2. D-Day Memories

Author: Nfknowledge

The following contribution was written by New Forest Heritage Centre volunteer Chris Blake.

For the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, this article compiles some of the memories of local people of that time, recorded in the archive of the New Forest Heritage Centre. These give us a window looking back onto the scale and humanity of the events surrounding D-Day in 1944. In these recollections, the intrusion of the War into everyday life contrasts with many recognisable elements in the experience of living and growing up around the New Forest today. The following quotes provide a unique historic narrative that speaks for itself:

The Americans Arrive

“The girls were waving and cheering. Most people were smiling. The soldiers all seemed to be very well built and they were loaded down with equipment and guns. Most were either smoking or chewing gum. I think everyone was pleased to see them. Later, they arranged games and parties for the children. There were dances to which everyone went and had a great time.” – Jimmy Charlton, Brockenhurst1

“In early 1944, British and American armies were camped in the woods all arounds our cottage – a variety of vehicles, many camouflaged. Various troops, every morning, filled their water containers from a hose my father had rigged up.” – David White, Woodlands 2

“I remember waving to the never ending convoys of troops, many of them Americans, as they passed Lawn View. Many sweets were thrown over the fence to me. My mother, however, insisted that I did not eat any of the chewing gum!” – Peter Bromfield, Burley 3

The Build Up to D-Day

“For us boys it was glorious, it was just so much fun. We used to go into the camps. Our favourite one was on Alder Cliff. In the big houses there that then used to lay at the back there. We used to go there Saturday mornings and queue up with the troops for lunch or dinner, and used to go in and they used to say “Yeah, come on kid, if you want something to eat, you queue up”. We used to have chicken. We only had a scrawny chicken or a duck at Christmas and that was it, but these guys were having chicken more or less every meal, and we could not believe it. The food we used to get, and I can remember one time when the cook – I went into the cookhouse – and the cook there said “You want some corned beef kid?” and I said “Yes”. So he gave me a big long pack and I can remember arriving home with it on the handlebars from Milford to Woodside.” – David Bayliss 4

“For weeks, if not months, before D-Day we knew something was up because as we cycled around the areas – which we did far and often- we saw the vehicle, fuel and ammunition dumps, and all sorts of other equipment both in the Forest and at the airfields of Holmsley, Stoney Cross and Beaulieu.” – Desmond Hollier, Sway 5

“The Forest, yes, we gave a lot of shows there. And just prior to D-Day of course, the Forest was full up, under canvas, and well we concentrated on them, because of course we knew something was afoot but of course, we didn’t know what. And of course we didn’t realise they were all going off from there. The army were very, very good. They’d arrange Marquees to do the shows in and the soldiers would even build stages and things, it was surprising what they did do. But they were always happy shows and we had a lot of forces for entertainment and we drew them into it. It would be very corny now of course looking back on it, but we would have four seats on the stage and four men sitting on the seats and four girls sitting on the men’s laps. Then another one would come in with four bottles, baby’s bottles, full of milk you see and they’d take one each and the first one to finish was the winner and he would get an enamel babies potty with all the artist’s names on (laughs). I don’t know if any are still about (laughs) I’m sure there were hundreds of them!” – Betty Hockey, Concert Party Dancer 6

“The general security was very, very strict, in fact stricter and stricter as time went on. And you had to have a pass to get everywhere. We were allowed in or out of this area, or not as the case may be. This actually pleased my brother and me because we couldn’t go to (*boarding*)school, which was very nice.” – John Roper-Curzon, the late 20th Baron Teynham (Pylewell Park, near Lymington) 1

“When it came up for D-Day, all the camps were closed and they had big signs on the sides of the road ‘You are forbidden to speak to the troops’. They weren’t allowed out of the camps anymore, and you weren’t allowed to speak to them.” – Edith Daniels 7

“My mother walked along the lane where she saw the most secret thing of all, which was the black and white stripes painted on the underneath and on the fuselage and the wings of the American planes. This was of course the new Allied identification.” – John Roper-Curzon, the late 20th Baron Teynham (Pylewell Park, near Lymington) 1

“On D-Day minus one, I was visited by a patient at a cottage on the shore by Pitts Deep and had the impression of being able to walk right across to the Island from craft to craft, the Solent being so full of them.” – Dr Basil Fulton 1

