Remembrance Day: Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Day when we thank the millions of men and women who served in all the forces. We thank those who gave their lives so that our civilization would continue in the free world. We give thanks as countries and communities; we also remember and give thanks as individuals.

The Overlord Embroidery

It was commemorated 40 years later in Portsmouth when Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, opened the D-Day Museum. This building houses the Overlord Embroidery. Commisioned by Lord Dulverton, it was designed by Sandra Lawrence and stitched at the Royal School of Needlework. It consists of 34 panels each 8 feet wide by 3 feet high. The total length, 272 feet, is longer than the Bayeaux Tapestry by 41 feet. Here are a few of the panels of the Overlord Embroidery.

The Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, discusses the Operation Overlord plan with seniorAllied commanders.

A vast armada of ships, planes and men crossed the English Channel to storm Fortress Europe. They were expected and encountered heavy resistance. Supplies had to be transported and the Mulberry Harbour was towed across the channel in sections and assembled on the French coast. There were multiple examples of ingenuity and selfless courage.

There were only a few days in each month with the right conditions of tide and moon for the invasion. Here troops of the British 3rd Division and the 27th Armoured Brigade await orders to sail.

The fleet moves slowly south towards the Normandy coast; some smaller craft sink in the rough water and others have to turn back. The armada includes some 4,200 landing ships and landing craft. R.A.F. Lancasters, which bombed the German coastal batteries, fly above the ships.

The embroidery technique used is a traditional method of applique which allows for detail, and the embroidery is intensely detailed. While a student at the Royal School of Needlework we were required to learn how to do this and I will tell you that it is both exacting and tedious. Whenever available the fabrics used were those used for the uniforms in the war. Notice the detail and expression in the faces. Sandra Lawrence used photos from the war and consulted with the original Chiefs of Staff on details for authenticity. As the panels were stitched in the ’70s, it was already more than 20 years since the end of the war.

An allied deception plan persuades the Germans that the invasion will be made at Pas de Calais. As the main fleet approaches Normandy the radar screens show the fake convoys proceeding up-Channel. Unsuspecting German troops man a bunker while a midget submarine surfaces to mark one of the invasion beaches by showing a green light to seaward.

King George V1 visits the invasion beaches with Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Brooke. Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery. They did not all visit on the same day as shown here. The Mulberry harbour is visible in the background.

The troops are moving out of Normandy on their way east. There remain eight months of bitter fighting before the conclusion of the war. A Frenchman, suspected of being a resistance fighter has been shot by the retreating Germans.

Currently the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth is being renovated, extended and a climate control system
is being installed. The Overlord Embroidery will be available for viewing in mid 2018. At the moment, there is not a lot of information regarding the embroidery on line but this will change as the pieces are rehung in the new gallery. A new video is also being made of the embroidery which will include interviews with some of the stitchers. Our Guild has a copy of the original video. When I showed it last week in the residence where I live, there was a lot of interest. There are many veterans amongst us but I am not one of them. One lady, who was 18 years old when the war started and worked on Enigma, is trying to teach me how to salute correctly which is creating laughter all around.

The painted, full size plan designed by Sandra Lawrence is in the Pentagon hanging in the Ministry of Defence.

This video will give you more information on the creation of the Overlord Embroidery. You will likely locate others that I have not discovered.

Women in the D-Day Museum: The Overlord Embroidery – YouTube Embroideries.htm

The Norman Invasion under William the Conqueror in 1066 has been the only other successful cross Channel invasion. There is more to this story than I ever learned in school or has been generally known until recent years. I will be writing about this in following blogs.

All have been commemorated with embroideries.

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  1. Reply

    Very interesting,Ann. My Aunt took me to see this amazing piece of Needlework in 1983 when it was housed in a brewery right in the city of London. I remember the faces being so vivid.
    I don’t know if you know my Father served as Chief Petty Officer on a Minesweeper out in the Pacific and was a part of the force pushing the Japanese out of the Malayan Peninsula. Beryl

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