Sonia Teale, from the Rowlands Castle Historical Society, has collected some audio memories from village residents about the run up to D-Day and its impact on the village.
You can listen to these memories.
The village of Rowlands Castle in the county of Hampshire, lies 8 miles to the north east of Portsmouth on the “Portsmouth Direct” railway line from London Waterloo to Portsmouth. The railway line was built in 1859 and electrified in 1937.
Rowlands Castle was a key location because of its railway station and sidings, and its closeness to Portsmouth. The wooded countryside was ideal for hiding troops and machines from enemy spotter planes.
All the roads were used for parking camouflaged tanks, lorries and other equipment. The woods were hiding thousands of men, all their camp equipment, including kitchens and even a cinema.
Railways played a big part in moving men and machines. Rowlands Castle was one of only a few de-training stations in the South, and the only one East of the main A3 trunk road to Portsmouth.
In 1944 at the height of the Second World War, the station at Rowlands Castle was chosen as one of the de-training station for allied troops, who camped in nearby forests, in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Troops would arrive from all parts of the country, de-train and move into camps in lorry convoys. A ten mile deep restricted civilian movement zone was enforced all along the south coast of England and the troop camps were sealed off. Blackout restrictions applied and petrol / food rationing was at its height.
The village green was covered with brick rubble from bombed buildings in Portsmouth and used as an armoured fighting vehicle repair depot. It was also a marshalling area for all sorts of all sorts of military vehicles, many converted into landing crafts packages and waterproofing them, before their final 8 mile road drive to the Portsmouth and Gosport landing craft jetties.