The D-Day Wall

The boundary wall of the troop embarkation site at West Quay. © Southampton Old Lady
The boundary wall of the troop embarkation site at the side of the Grand Harbour Hotel West Quay.

Visitors from around the world, but especially from North America, emerge from cruise ships at Southampton Docks and head immediately for London or Stonehenge. Many stay at the prestigious Grand Harbour Hotel on West Quay without knowing that their country’s heroes had stayed on that very piece of land before sacrificing their lives.

Southampton. The day before D-Day
Southampton. The day before D-Day
Port from lift of Grand Harbour Hotel
Port from lift of Grand Harbour Hotel

This historically, was the site for troops to be stationed before going off to wars, from Agincourt to The Falklands.

WW2 allied troops would have health check-ups and their vehicles disinfected. Servicemen would kill time playing cards and etching their names on the red-brick boundary wall. One of the most prolific times was when North American service personnel were stationed here during the run up to the D-Day manoeuvres.

Southampton Docks. Convoy during peparations for D-Day
Southampton Docks. Convoy during preparations for D-Day
Drawing by Major Joseph C. Hazen, Jr The Empire Javelin in which 15th Army Headquarters was being transported to France, she struck a mine on December 28, 1944 in the English Channel and sank.
Drawing by Major Joseph C. Hazen, Jr. The Empire Javelin in which 15th Army Headquarters was being transported from Southampton to France. She struck a mine on December 28, 1944 in the English Channel and sank.
North American servicemen's names etched on to the D-Day wall. © Southampton Old Lady
North American servicemen’s names etched on to the D-Day wall. © SOL

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When the site was demolished, local people campaigned to keep the brickwork of names standing as a monument. Unfortunately, with no glass or perspex covering these names deteriorate each year. Responsibility for the wall shifts from pillar to post.

After some research on the internet I found one man who, in despair, felt it important to catalogue the names that were still legible some years ago. However even by the time I took this photo, last year, some of those have disappeared.

Here is the list according to that person, some of the names are still very readable:

W.E SHIRK, Wm MUELLER, CLEMTATIO, JOE HAMMOND, H.L. EATHERINGTON – ZION T/S, ROBERT M RAY & DAVE RAY OHIO, ROBERT GOLDEN, Geo FABER OF COLO, JAMES HENLEY, LAWRENCE MATHIS 1941 DEC 23, JAMES ?, DES PENNY, VIRRLA PENNY, CALAVERY AMER ? ?, D CHICAGO ILLINOIS, F.F JOHNSON USA, JOE N JONES DEC 22 1944, D.W SMITH, J.C KELLOE, CHARSTON S.C, BILLIE WILSON, P.W ?- AAL, RALPH ODEL, J.L PLIEL, JONY JOHNSTON, BILL ? URBAN, W KNIGHT

And hidden behind dustbins a small demolished section of this wall in jumbled order

M.P CARTER AUG 44, M J WOMPON FEB 45, ?F RECINE – OCT 10,1944 FRANCE, P.D B?EECH – CATAWISSA PENNA, J.C CHRISTEN ?, N ALDEN BOLL M???NN, G.N BUNKER ? – CITY IOWA – 1945 BALTIMORE, EDDIE MEYER ILLINOIS 17/21/44, JOHN HELMLIIIO ELYRIA OHIO 11-4-44, DOOLING – BEVERLY MASS, R FINN, J.E WETTA- CALLAWA MIAMI FLORIDA LAB RY MT NC, ED C??BA??K – BOUND BROOK, JO COURT, ?.M SLATER MAY 13 1937, VANEE, MARTIN VA

Post: 6th JUNE, 2016

IN HONOUR OF D-DAY HEROES, 6th JUNE, 1944

 

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40 thoughts on “The D-Day Wall

    • Who knows how many? Hopefully some were picked up by the Dunkirk little ships. It was difficult to keep records while being bombed. One of the reasons I felt it is vital to do this post. Authorities know that the wall is important and therefore deny responsibility (selling it off) – There are so many things in England that should be preserved, which is costly when you have so many families on your homeless list. Unless sites like this are sold off to become commercial enterprises, they are lost.

