A brand new museum helping to tell the story of D-Day and the American and British troops that left from Portland in Dorset has just opened.
The Castletown D-Day Centre the brainchild of local business man Derek Luckhurst who gave over a former warehouse that was once a Royal Naval facility so that museum could be created there.
A former bake house for the dockyard and fleet now houses a truly varied collection of items helping to tell the story of D-Day and how it impacted the troops as well as the local people living around Castletown.
Thousands of troops left from the pier and slipway that is only 50 yards from where the museum housed is today.
A full size replica ‘Spitfire’ hangs overhead inside and a marvellous example of a Sherman tank stands at the entrance with weapons at the ready.
This American Sherman tank was damaged in action in northern France and was brought back after being restored by a military group in Catz in Normandy. Her livery is in that of the US Army 743rd Tank Battalion who’s tanks left from the same port back in 1944.
A fairly rare BSA M20 with sidecar forms part of the display too, and is a particular favourite of Derek!
The museum is proud that it allows as much interaction as it can for visitors with some items carrying the sign ‘you may operate this gun’ or ‘you can climb on this vehicle’.
Mr Luckhurst said, “Its tribute to the service men and women who left from here in June 1944 and also helps to tell the story of those that lived in the immediate area around the docks at that time.”
Several events are planned and include convoys of many military vehicles to and from the museum. It is sure to be popular with many former service personnel as the area around Weymouth and Portland does hold special veterans weekends every year in June.
Located nearby are two remaining Mulberry harbour sections. Giant 7000 ton concrete units that were left over from 1944 and would have been used to help make a large artificial harbour on the Normandy coast during the initial invasion.
The museum has been over three years in the making and it is helping to regenerate an area of Portland that has become rundown over the years.
This and other new building projects are turning the area into a diving, fishing and holiday home area. Located as it is on the very edge of Portland harbour and that was the harbour used for the sailing events at the London 2012 Olympic games.