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The Overlord Embroidery + History of D-Day in Portsmouth

May 28, 2018

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from Operation Overlord by Stephen Brooks and Eve Eckstein

Walking along 34 very large embroidered panels we look at and  listen through our headphones to the story of the invasion of Normandy in 1944, almost a re- enactment of the event. I have been visiting The Overlord Embroidery since its first London showing at the Whitbread Brewery  in the 70s to the grand opening of The D – Day Museum in Portsmouth in 1984. Our last visit was in 2014. As the Museum has just reopened after a major redo, I look forward to the next Tour that we take students to.

The D – Day Museum is 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. To look at their website, you could never imagine the size and power of The Overlord Embroidery to memorialize the event.

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. Perhaps the size is now surpassed but the quality is one of a kind.  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 storytelling 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 such as Winston Churchill and President Eisenhower 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.

 I have included a couple of photos from the book Operation Overlord – The History of D-Day and the Overlord Embroidery by Stephen Brooks and Eve Eckstein.  This is a well written book (1989) about the history of the Overlord Embroidery and the actual event of 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.   

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. But there it is!

Google the name Images Operation Overlord and you will come up with more images. See our visit to Omaha Beach in Normandy

                Gail Harker

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Penny Peters permalink
    May 28, 2018 3:35 pm

    It is quite an experience to stand in the presence of this large scale embroidery and then cross the Channel to stand on the Normandy Beaches, and visit the cemeteries of the fallen. In memoriam. .

  2. Kim W permalink
    May 28, 2018 5:54 pm

    Very impressive! It will be a treat to see the new look on your next tour. Happy spring leaning into summer. Kim

    On Sun, May 27, 2018 at 6:39 PM, Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts wrote:

    > gailcreativestudies posted: ” Walking along 34 very large embroidered > panels we look at and listen through our headphones to the story of the > invasion of Normandy in 1944, almost a re- enactment of the event. I have > been visiting The Overlord Embroidery since its first London sh” >

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