D-Day 80

2024 marks the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

D day 80 logo

This year, the UK commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 with a series of major commemorations and events across the UK and in France.

Also known as D-Day, the historic operation (Operation Overlord) saw the Allied Forces mount a large-scale invasion of Nazi-occupied France that ultimately tipped the course of the Second World War in the Allies’ favour.

Southampton played a central role in preparations for the D-Day landings, with millions of British and American troops based around Southampton Water.

You can find out more about Southampton's role in D-Day on the Southampton Stories website which features content from Southampton Museums Archive.

Read on to find out the special events and activities taking place in the city to commemorate D-Day 80.

D-Day Proclamation

Southampton Town Crier

At 8am on 6 June, Southampton’s Town Crier, Alan Spencer, will honour the 80th anniversary of D-Day with a special proclamation.

This tribute will acknowledge the valiant Allied forces who initiated Operation Overlord by storming the beaches of Normandy, a pivotal act that ultimately led to the liberation of Paris.

Their bravery and sacrifice will be remembered in this solemn commemoration.

Commemorative Service and Military Parade

Holyrood Church Courtyard

As part of the 80th-anniversary commemorative activities, a service will be held on the evening of 6 June to recognise and honour the sacrifices made during the Second World War.

The service will take place at Holyrood Church in the city centre, which was destroyed by enemy bombing during the Blitz in November 1940.

The 17 Port & Maritime Regiment, based at Marchwood Military Port, holds the Freedom of the City and will attend the service. Following the service they will lead a parade through the city centre to commemorate this historic occasion. The parade will make its way through the High Street, passing the Star Hotel and Bargate, and will conclude in Guildhall Square.

National Beacon Initiative

D Day 80 beacon image 2

Southampton will participate in the National Beacon Initiative, orchestrated by Bruno Peek CVO OBE OPR. This will include an 80th-anniversary D-Day international beacon, set to be lit in the evening at the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach.

Additional beacons will also be positioned in Utah, Omaha, Juno, and Sword, all within Normandy, France.

The Southampton beacon will be lit in Guildhall Square, marking the culmination of the military parade.

D-Day Tours and Talks

D Day Guildhall Southampton City Council

Thinking Thursdays: D-Day 80 Civic Centre and D-Day Guided Tour
Thursday 6 June at 11am

Thinking Thursdays is a weekday initiative from Southampton City Council Cultural Services, exploring the rich history and heritage of the town.
Each session is different, but it could be a talk, tour or something entirely different!

Southampton played a crucial role in the embarkation of troops and equipment during Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.
Parts of the Civic Centre were given over for use by the American military, and echoes of this survive today, including the remarkable D-Day Embroidery.

On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, join historian Andy Skinner for this special guided tour of Southampton’s Civic Centre to explore the remarkable story of its use throughout the preparations, during the operation itself and until the end of the war.

The tour will begin at SeaCity Museum. Regrettably this tour is not suitable for those with mobility concerns.

 Find out more and book your tickets here.

Image ©Southampton City Council

D Day wartime knitting

Talk - Wartime Knitting
Thursday 6 June | 2pm - 3.30pm  | Southampton Central Library

Joyce Meader - Author of "Knitskreig" and historic knitter for film and television, will be giving a talk on Wartime Knitting.

Joyce Meader is a historical knitting expert who owns a very extensive collection of commercially printed knitting patterns. Her collection ranges from the 1817 to the present day. Examples of the places that have asked for knitted items from Joyce include The National Army Museum Chelsea, Museum of Army Flying Middle Wallop and the Mountain Heritage Trust Mallory Collection. Joyce and her team provided balaclavas, mufflers, fingerless mitts and jumpers for the First World movie ‘1917’
Joyce’s talks have been presented to groups ranging from local WI, TWG, the Western Front Association, and to other knitting groups. Joyce’s presentation style is both entertaining and informative. Her patterns have been used to recreate items for re-enactors, museums and private clients.

Tickets are £5 and includes refreshments.
Tickets are limited and can be purchased from a Southampton City Library or you can buy online here.

D Day waiting at the docks Southampton City Council

D-Day 80: D-Day Walking Tour
Sunday 9 June at 11am

Join historian Andy Skinner for a walking tour exploring stories, sites and scenes from Southampton’s part in ‘the Greatest Day’.

