United Kingdom / Story
The small village of Buriton in Hampshire rallied together upon the outbreak of the Second World War, hosting evacuees and eventually accommodating troops during preparations for D-Day. The war had quite an impact on the people of Buriton and one local resident particularly played a vital role in the capture of Pegasus Bridge.
Buriton, just south of Petersfield in Hampshire, was well-situated to accommodate troops in the lead up to D-Day. A vast number of Canadian troops were based there. The route through the village to Portsmouth was far less conspicuous than the main roads, and consequently convoys of military and tanks lined the lanes. Tanks parked up in several fields, including those along the driveway to Buriton House, a large manor on the edge of Buriton. The troops were encamped along the roads and local buildings were commandeered, such as the school which housed British troops, conveniently located opposite the pub. Residents were given little choice as to the use of their pubs and schools, and the whole operation demanded the utmost secrecy. As with many of the local experiences of troop camps, relations were mostly friendly and children enjoyed receiving fruits and sweets from the American rations. The pub was then taken over by American troops and the garage turned into a canteen, leaving the landlady and her family with limited space. As with other troop encampments, residents reported that the village was filled with troops and vehicles and when they awoke the next day, it had all disappeared.
In Buriton High Street, a war memorial commemorates the eight local men who lost their lives during the Second World War. Of particular note, Buriton resident Fred Kempster performed an integral role in the events leading up to D-Day, being parachuted into France before the landings began to capture key bridges and prevent German troops attacking the landing beaches. Sergeant Kempster was involved in the capture of Pegasus Bridge alongside 180 other men of the Airborne Division of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. The Caen canal bridge, or Pegasus Bridge, was secured after ten minutes of intense fighting, and several of the surrounding villages were liberated. He was killed just ten weeks later.