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, 6 June 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, under him he, Admiral Bertram Ramsay, was the commander-in-chief of the navy and General Bernhard Montgomery, the commander-in-chief of the ground forces. Ramsay had moved his headquarters to Southwick House at the end of April 1944 and was therefore considered practical 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 of Southwick House at. 04.15 June 5 to get 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 the 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 so-called map room where a large map of the invasion area and Normandy had been put on one 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 fair and is located within a military area where the British armed forces train 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 made the decision is located two rooms beyond the map room but there is unfortunately nothing left that reminds of what it looked like when one of the most iconic decisions of the war was made. 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).