At the time of D-Day, the Allied commanders met at Southwick House, just outside Portsmouth.
Seventy one years later, the library and drawing room are just as they were on D-DAY and the massive plywood map, set to 0630 hours, D-DAY H-HOUR 6 JUNE 1944, is unchanged from that early morning after General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “OK, let’s go.”
The owner of the Southwick Estate was an eccentric man called Colonel Evelyn Thistlethwayte. In the early years of the war he frequently invited various Admirals to while away a few spare hours on his estate to join him in some pheasant shooting. These Admirals made a note of the spectacular situation of the House and by late 1941 the entire Estate was requisitioned by the Navy to house the Royal Naval Navigation School, which had had to be relocated from the heavily targeted Dockyard in Portsmouth.
It was from Southwick House that Eisenhower took the decision to postpone the invasion for 24 hours on advice from meteorologist, Group Captain J. M. Stagg. With him were General Bernard Law Montgomery, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey, Air Vice Marshal Leigh-Mallory, Lt. General Omar Bradley, and Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith.
The famous map was fascinating and the talk that was given was full of facts and stories of the time. The two men who delivered the map, made by Chad Valley Toys, were apparently not allowed to leave for home, or even to contact their families, until after D Day, in order to preserve the secrecy surrounding the plans.
Members of Lymington and District Historical Society boarded a coach on a beautiful summer morning in June and we arrived in plenty of time. We enjoyed a brief visit to the Royal Military Police Museum, which is on the same site of the Defence College of Policing and Guarding and then walked to Southwick House itself for the talk and guided tour.
After an amazing and interesting morning, the coach picked us up and transferred us to The Churchillian pub, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch and admired the stunning views over Portsmouth and the coast.
A great day out that was much enjoyed by all.