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1,000 soldiers from Warwickshire regiment landed in Normandy on 6th June 1944

THE role played by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the D-Day Landings comes under the spotlight of a new exhibition which has opened at the Fusilier Museum Warwick.

The ‘Ashore We Stumbled – The Royal Warwickshire Regiment and D-Day’ Exhibition presents 70 objects and original accounts linked to the 2nd Battalion and 1/7th’s Battalion in Normandy 1944.

D-Day exhibition.
D-Day exhibition.

Artefacts, photographs, and personal and official documents of the events create a picture for visitors of the dramatic highs and lows of the Normandy campaign. These reveal poignant and powerful stories of bravery, tragedy, and humanity amongst soldiers of Birmingham, Coventry, and Warwickshire against the backdrop of the key turning point of the Second World War.

On the 6th June 1944, nearly 1,000 soldiers from the Warwickshire regiment arrived in Normandy to push the Axis forces out of then occupied France. ‘Ashore We Stumbled’ were the words recalled by Captain Harry Illing of ‘A’ Company aptly describing the nervous but determined young soldiers commencing the land invasion of occupied Europe.

The exhibition at the Fusilier Museum Warwick - on until the 19th September -provides fascinating insight into the experience of individual soldiers with some events which will surprise the visitor, for example, after fighting their way from the coast towards the city of Caen and losing 154 men at Lebisey Wood, the regiment stopped at Emieville for rest and ended up having a football competition wearing a football strip sent from home.

The exhibition contains a number of striking and rare artefacts including an original ‘Rupert’ a decoy paratrooper made out of a hessian ‘man’ and cotton parachute. 500 of these were dropped on D Day to divert the enemy and were successful in drawing the attention of several German units away from the beaches. Particularly poignant is a steel helmet from D Day with a large hole created by shrapnel from a mortar bomb. Also on display is a map of Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire that was discovered by the Allies in the German headquarters in Caen – a powerful reminder of what was at stake if D Day had failed.

The exhibition will intrigue many, from military enthusiasts to the casually interested alike. It is a fascinating journey through the most critical period of the war. It explores the personal history of soldiers in Warwickshire through one of the most widely captivating eras of recent history.

L ‘Ashore We Stumbled– The Royal Warwickshire Regiment and D-Day’ exhibition is free to enter as part of the general museum admission. Tickets to the museum are as follows: Adults are £5, Concessions (veterans, over 65s and students) are £4 and children under 16 are free. Tickets are valid for 12 months.

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