Southwick House

North of Portsmouth is a mansion called Southwick House, where SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) temporarily moved its headquarters on June 2, 1944, in connection with the invasion Normandy, June 6,1944. SHAEF was otherwise headquartered in Bushy Park, London, but as the invasion approached, SHAEF wanted to get closer to the troops involved in the invasion. The SHAEF commander was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, his closest military associates were, admiral Bertram Ramsay, commander-in-chief of the navy and General Bernhard Montgomery, commander-in-chief of the ground forces. Ramsay had moved his headquarters to Southwick House at the end of April 1944 and therefore a practical location for Eisenhower and SHAEF. The original date for the invasion was June 5, but this date had to be cancelled due to bad weather conditions.

The chief commanders therefore gathered again in the old library in Southwick House at 04.15, June 5, to listen to a new weather forecast by chief meteorologist Captain James Martin Stagg. Stagg informed that an improvement in the weather was to be expected on June 6, then it would get worse again. Eisenhower and the others understood that it was not possible to postpone the invasion indefinitely and after a moment of reflection Eisenhower said the now classic words, Ok! Let’s go, which meant go-ahead to begin the invasion on June 6. A few days after the invasion, Eisenhower returned to Bushy Park. The most important room in Southwick House was the map room where a large map of the invasion area and Normandy had been hung up on the wall. Here, SHAEF was able to follow both the invasion and the subsequent battle of Normandy. In August 1944, when the battle for Normandy was over, SHAEF left the house as quickly as they had arrived.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2014).

Address: Southwick, Fareham, Hampshire PO17 6EJ.

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Southwick House is since 2004 an officer’s casino and is located within a military area where the British armed forces conduct training for military police. The map in the map room, however, remains on the wall and is a small museum that can be visited if you contact the school in advance. The library where Eisenhower took the decision has been converted and doesn’t look anything as it did when one of the most iconic decisions of the war was taken. Only one tablet is mounted on the wall of the room which is now a lounge bar. In the small village of Southwick there is a pub called Golden Lion, a pub visited by both Eisenhower and Montgomery.

Follow up in books: Beevor, Antony: D-Day: Battle for Normandie (2010).