Gosport during World War II
Gosport played a vital role in the preparations for D-Day. There were over 39 centres of activity across the Borough. Fourteen of the caissons needed for the Mulberry Harbours were made in Stokes Bay.
Between November 1943 and April 1944, over 1600 men worked in all weathers, often working at night by arc lights. As one caisson was being launched, it toppled over, crushing and killing three men
A programme of beach hardening took place at Hardway, Beach Street and Stokes Bay. Sections of concrete, which looked like bars of chocolate, were laid down to make it possible for lorries and armoured vehicles to embark onto the Landing Craft.
Many of the streets around the embarkation points became prohibited areas and local people needed special passes to move to and from their own homes.
The Royal Naval Armament Depots at Priddy's Hard, Bedenham and Frater were the main suppliers of armaments - shells, rockets, mines, and ammunition.
From 1943, 1700 women from all over the area worked 12 hour shifts to prepare 50,000 rockets, 20,000 tons of of ammunition, and thousands of mines. The work was exhausting and dangerous.
Royal Clarence Yard
Royal Clarence Yard supplied the fleet assembled at Spithead in the lead up to 6 June. Every day over 20,000 tons of fresh water, 20,000 extra pounds of bread, and hundreds of tons of meat, potatoes and vegetables had to be provided as well as the other requirements of an army preparing for invasion.
Camper and Nicholsons
Motorised Fishing Vessels, many of them made by Camper and Nicholsons, ferried supplies from Royal Clarence Yard to the anchored ships. Camper and Nicholsons were heavily involved in the war making and designing vessels such as Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB); Motor Gun Boats (MGB); and Motor Fishing Vessels, the 'maids of all work' for the Admiralty; canoes and surf boats for use on commando raids; and landing craft for troops in North Africa in 1943 and D-Day in Europe. They also modified existing boats for wartime purposes. SLUGS (Surf landing Under Girders) were specially designed for D-Day to keep the Mulberry Harbours in place. They were shallow motor boats which could tow small barges under the girders of the floating bridges carrying the wire needed to hold the the floating bridge in position. Camper and Nicholsons was heavily bombed in 1941 with the destruction of many designs and records. Some of their temporary workshops were set up in Mumby's mineral water works in North Street.
Haslar Hospital 's wartime role was to receive severely wounded casualties. Two of the cellars were converted into underground operating theatres. Haslar's water tower was used as an observation post. It was also used by the Luftwaffe as a navigational aid and was therefore not one of their targets. The rest of the hospital suffered bomb damage in 1940 and 1941, including the library and museum. On 7 June 1944, Haslar received the first casualties from D-Day. The most severely wounded soldiers were treated at Haslar, the rest were sent to other hospitals in the area.
The wartime role of HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent was mainly that of training. In the build up to D-Day the airfield was crowded with Seafires, Spitfires, and Mustangs from the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF.
They had to make sure enemy aircraft did not approach the area. For D-Day itself they provided 24 hour air cover for the invasion fleet as it crossed the Channel, flying 435 sorties from Lee-on-the-Solent.
Two midget submarines, X-20 and X-23, guided the invasion fleet to the chosen beaches in Normandy by surfacing off-shore and signalling with a green light. The two submarines left HMS Dolphin on 2 June and arrived in Normandy on 4 June.
The weather had delayed the invasion so the crew of the two submerged submarines had to wait in conditions of great discomfort and suspense for 64 hours.