United Kingdom / Landmark
The site of assembly camps A11 and A12, in the woods near Denmead, accommodated vast numbers of troops and equipment before their departure to commence Operation Overlord. The facilities later housed prisoners of war captured in Normandy.
During the preparations for Operation Overlord, large camps were established in Southeast England to accommodate troops and equipment before they embarked for Normandy. The camp in Creech Woods had provision for 3,850 men and 300 vehicles and also became a temporary headquarters for General Eisenhower and General Montgomery, who used the nearby Creech House situated in the Forest of Bere. Several regiments used the camp, including the British 3rd Infantry Division, the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, and later Canadian troops. The Canadian troops of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders embarked to land on Juno Beach during Operation Overlord.
As the camp was closed to civilians, the surrounding roads were blocked by armed guards, and only the local residents could access their homes by providing some proof of address. Tanks and other armoured vehicles lined the roads, and the crews lived in their respective vehicles relying on local residents for water and the odd home comfort. A rapport developed between some residents and the men stationed on their doorsteps, providing them with cups of tea and hot meals, until one day they were no longer there, having embarked under the cover of night time. The camp was not without risk. Although heavily camouflaged, there was a danger that if the camp should be discovered by German reconnaissance pilots, the whole area could be bombed destroying houses and killing the civilians.
Thankfully, the camp was not discovered, and instead German bombers targeted central Portsmouth and its dockyard. When the camp was later converted to a prisoner of war camp, the lasting impact was felt far beyond the conclusion of the war, with many prisoners of war reportedly remaining in the area to work on local farms.