Turn left for France – Operation Overlord – Southern Railway and D-Day

Today, 6th June,  marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied forces D-Day landings, Operation Overlord,  on the Normandy coast, the largest ever wartime seaborne invasion landings, that bought about the start of the end of the Second World War. We rightly commemorate bravery of the 156,000 allied troops involved and the as many as 4000 young men that fell to bring about the liberation of France and ultimately Europe some 11 months later.

It should also be remembered that D-Day was not just about one day but an incredible amount of planning and logistics both leading up to and for the many months that followed to ensure that men and machines, munitions, supplies and materials were in the right place at the right time to ensure success. Whilst much is reported about the 6000 plus ships and vessels that sailed across the channel,  it was very much the railways of the time that played a big part in these logistics supplying the many south coast posts such as Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Portland. The Southern Railway was of course at the forefront of these logistics.

For example to build the temporary ‘Mulberry’ harbours, Designed by Major Allan Beckett of the Royal Engineers,  that were built over six months off the Normandy coast by around 55,000 workers used  210,000 tons of steel, 1,000,000 tons of concrete. All these materials would have arrived at the coast ports for loading onto vessels by rail. This construction still stands as one of the greatest civil engineering feats of modern times.

The Southern Railway reported, later that year, at its 1944 Annual General Meeting that some £1,000,000 was spent on the additional sidings and equipment necessary to meet the needs of Operation Overlord. During 1944 over 26,000 special trains were run, with over 550,000 on duty service personnel carried.  Eighteen of the Company’s steam ships and their ‘modern’ train ferry ships also played an active part. All of this took place whilst maintaining a practically normal level of standard service trains to allow the civilian population to move from home to work as usual.

Lest we forget not just the young brave military personnel but also the dedication and efforts of the railway workers that worked tirelessly, in all too often difficult and life threatening conditions themselves, indeed many did also fall, to ensure the success of Operation Overlord.

No pictures with this post just thoughts and thanks.


4 thoughts on “Turn left for France – Operation Overlord – Southern Railway and D-Day

  1. Hi Graham, I was born in Bognor Regis in 1947 and Pagham harbour still has a concrete road system used to serve the D day landing as I believe that the Canadians had that area for that purpose. Amazingly after the war it became a popular area for Londoners to buy ex LBSCR coaches which were removed from their frames in Bognor goods yard and transported to Pagham. Some have been recovered by Heritage railways but lots have been bricked over and still exist to this day. At a remote beach at the end of Dark Lane further towards Bognor a piece of the Mulberry harbour was beached there and as a kid I used to play on it!!

  2. Hi Graham. Further to my comment above if you go to Trip Advisor and search Pagham it will come up with hotels etc but click on beach house and you will behind the façade a coach as explained above.

  3. Hi Clifford, many thanks for the interesting comments. It is amazing just how many very early coaches have survived as part of buildings.

    1. I suspect Graham that Lancing carriage works sold he bodies and reused the under frames and bogies. The coaches would have gone to Bognor and separated in the gods yard for onward delivery by road and the under frames towed back to Lancing for recycling as we say today.

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