Photo: Sixty years ago Powder Quay at Priddy's Hard was bustling with ships, loading ammunition for the landings. © Jon Pratty, 24 Hour Museum
Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport is appealing for volunteers to help them prepare for the sixtieth anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy.
In the summer of 1944, a fleet of nearly 3000 ships, the largest and most powerful armada ever to sail, set off from the south coast to launch an offensive against Nazi Germany.
Popularly known as D-Day, Operation Overlord resulted in 10,300 casualties, but is considered by many to have been the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
As museums up and down the country gear up to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary next summer, Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower is hoping to enlist the public to help them remember Gosport’s contribution to the historic events.
Photo: civilians at Priddy's Hard worked around the clock to make sure the D-Day invasion force had enough ammunition. Courtesy of Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.
Curator Chris Henry explained how sixty years ago Priddy’s Hard, where the museum is now, would have been full of people as preparations were made to supply the Royal Navy.
"There was an awful lot of people, about 4000, working here at one of the biggest naval armourers in the country," he said, "it was absolutely essential to D-Day because it’s where it all set off from."
Filling cartridges, modifying, testing and repairing guns and mines as well as making the boxes to store it all in, people from Gosport played a vital role in the proceedings.
To commemorate these efforts that were so key to the operation, Explosion is planning a new exhibition entitled The Blunt End – The Build Up to D-Day at Priddy’s Hard.
Set to open in May 2004 the show will combine artefacts with photos and footage but, as Chris explained, the museum wants to hear from members of the public who experienced it for real.
Photo: Priddy's Hard, Gosport. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.
"D-Day was the beginning of the end of the German Third Reich, which was probably one of the most brutal regimes in the history of Europe," he said.
"Here at Explosion we want to make people aware of the civilian input into that effort, an input that changed history as much as the people firing the guns."
As well as seeking out personal experiences, Chris is looking for anyone who has old photographs or objects from the D-Day preparations at Priddy’s Hard and Hardway in Gosport.
"We are also interested in anyone who has contact with any people from the regiments that disembarked for the D-Day invasion," he added, "and finally we are looking for volunteers with an engineering background who might be interested in helping us clean and maintain many of the objects that we have in our unique collection."
Anyone who might be able to help can contact Chris Henry by phone on 023 9250 5600 or by clicking here to send him an email.