The Overlord Embroidery, the centrepiece of the D-Day Museum, was commissioned by Lord Dulverton of Batsford as a tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of those who took part. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, it traces in stunning visual form the progress of Overlord, from its origins in the dark days of 1940 to victory in Normandy in 1944.
Sandra Lawrence designed the Overlord Embroidery. She first prepared thumbnail sketches using wartime photographs for reference. These were discussed by an advisory committee set up by Lord Dulverton to guide the making of this splendid work of art. It included a retired Senior Officer from each of the services, dubbed the three wise men. Once the sketch was approved, Sandra painted a full size watercolour of it - one for each of the 34 panels.
Using these designs the embroidered panels each 2.4 metres long and 0.9 metres deep, were created by The Royal School of Needlework. The original watercolours are now hanging in the Pentagon, Washington.
The designs were transferred to linen using a technique, which dates back to Tudor times, known as "pricking and pouncing". Hundreds of holes were pricked through the lines of a tracing taken from the paintings and fine black powder or "pounce" was rubbed through leaving a trail of dots in the linen.
The dots were then joined up and pieces of material matching the colour and shade shown in the paintings were sewn onto the linen to create the appliqué panels. More than 50 different materials were used in the making of the Embroidery including fabrics taken from uniforms and headgear of those involved in the three services.
One of the highlights of the D-Day Museum's audio guide to the Embroidery comes when visitors reach panel 17 and actually hear Piper Bill Millin playing his pipes and describing the events of D-Day. In 1944 Bill was the personal piper to Lord Lovat, the Commander of the 1st Special Service (Commando) Brigade.
When this panel was first completed Bill Millin was shown wearing a helmet. When he saw it he protested to Lord Dulverton that this was a mistake. He actually wore a green beret like all Lovat's men on D-Day, rather than the original depiction of a steel helmet.
Staff of the Royal School of Needlework who worked on the Overlord Embroidery:
Director - David Lloyd
Head of the Workroom - Margaret Bartlett
Embroiderers: Felicity Ball, Christina Bell, Josephine Crean, Hilary Cross, Sonia Ebert, Mary Elford, Ruby Essam, Heather Fordham, Carol Hall, Wendy Hogg, Patricia Hollister, Pamela Houghton, Susan Howard, Judith Lewis, Rosemary Mason, Jacqueline Short, Jill Trotman, Rosalind Willows, Selina Winter, Celia Wood
Apprentices: Janice Atkinson, Caroline de Bethel, Yvonne Howson, Linda Price, Lynn Prior