23 May 2014

The 6th June 2014 will mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy. Jim May, Chairman of Shoreham Port, recently visited the historical sites and cemeteries of the D-Day Landings and paid his respects to those who gave up their lives to serve our country.

Shoreham Port has a strong link with D-Day and played an important role as a port of embarkation in June 1944. In the summer of 1942, a Combined Operations Landing Craft base was established in Shoreham and Hove with the floating elements based at Baltic Wharf and Aldrington Basin in the Port. The establishment was given the ship’s name of HMS Lizard and along with its sister establishment, HMS Newt, at Newhaven, it was the central base for the training of Royal Marine and Royal Navy personnel in seamanship and survival skills in preparation for their arduous duties as landing craft crew on D-Day and during the infamous Dieppe raid a year earlier. By D-Day, 50,000 marines and sailors had been trained at HMS Lizard.

On the 5th June 1944, British Troops destined for Sword Beach, embarked from Shoreham Port and were the Vanguard of Force S, who sailed from Southsea, Shoreham and Newhaven to take on the German’s Atlantic Wall – the sector known as Sword Beach - stretching from the small Port of Ouistreham in the East, to St Aubin in the West on the Normandy coastline. 

The main command bunker of Sword Beach was the final pocket of German resistance after the D-Day Landings. Jon Orrell, Managing Director at Hemsley Orrell Partnership (H.O.P) works closely with Shoreham Port on a number of coastal projects and recalls a time when his father Bob Orrell, a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, captured the Command Post. “My father and two other men blew the doors off the bunker and took the 53 German Officers and men inside as prisoners. He was mentioned in Despatches and was soon promoted to Captain.”

Jon continued “Today, Le Grand Bunker is the biggest and best Museum of D-Day and the Atlantic Wall on the coast. In the grounds of the bunker there is an authentic World War II Higgins Boat, one of the most widely used landing crafts on D-Day. This was rescued from a Portsmouth scrapyard, along with its sister ship, the other Higgins Boat, this now sits on the Holmbush Roundabout in Shoreham, a reminder of the brave British Forces who sailed from Shoreham to Ouistreham on that day that changed history.”

Jim May, Chairman at Shoreham Port commented “On this special year marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day it was an honour to visit Normandy and pay my respects to the many people who fought for our country. It is fascinating to hear about Major Bob Orrell’s involvement in the Normandy Landings and the part Shoreham Port played in the training and embarkation of British troops.”

If you’d like to know more, a recently published book, ‘The Regimental Piano,’ chronicles the life of Major Bob Orrell, a brave soldier during WW2 and a passionate campaigner for peace for the rest of his life. The book is available from bookshops and online retailers or direct from the publisher by calling 0845 370 0067 or emailing orders@booksource.net