“ Address: City Museum and Records Office / Museum Road / Portsmouth / PO1 2LJ / Tel: 023 9282 7261 „
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The museum is split into 3 sections, first of all you enter and have the overlord embroidery. This is dubber as the modern day Bayeux Tapestry and depicts the events leading up to and including the invasion. The embroidery is displayed beautifully and is absoultly fantastic. Then there is the cinema. This is a 16 minute film that runs every 20 minutes. It is about the propoganda and build up to DDay, using videos from the Imperial war museum. This is a really good way to start, so I would recommend watching this before viewing the embroidery because it helps set the scene of the museum.
Then on the other side of the museum is the actual museum. It was redone a few years ago and is visually very appealing. There are fantastic displays and artefacts, with various videos and local portsmouth people recalling memories coming from the speakers. Which really brings it all to life. However, one if the highlights is the vehicles shed you walk through, with Tanks and carriers that were used in the invasion. In the carrier you can actually walk on to it, which feels very surreal.
One of the highlights of my trip here was talking to the Veterns, who volunteer everynow and then. I got a first hand chat from two gentlemen, which as you can imagine is an invaluble addition to the museum. They were happy to answer questions for hours!!
However, the downside of the museum is the cafe. There is a small cafe at the back of the museum run by a catering company called Yellow Kite. The food is very expensive and nothing special. It was a very sunny day when i visited also, and because the museum is on the seafront the cafe was heaving and i had to wait 30 minutes for a toasted cheesy!! So, I wouldn't recommend eating here.
My personal recommendation would be to make a day trip here in the morning, and then when youve finished walk out the back cafe doors and into the castle grounds. The castle is free and also run by Portsmouth Council, so when you pay the £6.50 entry fee for D-Day, you could have a full day out for that price. Southsea castle is very small behind so I wouldnt recommend it by itself, but if yuo are visiting the D-Day, then I would definatly say it would enhance your visit to Portsmouth to pop in!
Southsea's D-Day Museum is dedicated to the events leading to the invasion of Normandy by the Allied Forces on 6th June 1944 and the invasion itself. The museum is appropriately situated close to the sea front, next to the somewhat older Southsea Castle. Opposite the museum stands a statue of Lord Montgomery, and just outside are two examples of tanks used during World War II, a statue of a dejected soldier, and a 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun.
Entrance to the museum is through automatic sliding glass doors; just inside is the reception desk where tickets are sold. I visited in January 2010, at which time local residents were granted free admission on production of a library card. I presume this was to encourage visitors during the low season, although we did in fact notice a fair number of people buying tickets that Saturday afternoon.
Turning left, you enter a circular hall where the impressive Overlord Embroidery is displayed. An audio guide to the embroidery is available in either English, French or German, or you can content yourself with the information written beneath each panel in the same three languages. The embroidery was designed by Sandra Lawrence and was made at the Royal College of Needlework, taking twenty people five years to complete. Each panel measures 2.4 by 0.9 metres, and the entire creation is even longer than the Bayeux Tapestry. It is a combination of applique and embroidery in which actual materials from uniforms of the armed forces have been used. The embroidery tells the story of Operation Overlord, covering a period from 1940 through to 1944. It is a unique representation of the battles, the bombing, the meetings of the leaders of the Allied Forces, the landings on the Normandy beaches. Aircraft, ships, soldiers and the occasional civilian (even a woman with curlers and a hair net) feature in this wonderful piece of artwork that in itself warrants a visit to the museum.
In the centre of the Overlord Embroidery hall is a small theatre where a thirteen-minute film centring on World War II and including archive footage is shown at intervals. Beside the door a clock shows how long it will be until the next showing, and announcements are made shortly before the film is to be shown too. Personally I enjoyed the fact that the embroidery area was quiet while the film was being shown and it was a delight to be able to walk around and have an unobstructed view of each panel.
On leaving the Overlord Embroidery gallery, you can then enter the area of the museum devoted to Britain at War. Photographs, maps, posters and explanatory information are admirably displayed alongside showcases with items ranging from uniforms, weapons, the contents of a soldier's kit bag and supplies carried by nurses to treat the wounded. The experience is brought to life through a number of dioramas that show, for example, a soldier in a forest camp at night, a woman working in a factory, or Churchill, Eisenhower and Roosevelt pouring over their plans. Every so often the air raid siren sounds, but the atmosphere becomes more relaxed as 'Music while you work' is played in the factory. As you near the end of this area of the museum, you find a tank emerging from the carcass of a crashed aircraft, with wounded soldiers lying on the ground. Children are likely to be fascinated by the vehicles in the final hall, which include an LCVP landing craft and a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle tank.
One small section of the museum focuses on 'Portsmouth Memories'. A huge number of ships were assembled in Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent in the build-up to D-Day, and many local residents have contributed their recollections from the period to this display.
Within the main area of the museum is a small room dedicated to Holocaust Memorial Day. Seats are provided here.
There is of course a gift shop as you emerge from the exhibition area. Quality appears to have been maintained here and tacky souvenirs are thankfully absent. An extensive collection of books could be of interest, and framed prints are also available.
From April to September the museum is open from 10am until 5.30pm, and from October to March opening times are from 10am until 5pm. (The museum is closed completely on 24th, 25th and 26th December). Last entry is thirty minutes before closing time.
There is a car park with toilets just beside the museum, to the east. The museum is fully accessible for the disabled in wheelchairs. Toilets, including two for the disabled, are situated to the side of the gift shop. Coats may be left on hangers near the entrance to the museum, and bags can be deposited safely behind a screen by staff if you wish. Photography is prohibited inside the museum, but visitors are free to photograph the tanks and statues outside.
Admission is free for children under thirteen who are accompanied by an adult paying full price, which is currently £6. There are concessions as well as discounts for groups.
This is an excellent example of a specialist museum, and it is in fact the only one in the United Kingdom devoted solely to D-Day and Operation Overlord. It is well worth visiting if you are in the area; those holidaying in Southsea and blighted by poor weather could easily enjoy a couple of hours here. For children studying World War II at school, the exhibits will bring it alive for them. I thoroughly recommend a visit.
D-Day Museum and Overlord Embroidery
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