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The Sea Before Us – Tour of Southwick House

To celebrate the release of The Sea Before Us, author Sarah Sundin is conducting a photo tour of locations from the novel from her research trip to England and Normandy. Today—the historic D-day site of Southwick House!To celebrate the release of The Sea Before Us, I’m conducting a photo tour of locations from the novel that I saw on my research trip to England and Normandy in September.

February 7—London!

Today—Southwick House near Portsmouth

February 9—D-day at Sea

February 10—Omaha Beach

Southwick House in the village of Southwick, not far north of Portsmouth, England, is not a common tourist site—but it has great historical importance. For the record, Southwick House is on an active military base, and you have to apply in advance for security clearance – but it’s well worth it!

On April 26, 1944, Adm. Sir Bertram Ramsay transferred his Allied Naval Expeditionary Force Headquarters from London to Southwick House as battle headquarters for Operation Neptune, the naval component of D-day. And in the first two days of June, both Gen. Bernard Montgomery and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower moved their headquarters to trailers (caravans to the British) on the manor grounds.

All these great and famous men, and many great and not-so-famous men and women, were at Southwick House on D-day, nervously studying the map and waiting for reports.

In the library of Southwick House early on June 4, Eisenhower heard an unfavorable weather report and made the difficult decision to postpone D-day from June 5 to June 6, which required recalling a great number of ships already at sea. At 0415 on June 5, while a storm howled outside, RAF Meteorologist Group Captain James Stagg forecast a mild break in the weather for June 6. Eisenhower faced a difficult choice. If he postponed again, it would mean waiting two full weeks for the proper tide and moon. But if the forecast was wrong, he could be launching the largest invasion in history in the middle of a storm, dooming it to failure. After some thought and consultation, Eisenhower quietly said, “Okay. Let’s go.”

In The Sea Before Us, Women’s Royal Naval Service (“Wren”) Dorothy Fairfax serves at Southwick House.

By the way, most of the people in these photos were with Valor Tours. They kindly gave us a ride on their tour bus onto the grounds of Southwick House and “adopted” us for the day. The nicest group of history buffs and an extremely knowledgeable guide!

Let’s start our photo tour outside…

Approaching Southwick House from the rear, entrance on the side to the left, Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Approaching Southwick House from the rear, entrance on the side to the left, Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Sarah Sundin at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Sarah Sundin at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The lawn at Southwick House, facing south toward Portsmouth, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The lawn at Southwick House, facing south toward Portsmouth, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The entrance to Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The entrance to Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Shall we go inside?

The hall inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The hall inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The main stairway inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The main stairway inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The main stairway inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The main stairway inside Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The library at Southwick House, now called the "Eisenhower Room," where Gen. Eisenhower made his decision to launch D-day on 6 June 1944. Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The library at Southwick House, now called the “Eisenhower Room,” where Gen. Eisenhower made his decision to launch D-day on 6 June 1944. Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The sitting room at Southwick House, now called the "Ramsay Room," which lies between the library and the map room. Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The sitting room at Southwick House, now called the “Ramsay Room,” which lies between the library and the map room. Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Last we enter the map room. This is the actual giant wooden wall map used by the commanders to monitor the progress on D-day. It’s set for D-day at H-hour.

The map room at Southwick House, with the giant wooden wall map actually used on D-day, Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The map room at Southwick House, with the giant wooden wall map actually used on D-day, Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The actual wooden wall map used on D-day, showing the shipping lanes, set for D-day at H-hour, in the map room at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The actual wooden wall map used on D-day, showing the shipping lanes, set for D-day at H-hour, in the map room at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The actual wooden wall map used on D-day, showing the landing beaches, set for D-day at H-hour, in the map room at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The actual wooden wall map used on D-day, showing the landing beaches, set for D-day at H-hour, in the map room at Southwick House, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

While we’re in the neighborhood, we should see the darling village of Southwick.

Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

"WRNS" (Wrens) needlepoint kneeling cushion in St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

“WRNS” (Wrens) needlepoint kneeling cushion in St. James Church, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Hungry? The Golden Lion in Southwick serves fine pub fare—and it’s a historic site as well. Eisenhower and Montgomery used to dine here!

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Sarah Sundin at The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Sarah Sundin at The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Memorial to sailors, soldiers, and airmen at The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Memorial to sailors, soldiers, and airmen at The Golden Lion, Southwick, Hampshire, England, September 2017 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Hope to see you tomorrow for “D-Day at Sea.” We’ll cross the English Channel by ferry and see sites pertaining to the naval aspect of D-day.

6 Responses to “The Sea Before Us – Tour of Southwick House”

  1. Kaye Whitney

    The pictures of the giant wooden map are my favorites. I remember hearing about D-Day, and General Eisenhower was the first President for whom I voted.

  2. Mae

    Love the pictures-the staircase, the village and the church to name a few.Great job!

  3. Lianna

    Fascinating WREN kneeling cushions in St. James Church!

  4. Lianna

    Fascinating WRNS (Wrens) needlepoint kneeling cushions in St. James Church!

  5. Tisha Martin

    Wow, how beautiful and inspiring. To think that Eisenhower and his men, along with the BBC, planned D-Day with such detail and precision–for my freedom. Thank you for sharing, Sarah!

  6. J. Carol Nemeth

    Loved the pictures & the the tour of Southwick, Sarah. Thank you for sharing! Enjoyed all of it! Reminded me of my own years in Harrogate. I loved living in England. So much history & the people are wonderful.