How one Suffolk village deceived the Nazis ahead of D-Day
PUBLISHED: 19:00 21 September 2019
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The 'vital' role played by a Suffolk village during D-Day is to be honoured in film at an exhibition at Portsmouth Museum.
The film will help tell the story of HMS Woolverstone's role in securing the Normandy beaches in northern France as the allies pushed back against the German tides.
Its feature is part of a wider film tracing the history of a D-Day landing craft 7074 tank - the only remaining landing craft tank from the invasion left in the UK.
The commanding officer inside the 59-metre tank received his final orders for D-Day from HMS Woolverstone.
On June 7, 1944, it carried 10 tanks from the 7th Armoured Division to Gold Beach in Normandy.
But this was not the only vital role played by the Suffolk base.
Between May and June 1944, the base took part in Operation Quicksilver - a successful mission in deceiving the Germans, making them believe the D-Day landings were in fact a diversion from the "real" invasion at Pays de Calais.
Local historian Simon Pearce explained: "The idea was to construct a fleet of dummy landing craft which would be moored along the south-east and east coast. Woolverstone Park, with access to the River Orwell and with a heavily wooded fringe, was an ideal location, and Waldringfield on the Deben was another.
"'A' Company, of the Worcester Regiment, was tasked with fabricating Bigbobs dummy landing craft in complete darkness before they were run down the slipway into the river on a wheeled undercarriage. From there they floated off onto the river and were carefully moored."
Incredibly, the fake army camp constructed between Woolverstone and Pin Mill was so successful that it also fooled the Women's Royal Navy who believed the craft were real.
Ipswich High School now stands on the site of the former base, with head teacher Oona Carlin interviewed as part of the film.
She said: "Thousands of men died in 1944 and it's important that we remember that.
"We have lots of local people who remember the site as HMS Woolverstone who can come in and talk about what happened at Woolverstone Hall and how fundamental it was to D-Day plans."