"A very interesting exhibition, I only wish I was could be here longer to see and read more of the information. Really recommend to anyone who visits."
Mark, West London
‘A fantastic museum, a credit to all those who fought’
The archives of the D-Day Museum
The D-Day Museum has an extensive archive collection, including material that is arguably of national significance. Our archive collections have been drawn upon for a number of recent books on the subject, such as Jonathan Bastable’s "Voices From D-Day", and Martin Bowman’s "Remembering D-Day" (both published in 2004), as well as books being prepared to co-incide with the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014.
Given the nature of the museum, our collections do not include large groupings of official papers such as are found at The National Archives. Most of our archive collections were given to us by individual veterans and their families.
Larger archive collections
We hold material relating to several major aspects of the D-Day story. The Mulberry Harbours are well represented, with papers from the War Office’s Tn5 department concerning early designs for the Harbours. Also held are technical papers from the construction firm McAlpine, concerning the design and construction of the Phoenix caissons (concrete breakwaters for the Harbours).
Also in our archives are the papers Commander Eric Middleton RNVR, who was senior naval experimental officer on the Combined Operations staff, 1942-1944. He played a key role in the development of PLUTO, and his papers comprise his memoirs, wartime documents, as well as post-war letters and memoirs from many other people who were involved in PLUTO.
Commander Rupert Curtis RNVR commanded the landing craft flotilla that carried the commandos of Lord Lovat’s 1st Special Service Brigade to Sword Beach on D-Day. After the war he built up extensive papers – now part of our archives – about 1st Special Service Brigade, the experiences of naval personnel in his flotilla on D-Day, and the characteristics of his landing craft (the LCI, or “Landing Craft, Infantry”).
Another particular strength of the Museum is material relating to personal experiences on D-Day. One significant resource is the author’s research papers from three books on D-Day: Warren Tute’s "D-Day" (1973), Russell Miller’s "Nothing Less Than Victory. The Oral History of D-Day" (1993), and "We Remember D-Day" by Frank and Joan Shaw (1994). The Tute and Shaw collections comprise hundreds of letters written to these authors following public appeals, giving the memories of service personnel and civilians who took part in or witnessed Operation Overlord.
The Russell Miller collection includes copies of material from a variety of American archives, such as the US National Archives and the Eisenhower Centre. It also includes copies of transcripts of some 50 interviews conducted by Cornelius Ryan with German veterans for his book The Longest Day (the originals are now in the Cornelius Ryan Collection at Ohio University). These Ryan interviewees include Rommel’s adjutant Helmut Lang, and the German Naval CinC West, Admiral Theodor Krancke.
Veterans' memoirs and documents
In addition to these larger collections, the Museum also holds a variety of wartime documents, maps, letters, veterans’ memoirs, photographs and other material concerning D-Day. Coverage of the Battle of Normandy is not so comprehensive, but some material is held. Other archive collections concern the local Home Guard, the 57th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA (a local Territorial Army unit that manned anti-aircraft guns defending the Portsmouth area during the Blitz, and served overseas later in the war), and life on the home front in Portsmouth during the Second World War. Portsmouth Records Office (a separate but closely connected organisation) also holds extensive archive material about the city during the Second World War.
Oral history recordings
Finally, the D-Day Museum has a significant oral history collection, consisting of around 200 interviews with Normandy veterans, most of which were conducted by Museum staff. There are also around 100 recordings of local people’s memories of wartime Portsmouth. There are written transcripts for many of these interviews, which makes it much easier and faster to go through the interview and check for interesting material.
How to access the archive collection
Any members of the public are welcome to consult the material described above. It can be viewed at the Portsmouth History Centre by prior appointment (an appointment is needed because the archive collections are stored at a different site, and depending on your enquiry it may take a few days to get the archive material ready for you). To make an appointment, please contact Andrew Whitmarsh, D-Day Museum Development Officer, on 023 9283 4708, click here to email, or send a message via the Contact Page of this website. Please see the Portsmouth Records Office website for information on the History Centre's opening times and other arrangements. Please note that you need to bring proof of your address and identity