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The Tanks Are Coming!
22-24 June 2012 Armour & Embarkation is an ‘experience’ to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the build of D-Day here in Dorset England.
Without doubt it is going to be the event of 2012 as it will be the first time ever that such a number of original WWII tanks will have been assembled in Dorset since the end of the war – up to twenty tanks and over fifty WWII vehicles. They will be driving into Dorchester town exactly as they did on the build up of D-Day. Dorset was one of the major marshalling areas and embarkation counties. Dorset played a major part in the build up, the execution of D-Day and the liberation Nazi occupied Europe.
For example, the 1st Division – the Big Red One and the 29th were based here and left from Weymouth for Omaha. The Rangers left for Pointe Du Hoc and elements of the 2nd Armoured also left from Dorset. We must also remember that the above ‘big 3’ names weren’t the only ones to leave from here. Thousands of others aboard mine sweepers, Coast Guards and a whole host of special vessels.
This event is going to be one of a kind. This has never been done in the UK before and it is without doubt going to be historical. And what better place can you think of than Dorset:
Dorchester was full of armour and soft skins ready to move down to the embarkation ports of Weymouth and Portland. What is known as Top ‘o’ Town in Dorchester was stacked sky high with coffins waiting for the aftermath of the D-Day invasion.
The Sky invasion – just off Portland was the rendezvous point for both airborne divisions of the 82nd and 101st paratroopers. As Victor Swatridge of Dorchester Police noted at 00:15 June 6th – “a huge armada of human cargo flying over head. It was clear that the invasion of Europe had commenced, yet the whole population of Dorset was still sleeping”.
This is going to be your chance to be involved and experience something so unique that you will want to be there. To experience a line of tanks driving through country lanes and then into Dorchester town is going to be a one off chance of a lifetime. The soft skins will be filled with as many reenactors or folks as we can carry.
Why Dorset? Because it was one of the embarkation and marshalling counties. With Dorset being a marshaling and embarkation county it became a massive camp and a supply dump. The fields and woodlands of Dorset were filled with all of the American armour and soft skins that you can imagine, you may have seen the famous pictures of the vehicle park full to the horizon of half tracks and Sherman’s. Dorset became a massive fuel, ammunition and food dump.
There is more to Dorset WWII history than you can imagine and below are some points of interest:
•Tarrant Rushton was known as Station X as it was used by the SOE and is most known for the airfield where Major Howard and his men left for Pegasus bridge
•The Big Red One were here – the Rangers and elements of 2nd armoured left from here
•Commandos trained here
•DD tanks trained for D-Day on the beaches around Studland bay (some of them on still on the seabed…)
•Blandford Camp – the army base was a hospital for the US forces – it was a hospital for the battle of bulge – with up to 500 GIs coming into it a day, flown in by C47s into Tarrant Rushton
•Dorset was an invasion zone for Operation Sea Lion –
Army Group B…
The landings would be broken up into waves, the initial wave to land on Army Group B’s beaches would comprise no less than ten infantry divisions made up of 120,000 infantry soldiers, 4,650 horses, 700 tanks, 1,500 army vehicles. Each side of the landings would be supported by some 30,000 paratroopers whose job it would be to cut communications, secure bridges, railways and small villages. Of course the list goes on and on.
To go back to why Maiden Newton,
Maiden Newton works because of its little known but major significance it played during the war and its build up to D-Day. The village was a Stop Line – it was meant to hold back the might of the German Army Group B that would have landed along the Dorset coast. The Stop Line was designed to funnel men and armour in to a killing ground and still has over 100 tanks traps in place and Spigot mortar pits. It also had guns that were to fire down on to the Dorset beaches during the invasion. (it is like Normandy but in reverse). It was home to the 3225th Quartermaster Service Company. POW camps were in the area, Pillboxes are still in place and the railway station became a rail head for the build up of supplies for D-Day. Again the list goes on and it is safe to say that this is a very historic place. Supply dumps lined the valley and their destination – Normandy.