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  1. My mum always said the Americans were stationed on the Common, and in her school, perhaps that was earlier in the War. Henry V’s troops were certainly on the Common before they left for Agincourt.

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    • They were camped on The Common and at Stoneham and at parks and fields all over Southampton for ages. But they had to board via this station briefly before they boarded ships. It may be overnight or up to a week that they stayed here. I expect there were wash facilities but no tents unless you were ill.

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  2. Last night, I was listening to a radio call-in show while I pottered in the kitchen, and a man who had been a part of the invasion called in. It was so remarkable. It was a little hard to keep him on track — let’s just say his conversation showed his age — but his memories of those events was sharp and clear.

    We need reminders like this wall. Soon, the people who remind us of such important days will be entirely gone.

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  3. Sad, because this wall is part of the story of “everyday people” who fade so fast from history, and a powerful image of what becomes of their historical “footprints”. If similar scratchings by the soldiers who went to Agincourt were found today, there’d be huge excitement!

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  4. I tried to give you link to my everyday blog.Your blog doesn’t want to post it!!!The link you have with my name is to my Virginia Wolf blog. I am giving that a rest at the moment. Try searching for London Calling Tony Grant. You must put the Tony Grant bit. You will end up following The Clash if you just put London Calling. Ha! Ha! Have a good day, Tony

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    • I went to see those Punks when I lived in London! There was also a rebel fly-posting gang called London Calling and on my other blog Art So Provident, I following a blog all about London Graffiti and street art called London Calling. I have made a bookmark and will read you when I have sorted out my technical problems Tony. Thanks so much for all your comments.

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  5. Just been talking to my Mum and Dad on the phone. They didn’t know about the wall. My Dad was an armourer in the RAF and spent most of his war in Burma after, The Battle of Britain but my Mum was a teenager going to St Annes in the town at the time. Her brother, my uncle Howard, was killed in a bombing raid in Woolston. The Luftwaffe were trying to flatten Throneycrofts shipyard and also Supermarine where Spitfires were made.

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    • Over 200 were killed in the bombing raid in Woolston – I mentioned it in one of my earliest posts: https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/southampton-blitz/ I have also been trying to find out where a plaque has disappeared to, dedicated to Spitfire parts workers at Ford Hendy, which was requesistioned for the purpose, in Vincent’s walk. It was there until taken over by Buyology supermarket. That has now been gutted to be turned into student flats. The Council do not seem to be interested and suggested I write to the Ford Motor Company! My father was in the infantry and did a stint in Burma too. Many of my friends went to St Anne’s School. Had a brief look at your blog – but I need to update my software.

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      • I’ve just had a look at your post on the Southampton Blitz. The second photograph shows Bridge Road , Woolston. The bridge is the railway viaduct. The new Woolston Bridge passes over the road near their. My mother was standing in her back garden when the Luftwaffe attacked Supermarine and she heard the machine gun fire straffing workers as they ran out of the factory to the shelters on the other side of the road. She tells me over 100 people were left dead, lying in the street. If you go to Woolston have a look at Lloyds Bank on the corner of Victoria Road and Portsmouth Road. You can still see where the marks of machine gun bullets hit the bank. They have been filled in now. My uncle was a draughtsman in Thorneycrofts Shipyard. He was only 18 years old. He was a member of the Home Guard. His occupation was protected so he wasn’t called up. One night, during a raid, he and some other Home Guard were removing bodies form the bombed out London Arms Pub in Woolston when another bomb landed on them. That was that!!!

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  6. I visited my Mum and Dad in Woolston yesterday.They are doing well by the way. I had to take my Dad over to The General Hospital for some treatment to his eyes. They still live at home and look after each other. They have a nurse coming in once a day. My brother, who lives in Hedge End, visits them every day too. They are very good for their ages. I made a point of having a look at the D Day wall. You are right, the names are deteriorating. I also found my uncles name, Howard Thomas Reeves, on one of those green glass panels next to The Cenotaph. Thanks for all the information about the wall.All the best, Tony.

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    • Thanks for letting me know about your mum and dad. I think its important to get every ounce of information from people when they reach that age. I shall look out for your uncle on the green glass panels. They were once metal panels and there were attempts to steel them for scrap metal. I am glad that the Council acted quickly in this instance and worked towards replacing them with glass.

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