“… Hundreds of ships from horizon to horizon, which for us was from the Needles on the Isle of Wight to Old Harry Rocks at Studland Bay.” – Desmond Hollier, Sway 5

The Delay

“All the convoys and where they were, stationed under the trees and all the side roads and small roads. It was just amazing, they were everywhere. And of course, just prior to D-Day, it had to be put off a day because of the weather.” – Betty Hockey, Concert Party Dancer 6

“They were all embarked in all the landing craft, and as the weather was so terrible the powers that be decided that they’d have to put D-Day off for 24 hours. And then they thought, “What can we do to keep up the spirits of the men who are on board?” and so they chose two Wrens, myself and another, whose name I don’t remember, and we sailed all the way down Southampton Water in a naval ML, waving at the men. Really I suppose the idea was to keep their spirits up. But we…both the other girl and I, knew perfectly well what …what it was all about – you couldn’t hide it then from people then in Southampton that D-Day was very imminent. And at the end of all that they took us on board the Admiral’s flagship – I don’t remember the Admiral’s name but it was HMS Bulolo and they gave us tea in the wardroom. And what I can remember is, we had white bread which I hadn’t seen since beginning of the war.” – Margaret Seeley, WRNS 8

The Departure

“I remember going out one day and seeing nothing but tents and soldiers. One called Jim called me ‘Nipper’ and gave me a football – bladder only… And of course, they must have been British, because of the nickname and the shape of the ball. I remember the tanks thundering down the road towards Lyndhurst on their way out. Then, suddenly, Waters Green was empty of soldiers. I went out with the football for days afterwards, hoping Jim would come back, kicking my precious football backwards and forwards till lunchtime.” – Bruce Smith, Brockenhurst 9

“We didn’t know what was happening, but we knew something was happening because every nook and cranny in the Forest had camouflage nets with troops and things, you know, obviously all getting ready. And then when at the actual D-Day times of course there was a continual stream of…. the planes started about 3 o’clock in the morning and went on all the time, the Dakotas going over and the bombers going over and the…the lorries were…were full of troops, were…were just going on all day. We sort of abandoned work on…on D-Day virtually, to wave to them going past. Nothing official, we, you know, they were soldiers, and they were waving and we were waving to them ‘coz we knew they were going off somewhere but we didn’t know what. The invasion hadn’t… hadn’t been publicised, obviously, it had started but you know, but it hadn’t got public. But you know, we were waving to them all, and, because the forest was cleared then. When we went home all those soldiers that had been hiding in the trees had all disappeared. All gone. And we felt very sad about that, you know, because, you know, we knew they were going to war and half of them wouldn’t come back. And it… you know, it was a sad time but exciting at the same time.” – Vera Storr, Millersford 10

“When the D-day troops actually left, the day – the morning they left to go to, to embark for France, we children stood alongside the road and sort of waved them off as it were, and they just threw all their English cash out of the vehicles and landed in the road and threw it to us and picked it up and to us in those days 2s-6d was a fortune. And all this money came out because obviously they decided they didn’t want English money anymore, so they just threw it all out of their vehicles as they drove past us. So, we made quite a killing in terms of cash on (chuckle) that particular occasion.” – Ronald Mintram 11

“About four o’clock in the morning there was this awful noise. I thought “What’s the heck’s that?” So, I got up and looked out the window and they were moving. All our soldiers were gone in our garden and our neighbours both sides. They’d all gone. And they were just going down the road. And it’s so exciting, watching all these people. Watching all these people going, you know. And so my Mum said ‘You won’t be able to go to school today ‘cos you won’t be able to get up the road’. There was trailers with tanks on and “ducks” are they called? Lots and lots of those. There was tanks and there was one or two – like folded up aeroplanes. I don’t know what they were like, they were on these things. And my sister and I we just watched them all the time and of course all the kiddies in the area came out. We were quite an audience, all us children.” – Iris Cooper 12

“The troops moved out just prior to D-Day. My sister and I stood at our gate and many American soldiers threw us Hershey chocolate bars, which we stored in the hedge in our front garden.” – David White, Woodlands 2

“We had a big copse at the end of our fields, and I can remember they were Canadian or American, and there were no end of soldiers everywhere, which I presume now must have been near D-Day. Because there was so many people about that time, or soldiers about at that time, and then suddenly one morning we got up to go to school or just realised that everything was quiet and everything had gone. Just like as if they’d never been there.” – Edwina Bright, Fritham 13

“The next day there wasn’t anything to be seen, there was no soldiers, sailors, air force. No vehicles, nothing. Just absolutely nothing. As if they’d all vanished into thin air.” – Betty Hockey, Concert Party Dancer 6

“One morning when we got up, they were all gone. The tanks were all gone and that was it. All back to normal sort of thing.” – Edith Daniels 7

“I can remember coming out of school and remember seeing – I think it was about 4 o’clock, maybe just as we came out of school – the sky was covered with Horsa gliders, the sky was full of gliders going across I suppose. Yeah, I suppose we’re lucky to see all this really, but we didn’t realise just how serious it all was. But I can remember during the war, I don’t think we were ever worried about it as children.” – David Bayliss 4

“…The most powerful memories were of the air armadas of hundreds of aircraft and gliders passing over us as they headed off for the invasion.” – Desmond Hollier, Sway 5

The Aftermath

“We were able to go into some of the deserted Camps that had been on high security only hours before. We were given some food rations. There were some soldiers left behind. When we asked where everybody had gone, one of the soldiers laughed and said, ‘they have gone to give Mr Hitler a big surprise’. It was a day later that my parents read the full news of D-Day.” – Maurice Taylor 1

“Everyone was talking about it the following day. In the next day or so as I was walking down Belmore Road one warm, sultry evening I could hear the gunfire from the Normandy beachhead.” – Dr Basil Fulton 1

“My most poignant memory of that time was of the days immediately following D-Day. Hospital trains painted with huge red crosses would rumble slowly through Brockenhurst Station from Southampton, travelling at no more than 15 or 20 miles an hour for obvious reasons.” – Anonymous, Brockenhurst 14

“I spent many hours, much to my mother’s concern, picking up the various mugs and pans left by the troops from their camps in the woods by dragging them and placing them at our back door.” – David White, Woodlands 2

“We had great times out and about on our old bikes, finding all sorts of stuff. We found tinned food, pieces of equipment that to this day I don’t know what they were, also helmets and spent ammunition. We kept away from the live ammunition. One lad lost some fingers playing with ammunition, so we knew it was silly. But no, it was like a treasure hunt really.” – Jimmy Charlton, Brockenhurst 1

“We went up to the copse, my mother – my parents and myself – and we found lots of bibles and prayer books, well not lots, but bibles and prayer books and even rations that they’d left obviously in quite a hurry. Inside one or two of them I can remember my mother finding an address and she either wrote or sent these books back. And we corresponded, or she corresponded, some years with the people in Canada and in America.” – Edwina Bright, Fritham 13


1 – Leete, J. (2014) The New Forest at War. Orca Book Services ; Sabrestorm Publishing. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/bl-016693448/

2 – Arnold, S. Church, C. Cockram, J. (2010) Ashurst and Colbury at War; 1914-1951. Privately published. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-151072/

3 – Cockram, J., Williams, R., Burley Branch of the Royal British Legion (2015) Burley and the Two World Wars. Privately Published by John Cockram and Richard Williams; Brockenhurst. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-154139/

4 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for David Bayliss

https://nfknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/D-B-David-Bayliss-OH-Transcription-Web.pdf  (Audio: https://nfknowledge.org/d-b015_01a1-d-day/)

5 – Blakeley, T., Cockram, J., Saunders, N. J. (2009) Sway at War 1914-1945. Privately published. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-151203/

6 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Betty Hockey

7 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Edith Daniels

https://nfknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/E1D-Edith-Daniels-OH-Transcription-WEB.pdf (Audio until 00:25 https://nfknowledge.org/e1d007_01a1-d-day-you-are-forbidden-to-speak-to-the-troops/)

8 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Margaret Seeley

9 – Cockram, J. (2001) Brockenhurst and the Two World Wars. Privately published. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-151449/

10 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Vera Storr

11 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Ronald Mintram

12 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Iris Cooper

13 – New Forest Remembers WWII Project Transcription Document for Edwina Bright

14 – Doughty, M. (1994) Hampshire and D-Day. Hampshire Books. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-151704/


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