The tour will begin in St Michael’s Square and will last approximately 90 minutes.

Regrettably this tour is not suitable for those with mobility concerns.

Find out more and book your tickets here.

Image ©Southampton City Council

Tour guide from See Southampton talking to small group of tourists outside Tudor House Garden

On Saturday 9 June, join SEE Southampton Heritage Guides on a City walk to include the D-Day Wall, beacon, Town Quay Park and end at Westgate Tower, where there will be a D-Day exhibition.

You can also see the exhibition most Sundays 10am - 3pm, when the Southampton Heritage Guides and volunteers open Westgate Tower. Free entry.

On Wednesday 12 June at 7pm, SEE Southampton Heritage Guides are organising a Talk by Jack Wilson on Southampton, the Blitz and D-Day at Portswood  Library.

More details on how to book your place at both these activities will be available soon.

SEE Southampton website

Steamship Shieldhall D-Day Cruises

Shieldhall image Darryl Morrell

Steamship Shieldhall is the largest working steamship in Britain and as a member of the National Historic Fleet she serves as a sea going tribute to Britain’s maritime heritage.
It is operated by a team of dedicated volunteers, rightly proud of Shieldhall’s No 1 TripAdvisor ranking in Southampton, you too can experience the golden age of steam on their special D-Day themed cruises on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June.

Saturday’s sailing between 2pm – 6pm will see Shieldhall pass down Southampton Water and journey to Lepe, with a commentary recalling the events leading up to 6 June 1944.
The hards at Lepe were a major embarkation point for troops bound for Gold Beach. Lepe is also synonymous with the construction of elements used in the famous Mulberry Harbours.
Image ©Darryl Morrell

Front of the ship SS Shieldhall Credit Steam Ship Shieldhall

On Sunday 9 June between 11.30am – 6pm Shieldhall will pass into Portsmouth Harbour, home to the Royal Navy - an exciting opportunity to view Britain’s current naval vessels and the dramatic skyline of Portsmouth, including Southsea; Clarence pier; Spice Island and the Spinnaker Tower, from the water. Portsmouth was the headquarters and main departure point for the military and naval units destined for Sword Beach on the Normandy coast.

During the cruises, guests are welcome to view Shieldhall’s impressive engine room with its original steam engines at work and the bridge, with its traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork; visit the ship’s steam assisted steering gear (similar to that used on Titanic); talk to the Captain and her volunteer crew and listen to an informed commentary on the sights and sounds of Southampton Water and the Solent. Shieldhall will pass close to the great ocean liners and container ships.  
Image ©Steamship Shieldhall

There will be a wide range of refreshments available in the saloon including tea / coffee; a range of Titanic bottled beers; wine and hot and cold food. Courtesy parking is available close to Sheildhall’s 110 berth in Southampton’s Western Docks.

For more info on Steamship Shieldhall and her D-Day 80 sailings, please visit:

Sat 8 June | D - Day 80 Theme Cruise to the Solent

Sun 9 June | D - Day 80 Theme Cruise to Portsmouth Harbour

Find out more information and book your tickets from the SS Shieldhall website

Southampton D-Day Embroidery on display at SeaCity Museum

D Day Embroidery3

An embroidery was created to commemorate the role Southampton played in the D-Day landings of June 1944.

The idea was proposed by Miss Elsie Sandell in 1947, and Miss C Christison spent over a year creating the design. The first stitch was worked by the then Mayoress, Mrs Blanchard, on May 3, 1950 and completed by 76 embroiders representing 14 women’s organisations in Southampton.

The last stitch was put in by another Mayoress, Mrs Burrow, on February 4, 1953 producing a unique panel which celebrated Southampton’s part in the success that was D-Day.

The unveiling ceremony took place in the presence of her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, on April 2, 1953.

The image above shows The Mayoress (Mrs Blanchard) putting the first stitch in the D-Day embroidery. Beside her: Mrs Norman Cook (left), expert borderer, and Miss C. M. Christison, designer. Back row (left to right): Mrs F. Dibben, Miss Elsie M. Sandell and Mrs F. S. Smith.  Image ©Southampton City Council

The viewpoint of the embroidery is taken from above the Town Quay, with transports moored alongside the quay wall.
The Bargate dominates the centre, with the Civic Centre to the left beyond.
Columns of British and Allied troops march down the High Street, including soldiers, sailors, airmen and women of the WAAC, WRAF and WRNS – representatives of all of the units that assisted with the invasion force.

Southampton D-Day Embroidery
Southampton D-Day Embroidery

The D-Day Embroidery and special information panels highlighting D-Day topics including the Mulberry Harbours and The 14th Major Port, will be on display throughout June at the SeaCity Museum where they can be viewed by visitors to the Galley Café
While you are at the museum, why not visit the Southampton Stories exhibition which features a D-Day section where you can hear first-hand on what it was like to live in Southampton and the docks during the build up to the biggest military invasion in history from Southampton’s outstanding oral history collections.
Find out about SeaCity Museum opening times and ticket prices.

Visit The American Wall

D Day Wall 1 Maritime Archaeology Trust

The ‘D-Day Wall’ or ‘American Wall’ as it has become known, is a 19 metre length of brick wall at the lower end of Western Esplanade in Southampton, etched with the names of American soldiers that passed through Southampton.

The wall, built c1910, is all that remains of the boundary wall of the old town mortuary and Southampton Borough Council Disinfecting Station.

Image ©Maritime Archaeology Trust

D Day Wall 2 Maritime Archaeology Trust

When this area of Southampton was re-developed in 1993, a section of graffitied wall was allowed to remain in situ as a memorial, and a number of bricks from the demolished section, together with bricks saved from the demolished houses across the road, were built into a smaller wall behind the original wall, while others remain in the collection of Southampton Museum Service.

A brick from the American Wall with ‘1945’ written on it, is on display in the Gateway to the World exhibition at SeaCity Museum. (Admission to the museum applies).

Image ©Maritime Archaeology Trust

In 2019-2020, the wall was the subject of the Maritime Archaeology Trust’s D-Day: Stories from the Walls project, which aimed to record the graffiti and explore the stories of the soldiers behind it.

You can visit the wall in person, or explore a digital 3D model and view soldier stories on the Maritime and Archaeology website. This also hosts other resources from the project, including a self-guided walk, educational booklet, and project booklet.

D Day Plaque in city art gallery

During World War II, the Civic Centre in Southampton emerged as a significant landmark.
The city was transformed into a bustling hub of military activity, with the Civic Centre at its heart. It housed the US army control centre, orchestrating key operations and strategies. However, the war also brought devastation.
In a tragic incident in November 1940, the Civic Centre was hit by a 500 lb high explosive bomb during a raid. The bomb penetrated the lower floors of the art gallery, claiming the lives of 35 people, including 15 children attending an art lesson in the basement. The city's wartime effort was acknowledged by this plaque presented by the US Port Commanders which can be seen in the city's art gallery.

Visit the Solent Sky Museum

Spitfire with D Day stripes Solent Sky

Solent Sky Museum is known as the home of the Spitfire which was designed and built in Eastleigh and Southampton and played its part in D-Day.

This image shows planes with black and white stripes with the D-Day markings. Everyone knew there would be lots of planes in the sky and so the stripes were added for identification purposes.

Images ©Solent Sky

Spitfire with beer barrel Solent Sky

Did you know that after D-Day there was a concern that the troops weren't getting enough beer and so a Spitfire was adapted to help alleviate that issue.  Image credit ©Solent Sky

At Solent Sky you will be able to see a Spitfire and learn the fascinating history of the world's greatest fighting aircraft. There are lots of other aircraft exhibits for you to see and a Blitz exhibition with information on Southampton's experience in WW2.

If you visit over the D-Day weekend on Saturday 8 & 9 June, Solent Sky are hosting a Tram Enthusiasts event, where the trams will be on show as well a number of model tram layouts and trade stands.

The Police and Fire services were very active in support of D-Day and protecting the citizens of Southampton during the conflict and several police and fire vehicles from that period will be on display.

There will be plenty for everyone to see and do at Solent Sky during the weekend between 10am - 5pm both days.

Find out more at the Solent Sky website

More D-Day Information

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