Skip to content

D-Day Memorial – The Overlord Embroidery

June 3, 2014

Like many other baby boomers I came along a little too late to truly understand World War 11. Tucked away in our safe communities in Canada my family was far from the activities.  As we became older we heard about it through our parents, friends or grandparents.  Still, to comprehend a distant war was difficult.

Standing on the beach as an adult at the D – Day Museum in Portsmouth brought a new reality.  Looking out over the English Channel I knew that soon our study group, my husband and I would be crossing it to arrive in Normandy. My interest in design and embroidery brought me to this memorial but the symbolism of the embroidered panels of the D – Day landing brings me to back to war reality.

Before we crossed the English Channel we visited the D – Day Museum – a very special museum that was built to house the Overlord Embroidery along with documentation of the activities of the Allied Forces and their invasion (Operation Overlord) into Normandy. This was the largest amphibious operation in history. An Armada of approximately 150,000 men and 20,000 vehicles headed towards 5 landing beaches in Normandy on June 6th  1944.  There is still much dispute over the exact number of thousands of soldiers who died in this invasion. But the deaths are real to those who loved them.

Walking along 34 large panels we listen through our headphones to the story of the invasion, almost a re- enactment of the event.

The only 2 successful amphibious invasions across the English Channel in history, The Bayeux Tapestry (really an embroidery) and the Overlord Embroidery are 1000 years apart.  They are both memorialized in fabric and thread.  The soft comforts of fabric and thread and the art form of the needle might seem to contrast with the horrors of war.

The Overlord Embroidery took the Royal School of Needlework five years to work, and, at 272 feet in length, is the largest of its kind in the world.  Each panel shows a different part of the D – Day landing. Sandra Lawrence designed it panel by panel from war photos. Lord Dulverton and  retired senior officers from each of the services oversaw the design details to ensure accurate story telling and uniform detail.

What a major feat to create a pictorial event making soldiers and others seem realistic through appliqué and a handful of stitches. Familiar faces of the famous wartime personalties came to a realistic likeness through the needle of one lady – Ruby Essam who had been at the Royal School of needlework for 50 years. 20 embroiderers and 5 apprentices worked on 34 panels over 5 years. The strategy, planning, designing, careful organization and the patient skills of the designer and needlewomen are a tribute to their efforts.  It is through memorials such as this that we remember those who sacrificed their lives.

Don and I will be returning in October for a 6th visit to this memorial with another textile study group.  Photos of the actual Overlord Embroidery are copyrighted so you will have to imagine how great they are or visit the D Day Museum website for a very little peek.    Have a look below at our journey to Normandy from Portsmouth and the many memorials and cemeteries along our route.   Gail Harker

a drive to Omaha Beach

a drive to Omaha Beach

BayeuxIMG_4102 (7)

Omaha Beach in Normandy

Omaha Beach in Normandy

Memorial on Omaha Beach

Memorial on Omaha Beach

War memorial

War memorial

Omaha cemetery

Omaha cemetery

respect and immaculate care

respect and immaculate care

Omaha cemetery

Omaha cemetery

tribute to those countries soldiers

tribute to those countries soldiers

Mosaic artwork memorial

Mosaic artwork memorial

detail of Mosaic artwork

detail of Mosaic artwork

detail of Mosaic artwork

detail of Mosaic artwork

Sculpture on grounds

Sculpture on grounds

IMG_4131

IMG_4158crp1

 

 

student sketch from a visit

student sketch from a visit

One Comment leave one →
  1. pennypeters permalink
    June 3, 2014 11:32 pm

    Before I visited the Normandy Beaches and the cemetaries I was not much interested in the cost of WWII. I had only one extended family member who participated in the war, an uncle who was a bomber pilot. When he came home safely I was old enough to remember the joyeous celebration of his return. My family was there when he stepped off the troop train. When I visited the cemetaries that Gail pictured, I was overwhelmed by countless headstones. It was the first time I really understood what an enormous sacrifice was made to defeat Hitler’s armies. I was touched to the core. Now each Memorial Day I do remember and watch the Memorial Day Concert on PBS. I am in gratitude. to those who lost their lives, and to those who managed somehow to survive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: