Today is the 76th anniversary of D-Day.
The Meon Valley played a major role in the run-up to D-Day as allied armies prepared for the invasion of France to liberate Europe.
On June 2nd 1944, Winston Churchill, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force General Eisenhower, France General Charles de Gaulle, Canadian President William Lyon McKenzie King and the South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts met on the Royal train in the siding at Droxford.
It is believed that Droxford station was chosen as the meeting because it was a secluded siding that was unlikely to attract the attention of the enemy and its proximity to a deep cutting meant the train could be easily moved there in the event of an attack.
The leaders visited trooped head of D-Day and, under conditions of strict security, held last minutes talks about the imminent invasion.
Afterwards, Eisenhower returned to Southwick House, at Southwick which served as headquarters of the main allied commanders, including General Eisenhower, Naval Commander-in-Chief Admiral Ramsay and Army Commander-in-Chief General Montgomery.
The large wall maps that were used in planning D-Day are still in place in the house, with the various markers showing the positions of the involved forces at the moment the first landing commenced.
Thousands of troops were already camped throughout the Meon Valley area as they trained for D-Day.
Grenville Hall, between Droxford and Hambledon, was used as a training camp by around 1,350 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles. Their training included practising firing mortars on Old Winchester Hill, where walkers are still warned of the dangers that unexploded ordnance could present even now.
Bury Lodge near Hambledon was used for assembly camp A10, which had space for 1,000 men and 150 vehicles.
These camps were used to house men immediately before they set sail for Normandy. A number of different units were camped at Bury Lodge, including the Headquarters of the 9th British Infantry Brigade, 101 Beach Sub Area, 9 Port Operating Group and 18 GHQ Troops of the Royal Engineers.
Creech Woods in Denmead were used for assembly camps A11 and A12 and were home to around 3,850 men and 300 vehicles.
These camps were used to house men immediately before they set sail for Normandy. In the days and weeks before D-Day the camps were closed to civilians and the road at Bunkers Hill was sealed off.
Men from a number of different units were camped in Creech Woods before D-Day, among them General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s Tactical Headquarters and the Headquarters of the 3rd British Infantry Division.
Eyewitness accounts refer to lines of tanks parked along the road through the woods. The 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment was camped in Creech Woods before moving elsewhere on 2 June, when they were replaced by Canadian Troops of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, who landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. After D-Day Creech Woods were also used as a Prisoner of War camp for German troops captured in Normandy. The remains of some of the camp buildings can be seen today.
West Walk, in the Forest of Bere, was used for assembly camps A14 and A15, and had the space for 3,250 men and 465 vehicles. Camp A14 was in the south-west corner of the woods, while A15 was in the north-east corner. A number of different units were based at these camps prior to D-Day, including the 1st Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the Highland Light Infantry of Canada and the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
Rooksbury Park House was used for assembly camp A13, which had space for 1,250 men and 278 vehicles. These camps were used to house men immediately before they set sail for Normandy. Canadian troops from the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders were camped here shortly before D-Day.
The Meon Valley Railway Line itself was used to great effect in the run-up to D-Day to bring men and equipment into the area with much arriving at the Mislingford goods yard.
Imperial War Museum