The D-Day Story

Parking

There is plenty of public parking nearby, but the cost for a 1-hour stay is £1.80 and for 2 hours it is over £3.00.

Toilets

There are very clean and well maintained toilets on site.

Gift Shop

There is gift shop with books, postcards and miscellaneous other items. There is also a small cafeteria area.

Located adjacent to Southsea Castle in Portsmouth, the "D-Day Museum & Overlord Embroidery", as it was originally named, was opened by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1984 on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day. On 30th March 2018 the Museum re-opened its doors after a lengthy refurbishment supported in large part by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with other donations. In addition to having a completely redesigned exhibtion space, the Museum also completely re-branded - becoming simply "The D-Day Story". A new logo and colour scheme were also complimented by a redesigned website.

As well as some very unique and personal artefacts and memorabilia, displays and dioramas the Museum also houses a number of larger pieces including a genuine LCVP landing craft, a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) and an DUKW amphibious truck. In addition to these attractions, the Museum is also custodian to a huge archive of Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune related material. Memoirs, documents and oral histories are available as a resource to the public by prior appointment. The entire archive of the Landing Craft Association is also amongst their collection.

Incorporated within the museum is the huge Overlord Embroidery which is almost 300ft in length. The Overlord Embroidery was commissioned in 1968 by Lord Dulverton as a tribute to the men and women who fought in the Second World War. The embroidery starts with depictions of the Blitz, then shows war-time production, the entry of the United States into the war and the planning and preparation for invasion. It shows extensively the crossing of the Channel and the landings themselves, and it ends with a scene of British soldiers advancing against German troops who are retreating across the Seine.

The embroidery was designed by artist Sandra Lawrence and the Royal School of Needlework created the piece over the course of five years. The embroidery is the longest work of its kind in the world and is actually 33 feet longer than the Bayeux Tapestry. Its 34 panels measure some 272 feet. On the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in 1994, the original paintings made by Sandra Lawrence during the design phase of the embroidery were presented to the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher. They are now adorning the hallways of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

In 2014 the Museum was at the forefront of commemoration efforts for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. This included holding a number of "Meet Normandy Veteran" events in conjunction with the Portsmouth branch of the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA). Another event was the first "D-Day Conference", supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which included talks from historians, authors and local groups involved in D-Day-related projects. The highlight of the event was an evening dinner with the chairman of the NVA, George Batts. Further conferences took place in 2015 and 2016 but there was no 2017 Conference due to the refurbishment project which saw the Museum completely closed for the duration.

We visited the newly re-opened D-Day Story museum on Easter Sunday 2018 and were extremely impressed by the renovation project. The transformation is quite staggering and the Museum is now a very 21st Century attraction, after looking somewhat dated for several years before the transformation project. Upon entering the Museum, dark wood panneling gives a modern appearance and the shop area and reception desk are more open-plan than before. The cafeteria has also been incorporated into the far end of this space.

Inside the exhibition space is a mix of information boards, cabinets containing artefacts, interactive video screens for older kids and adults along with some interactive "hands on" displays for younger kids. We actually found the interactive video displays to be good fun and of a very high production value. In fact, the entire space seems thoughtfully designed and produced to a high standard. There are spiral bound guides to the exhibition available in both English and French, but the exhibition space is easy to navigate and well defined, so we're not sure they are that essential. Some of the displays have braille.

There are some really interesting items on display and some really are unique. Of slight annoyance with some of the display cabinets was that item descriptions were all on one side, where some of the artefacts were best viewed from the opposite side of the cabinet to the descriptions. As with many similar Museums we've visited in Normandy we found the interior a bit dark. We also felt that some of the display cabinets could have been illuminated a little better.

The DUKW amphibious truck, BARV (Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle) and the LCVP landing craft that were on display previously are all still here. It's easy to get up close to the BARV and the DUKW, but the LCVP now incorporates similar hologram technology of the type used to depict Lt. Col. Wolverton at the D-Day Experience in Saint-Côme-du-Mont in Normandy. Looking into the open well of the landing craft visitors are presented with the real human faces of British soldiers, played by actors, as they prepare to land in Normandy. We thought this was a really good use of the landing craft, and was quite powerful when witnessed in combination with the other audio/video displays and artefacts in that part of the Museum.

Unfortunately, the Overlord Embroidery still consumes a large area of the limited exhibition space at the Museum. However, in the new environment it has been combined with more relevant imagery and information of the actual events being depicted. This entire area is quite dark, which we assume is to aid in the conservation of the embroidery itself, but it also seemed like a very quiet area - perfect for watching the various video interviews with veterans which are embedded on the walls opposite. The central auditorium has now given way to displays on how the tapestry was designed and created, plus some activities for kids which actually looked quite good fun.

The entrance fee for adults is now £10 - but for an additional £2 visitors can upgrade to an annual pass allowing free entry for 12 months. Parking charges nearby, outside the control of the Museum, are a little high. For 1-hour of parking the charge at both the pay-and-display car park behind the Museum and on the roads nearby is £1.80. This does not leave enough time for a decent visit. The next band for "up to 2-hours" costs just over £3.00.

Our criticisms of the D-Day Story are few, and mainly concern the low lighting in some areas. We also aren't wild about the new bright-yellow colour scheme and logo design either, but we expect these will grow on us over time. All in all, the new "D-Day Story" is a triumph and all those involved in this transformation project should be justly proud of their efforts. We now look forward to 2019 when the last surviving Landing Craft, Tank (LCT-7074) is due to be unveiled at the Museum in time for the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings. It is currently undergoing restoration at the Portsmouth Naval Dockyard and is a joint venture with the National Museum of the Royal Navy.


Contact Details:

  • The D-Day Story
  • Clarence Esplanade
  • Southsea
  • Hampshire
  • PO5 3NT

  • +44 (0) 23 9282 7261

  • theddaystory.com/