Researching local D-Day connections

D-Day is often thought of as an event that took place in France. But very few places in Britain do not have some kind of link to D-Day.

Ports along the south coast and parts of South Wales and East Anglia were marshalling areas and embarkation points for thousands of troops. Many towns and cities were home to factories that built important equipment. There were training and accommodation camps in many places all over Britain before D-Day. Wounded men were treated in local hospitals across the country.

This guide can help you to find out about your area’s D-Day stories, and we encourage you to submit more.

Although the D-Day landings took place in France, there are very few places in Britain that were not affected by D-Day in some way. Discovering your local D-Day stories can be a fascinating experience.

Local archives, museums and libraries

Most local archives or records offices in Britain contain documents, photographs or other items related to the build-up to D-Day. Your local museum or library may have objects or books related to the preparations for D-Day. These could include photographs, documents, maps, or oral history interviews. They could relate to a factory building aircraft, a shipyard building landing craft, troops who were camped in the area or to military hospitals. For information on local archives see the National Archives website.

Corporate archives

Company and business archives may also have interesting records, for example engineering companies that worked on the Mulberry Harbours or PLUTO. For information on corporate archives and where they can be found see the National Archives website.

Newspapers

Local newspapers are often a useful source, and can often be accessed on microfilm at local archives or libraries. The British Library’s Newspaper Archive provides online access to many local newspapers.

National Archives

The UK National Archives also hold many records relating to the Second World War that give information about what was happening in different places. These include records of RAF Squadrons and airfields, Royal Navy ships and naval bases and army headquarters and units.

Military Museums

Most parts of Britain – and other countries – had army units that recruited from that area or had a depot or barracks in a particular town or city. For information on army museums in Britain see the Army Museum Ogilby Trust’s website. For the Royal Navy visit the National Museum of the Royal Navy and for the RAF visit the RAF Museum.

Canadian units

A list of locations of Canadian units in Britain has been published on the Heritage website – search for ‘T-17953’. Some war diaries of Canadian units can be accessed at the UK National Archives.

US Army units

To see the locations of US Army units that were based in the UK from February to August 1944 click the links below. These lists were compiled from wartime documents by Phil Grinton of California, who has kindly agreed that they can be made available to the public through the D-Day Story, Portsmouth. More resources are available on our USA family history page.

War graves

Your local churchyard or cemetery may have servicemen or women who were killed during the Second World War, including personnel who may have been serving in France in 1944 and were evacuated back to Britain after being wounded. Often personnel who died in hospitals in Britain were buried close to their home or close to the hospital where they died. Visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website for more information.

Grid references

If you are researching maps or documents produced during the Second World War they usually have a different system of grid references to what we use today. To convert Second World War grid references into a modern location visit the Echodelta website.

Family history

We gathered a list of resources for each of the countries involved in D-Day which will hope will be of interest and assistance to family history researchers.

Research at the D-Day Story Museum

A map of Marshalling Area C in the Southampton Area.

A map of Marshalling Area C in the Southampton Area.

We do hold some material in the D-Day Story Museum’s archives that may be useful. For example, we may have a published or unpublished history of a unit or photographs of a relevant unit or place. We also hold material such as maps that may be useful in understanding the wartime history of a place. We also have a large library of books relating to D-Day. This material can be consulted by the public, by prior appointment.

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