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Front Line Dorset

  • Commando Training
    Commando Training
  • Tarrant Rushton Airfield
    Tarrant Rushton Airfield
  • German Prisoners at Weymouth
    German Prisoners at Weymouth
  • German Prisoners at Weymouth
    German Prisoners at Weymouth

Dorset's location on the south coast placed it in the firing line during the early part of the war and in the forefront of mounting the D-Day landings in 1944. Below are just a few of the military activities that took place in the county during the war.

Auxiliary Units

With the threat of invasion, Britain established a resistance movement that would be prepared in the event of invasion to take on German garrisons occupying the county... [ more ]

The Victoria Cross

Leading Seaman Jack Mantel was posthumously awarded a VC in Portland Harbour at the beginning of the serious Blitz on 4 July 1940... [ more ]

Commando Training

The first Commandos were all volunteers from across the Army and the regiments of Devon and Dorset were well represented amongst those who went to Scotland to earn their soon to be famous green berets. Basic training completed, the men moved to the south coast to join Commando units preparing to conduct cross channel raids on the German held coast of France. Amongst those units training in Dorset, was Lord Lovat's famous No. 4 Commando. Billeted near Shaftsbury they completed much of their amphibious training; climbing cliffs around Lulworth Cove in preparation for the Dieppe Raid in 1942.

The Depot here in Dorchester was where No. 47 Royal Marine Commando was raised in August 1943. They landed on D Day at Gold Beach behind 2nd Devons and 1st Dorsets.

The Airbases

Royal Air Force and later the US Army Air Force, had bases for all kinds of aircraft in Dorset. During the Battle of Britain, on receiving radar warnings of approaching German bombers, fighters were deployed to intercept the raiders, who were principally passing over the county to and from attacks on major targets around Bristol.

Maritime patrol aircraft and bombers also operated from county's airbases at various times but in the run up to D-Day transport aircraft and gliders for the 6th British Airborne Division operated from airfields such as RAF Tarrent Rushton. The very first Allied troops to land in Normandy to seize the tactically important Pegasus Bridge were towed off from this airfield around 2200 hours on the evening of 5 June 1944.

Radar

Much of the highly secret early experimental and ultimately war winning work on Radio Direction Finding (RDF) or it has become known 'Radar', was carried out at Worth Matravers on the Purbeck coast. The scientists continued to develop the technology that had provided the Chain Home radar, which had enabled the RAF to meet the German raiders at the right time and at the right place. Eventually, in 1942, the scientists and their precious equipment were moved north to a safer location at Malvern that was less vulnerable to possible German raids.

Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO)

A modern mechanised force requires all types of fuel for its ships, vehicles and aircraft. The Petroleum Depot at Westmoors contributed significantly to the practical development of the concept and to the eventual supply of fuel for the Normandy Campaign and the advance eastwards.