United Kingdom / Story
In May 1944, the British 50th Infantry Division landed here at Hayling Island beach front as part of Exercise Fabius II.
Exercise Fabius consisted of six separate training exercises that allowed British, Canadian and American units to conduct a full-scale landing exercise ahead of D-Day.
Fabius II was originally scheduled for 2 May. But due to weather conditions similar to those that would impact the real landings in June, it was delayed by 24 hours.
Men of the British 50th Infantry Division embarked onto landing crafts of all shapes and sizes at Southampton. They then sailed out to sea, anti-clockwise around the Isle of White, before simulating a full-scale amphibious landing on the beach at Hayling Island. The men encountered beach obstacles, smoke, pyrotechnics, and a mock enemy. The objective was to land, clear the beaches, and then push beyond Hayling Island towards Havant and Rowlands Castle. The Army photography unit was also there, shooting films and making photos. These can be viewed in the online digital catalogue of the Imperial War Museum.
Logistically this was a vast exercise with the aim of testing the plans for Operation Neptune and Overlord. These included both the sequential loading of men and vehicles at embarkation points using road networks that were purposely adapted for the Operation and the naval aspect of the operations: hundreds of crafts and vessels landing according to strict time schedules.
Overall, the exercises were successful: it all came together logistically and was kept away from German eyes as well. Once the exercises were completed, lessons learnt were quickly put into practice, bearing in mind that D-Day was just one month away. All the troops had to return to their camps and wait for orders to move back into the designated marshalling camps prior to embarkation.
It is said that during Fabius II, General Eisenhower, Field Marshal Montgomery and Prime Minister Winston Churchill watched the exercise from the roof of the Royal Hotel. The white building which was the hotel still exists today, but has now been converted to residential properties. They can be seen from the sea when you walk west towards the Sinah Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery.
Sea Front, PO11 0AD