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Southampton Common Marshalling Camp

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Southampton Common was used as a marshalling camp in the designated marshalling area ‘A’, and local residents played a vital part in the preparations leading up to D-Day.

Among the numerous marshalling camps throughout Southeast England, Southampton Common was one of the largest accommodating troops before embarkation to Normandy. Camps C18, C19, C20 and C21 as well as the 12th Hospital Train and 12th Medical Dispensary were located here, subsequently filling the surrounding fields and roads with military personnel and vehicles. The city was chosen as the central hub for the distribution of supplies and coordination of troop movements owing to its vast docks and coastal location, effectively coming under the temporary control of the US military.  

Vast columns of American and British troops marched through the streets on training exercises, and the American military police patrolled the area checking the credentials of residents entering and leaving. Brian Selman was a young boy when he witnessed the movement of troops from the common to the docks, ready to be loaded onto ships and taken to Studland beach for landing practice. He interacted with the American soldiers stationed there and received exciting edible treats in return such as fruits and biscuits.  

The impact upon the city was substantial. Bombings had reduced many buildings to piles of rubble as the city was a prime target and the Nissen huts, vehicles and general mess that accompanied the camp caused some tension. Fraternisation between young women and American soldiers was common despite there being rules dictating when residents could come in and out of the area and barbed wire separating the camp boundary. The true scale of Operation Overlord could be said to have been especially evident in the presence of the camp on the common, providing a further link between Southampton’s residents and the historic events about to unfold.  

Anecdote courtesy of Brian Selman, BBC WW2 People’s War.


The Avenue, Southampton