Today 30/7/17, a few of the club members met at our club house, Waltham Chase, village hall. From there we had a road run around the back lanes, through our beautiful Hampshire countryside to the very old and quaint village of Southwick.
Southwick is rare in that the village is still entirely owned by the Southwick Estate (except for Church Lodge). The most obvious sign of this is that all the houses, except manor houses, have dark red-painted front doors, a condition laid down in the tenancy agreements. The only exceptions to this are the White House, the residence of the vicar and Church Lodge.
In WWII, wanting to be closer to the assault troops and the ports from which they would leave, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander and General Sir Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Allied ground forces therefore moved their headquarters to the area around Southwick House. The Allied naval commander, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, already had his headquarters there.
In the days leading up to D-Day, the Allied commanders (led by Eisenhower) met here to take the decision to launch D-Day. The original date for D-Day was 5 June, but the commanders judged that the weather would be too bad to begin the landings then, and they were postponed by 24 hours. The weight of this decision fell on the shoulders of General Eisenhower, and it is hard to imagine how great a burden this must have been.
Eisenhower and Montgomery’s headquarters were not actually in Southwick House, but were hidden away in several woods nearby.
Southwick Park, the site that includes Southwick House, is within the grounds of the Defence College of Policing and Guarding. The D-Day wall map at Southwick House can be viewed by the public, but access is by prior appointment only. Please do not try to visit without an appointment.
Once our small convoy arrived at Southwick, we parked up near the Post Office. One of the residents of the village said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” As we had made a recci the day before, we were welcomed into the adjacent café, by one of the residents and the café’s proprietor and staff. A warmer welcome, you could not have wished to have had. On an inside wall of this newly refurbished café is a copy of the D-Day map, which helps to set the cosy atmosphere. We sat chatting over very good fare, enjoyed by everyone, that can be recommended to all. We were even lucky enough to have sunshine, to show the village off to it’s best.
By Denise Staples-Harris