D-Day 65th anniversary
The story of D-Day
In 1944, thousands of Allied troops were preparing to take part in the biggest military operation in history - the liberation of mainland Europe starting with amphibius landings on the beaches of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France.
In the run up to D-Day in June 1944, Dorset was a hive of military activity.
Tens of thousands of soldiers practised their battle drills, most notably in the full scale rehearsal known as Exercise Smash in Studland; military chiefs worked on tactics, and engineers came up with some ingenious technical ways of making the highly dangerous beach landings as effective as possible.
Meanwhile countless civilians worked to prepare and supply the invasion force - all under a remarkable cloak of secrecy.
The Normandy landings
On D-Day - 6 June 1944 - the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy and most departed from ports along the Hampshire and Dorset coasts.
As well as British and American troops, personnel from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland took part in the landings.
While the invasion marked the beginning of the end of World War II, there was a terrible price paid.
Total Allied casualties on D-Day itself are estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead, while more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy.
All over Dorset
Communities across Dorset played their part in the build-up to the invasion - from the biggest towns and military bases, to the quietest of country villages.
Six days before Christmas 1943, the residents of the Purbeck village of Tyneham were ordered out of their homes as the area was to be used for training for the D-Day landings. The village has remained uninhabited ever since.
The harbours of Weymouth and Portland were one of the biggest departure points for US troops with over 500,000 military personnel, including support staff, and 144,000 vehicles as part of the fleet.
A D-Day Memorial on Weymouth's promenade remembers those who were killed both during the preparations for D-Day and during the assaults itself.
Read more about Dorset's involvement in the planning of D-day:
last updated: 25/05/2009 at 12:59