Castletown D-Day Centre

Parking

There is a 'pay and display' car park behind the Hotel Aqua and some on-street parking.

Toilets

The museum has some newly built toilets just opposite the entrance next to the Hotel Aqua.

Gift Shop

There are a few items on sale near the ticket desk, along with some other artefacts on display (not for sale).

Despite the similarity in the name, this website is not affiliated with the Castletown D-Day Centre at Portland in Dorset on England's south coast. The Castletown D-Day Centre opened in March 2017 and is situated right in the heart of an area where thousands of American troops embarked for France in 1944, and the 300 square metre museum itself occupies a former Naval warehouse.

The D-Day Centre is quite unlike the other museums we have reviewed, with visitors encouraged to get "hands on" with many of the items on display. Young and old are more than welcome to climb aboard a Dodge Weapons carrier, squeeze behing the steering wheel of the jeep or dry fire a number of weapons, including a Colt 45, Thompson sub-machine gun and even a venerable "50 cal". There's even a small box of uniforms and helmets for the younger visitor to try on.

The museum takes a strong local perspective on the D-Day landings. A short film of interviews with local residents is very moving. They recount their memories of the build up to the invasion, the American troops, the masses of equipment and the sudden emptiness following the invasion when residents awoke to find an empty harbour - with the GI's en route to Normandy.

Everything about the D-Day Centre seems to have been done well. The information panels which flank the entrance and adorn the interior walls are well designed and easy to read. The second floor at the rear of the museum space has been designed to look like the side of a landing craft, with large white lettering, gunwales and even mooring ropes secured to bollards on the ground floor. Overhead, a full-sized replica of a Spitfire is suspended from the roof girders.

Outside the entrance is a nicely restored example of a Sherman tank, and inside on the ground floor can be a found a BSA motorcycle and sidecar, a Dodge Weapons Carrier, a Dodge Ambulance and an M45 Quadmount machine gun (which you can climb into if you are small and bendy enough). There are various mannequins and static displays, and the small film area is located beneath the staircase leading to the second floor. Even the film room is designed to look like an officer's billet.

The upstairs, as far as we could tell, is only accessible by stairs. Alongside the staircase are some glass cabinets with personal items and other artefacts from war. Once up the stairs and "aboard" the ship you will find a jeep, some very well kitted mannequins and the deactivated weapons that visitors are encouraged to pick up. There are also windows affording a perfect view of the two Mulberry Harbour "Phoenix" caissons which sit in Portland harbour. These two caissons were amongst ten that were towed back to Portland from Normandy in 1946. The others were donated to the Dutch government in 1953 to act as flood defences, but these two remained and were designated as listed buildings in 1997.

The Castletown D-Day Centre is not huge, and an hour will probably be enough for most people to see everything. Those who enjoy climbing in and on the various vehicles and interacting with the exhibits will likely need a little more time. Regardless, we believe it to be an excellent little museum and we are very much looking forward to our next visit. The entrance fee is very reasonable at just £4.50, £3.00 for young adults (12-17) and £2.00 for under 12's. The Centre is open 10.30 to 15.30 every day, including Bank Holidays.


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