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​University celebrates the role of West Sussex in D-Day

University marks D-Day 75th anniversary (copyright-free)

 

THE University of Chichester is marking the role of West Sussex in the D-Day Landings on their 75th anniversary – including its own part as a centre of operations for the RAF and as host for international leaders and military personnel.

The county’s strategic geographical position made it ideal for the focus of the planning and implementation of Operation Overlord but, according to research from Dr Andrew Smith, a senior lecturer in Contemporary History and Politics at the University, its towns, villages and cities rallied to ensure its success.

He said: “Ordinary men and women in Sussex played their part in making Operation Overlord a success – from Arthur King, the landlord of the Unicorn in Chichester who flew fresh lobsters to airmen in Normandy after D-Day, to those who welcomed and billeted the thousands of Armed Forces personnel from the Allied nations.”

The campus of Bishop Otter College, now the University of Chichester, became the nerve centre for fighter cover during the landings. In 1940, RAF Tangmere suffered a devastating Stuka raid, killing ten RAF personnel and three civilians and destroying 13 aircraft and a significant number of buildings – including its Operations Room.

University's E124 room in 1949, after the RAF had moved out and College life resumed, but before the room was redeveloped

As the war shifted and RAF Tangmere was given ever-greater responsibilities, its Operations Room needed a new home, which it found on the campus of Bishop Otter College (above and below).

The college gymnasium was converted into a new Operations Room, from where all the low fighter cover over the D-Day beaches was controlled.

Today, students are still taught in the historic room that once sat at the heart of the Allied campaign to liberate Europe.

Other parts of Sussex were also vital to the successful implementation of Operation Overlord.

D-Day - room E124 and the Mitre lecture theatre as Tangmere's replacement Ops RoomSome 44 air squadrons were based in the county on D-Day, with 26 made up of Canadians, Polish, Free-French, Czech, Belgian, Norwegian and New Zealander crews. Advanced Landing Grounds were set up at Bognor Regis, Selsey, Apuldram and Funtington.

“From the movement of thousands of Armed Forces personnel to Eisenhower’s visit to Chichester and the dinner thrown in his honour at The Ship Hotel, the city and the county hold many memories of D-Day and the events leading up to Operation Overlord,” said Dr Smith.

“My colleagues and I at the University of Chichester, together with partners across the county, have found it a privilege to have researched this period in the county’s history and unearthed so many compelling and human stories.”

Dr Andrew Smith is a senior lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History from the University of Chichester.

More about his research which has uncovered the lost history of Chichester's involvement in D-Day is available at www.chi.ac.uk/staff/dr-andrew-smith. For more about the studying history and politics at the University of Chichester go to www.chi.ac.uk/humanities.