On 7 April 1944, General Montgomery presents his plans for the D-Day landings to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the other Allied commanders and the British chiefs of staff.

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2 MAY 1944

Exercise Fabius

Exercise Fabius begins at several sites along the coast of southern England. This is the largest series of training exercises so far, and the last before D-Day. In total, 25,000 troops land at a number of different beaches: the US 1st and 29th Divisions at Slapton Sands; the 50th British Division at Hayling Island; the 3rd Canadian Division at Bracklesham Bay; the 3rd British Division at Littlehampton. The exercises last until 8 May.

The date for D-Day is delayed from 31 May. Two periods in the following month are identified as suitable, based on the tides and the amount of moonlight: 5-7 June and 18-20 June.

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15 May 1944

15 May 1944

Final Briefing

The final briefing for Allied senior officers takes place at St Paul’s School, London. It is attended by King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

By late May, the troops that will land in Normandy on D-Day and immediately afterwards are in camps all along the south coast of England. The troops are sealed in the camps to guard the secret. Only in the last days of May are the troops briefed on their tasks for D-Day.

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1 JUNE 1944

Germany Learns of the Invasion

In the evening, the first part of a poem by Paul Verlaine is broadcast by the BBC: 'Les sanglots lourds/Des violons de l’automne…'. This is a coded warning message for the French Resistance that the invasion would take place within one month. The Abwehr (German military intelligence) intercepts the message and is also aware of its significance.

The following day, two Royal Navy X-craft (mini-submarines) set off for Normandy. They will stay there submerged until D-Day, when they will surface to guide in the first Allied craft at Juno and Sword beaches.

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3-4 JUNE 1944

3-4 JUNE 1944

D-Day Delayed

At this point, D-Day is still scheduled for 5 June. However, predictions showing bad weather force the delay of the invasion. US airborne troops are briefed, though many others do not yet know exactly where they are going.

Ships already at sea are recalled. Allied forecasters predict a 36-hour improvement in the weather. It will not be perfect but should be good enough to allow air, airborne and naval operations to take place. It seems possible that D-Day can be on 6 June.

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5 JUNE 1944

The Beginning of D-Day

Weather confirms that D-Day will definitely take place on 6 June. Allied junior officers begin to open their sealed orders and find out the location of the landings.

At 6am, the first Allied troop convoys begin to leave England’s south coast ports. This is about 24 hours before the first Allied troops will land in Normandy from the sea. Some ships need to set off so early due to their slow speed and the distance they are travelling.

Around 11pm, British and American airborne troops begin taking off. They will be the first Allied soldiers to land in Normandy.

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6 JUNE 1944

6 JUNE 1944

D-Day

The US 1st Infantry Division boards landing crafts in Portland Habour and make their way across the English Channel. Leading the way are the minesweepers, which clear a safe route for the other ships. Troops disembark onto five beaches codenamed, Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold and Sword.

Of the five, the US 1st Infantry Division landed on the deadliest; Omaha Beach. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties on this beach during the invasion.

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Learn
History of D-Day

From the beaches just outside our museum, the 1st US Infantry Division and troops from the 29th US Infantry Division embarked for Omaha Beach. This was the most heavily defended of the assault areas and preliminary Allied air and naval bombardments failed to knock out strong defense points. In total, 2,400 of the 34,000 soldiers lost their lives.

These soldiers were immortalised in the Oscar winning movie, Saving Private Ryan, which begins with a recreation of Omaha beach on D-Day. Today, our museum stands as a memorial and educational resource to these divisions, located on the last piece of allied soil many would ever step on.

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