Yarmouth celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day by holding an invitation only Tea Party at Yarmouth and District Community Hall for all local residents over the age of 75.
Children from Yarmouth Primary School sang songs such as Run Rabbit, which were popular in 1944, for the guests, a number of whom were members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1944 and remember D-Day.
The Community Hall also welcomed residents to an exhibition marking the 75th anniversary, reflecting local people’s memories of that time and recollections of the part family members played in WWII. A 1942 vintage jeep was parked outside, and there was 40s music all day thanks to Peter Osborne, and the Company B Girls close harmony group. The Unity Stompers also played at The George Hotel and other businesses in the town joined in the 40s theme.
People living and stationed in Yarmouth in 1944 played a vital role in the Second World War and the preparations for the D-Day landings. The Pier Hotel, now the George, manned by naval personnel as signal station XDO West, was responsible for communicating with ships arriving at and leaving Portsmouth and Southampton via the Needles.
Many houses in the town were billets for WRNS and naval officers, and there were many members of the Canadian Army billeted in Yarmouth and the surrounding district. The harbour was full of landing craft being prepared for the Normandy Beaches, and both Norton and The Savoy Holiday camps became HMS Manatee, training large numbers of personnel for D-Day.
Mary Lord recalled: “We were always hungry, we used to eat the acorns from the trees in the playground. We didn’t eat very many because they took so long to peel. We were sent out to pick blackberries, and rose hips for vitamin C to supplement the food. It must have been along the railway line, and there were still trains, but I don’t remember any warnings or worries.
“The boys didn’t do much picking, just opened up the rosehips and put the seeds down people’s necks as itching powder.”
Tony Blee added: “Food was rationed, of course, and our mother did magical things to keep us going. Lots of cheese on toast and something we called ‘dollop’, a mixture of powdered milk and cocoa. We used to have to go to queue, for what seemed hours to me, for potatoes and bread. When rationing ended we found untold treasures. We had never seen a banana before!”