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Dockyard History6th June 2024

D-Day 80

D-Day 80

Today marks 80 years since the era-defining D-Day landings.

As the nation takes a moment to remember the sacrifices, the challenges, and the aftermath that the Normandy landings embody. We are also taking a moment to remember how Chatham was involved.


Chatham-made HMS ARETHUSA took part in the bombardment of Sword Beach and engaged German destroyers from Le Harve. Ten days later, King George VI and the UK Chief of Staffs boarded the ship to visit the Normandy Invasion Beaches.

In October 1945, she was reduced to reserve status before being put on the Disposal List in January 1948. She was sold in 1950 and broken up at Newport Glamorgan in September 1950.


Today, The Historic Dockyard is the proud custodian of ‘Overlord’, an Andrew Barclay diesel mechanical shunter that was ordered in two batches by the MOD. Our locomotive being in the second batch, works number 357 of 1941.

Initially numbered WD 42, she was sent to Longmoor in Hampshire to prepare for the invasion of Europe following D-Day. Three of her sister locomotives landed on the beach of Courselle in July 1944.

‘Overlord’ was shipped to Cherbourg, France from Southampton for use in the war effort. Arriving in September 1944, she and her two sister locomotives were put into service with the 102nd Transportation Stores Depot at Bayeux. After a year she was moved to Ghent and renumbered to WD 70042.

After returning to the UK in 1947, she was then sent to Suez in the 1950s along with 7 of her sisters. All unofficially named after the 7 dwarfs from Snow White. Sadly, there is no record of which name number 32 was known by.

‘Overlord’ After the War

Returning to the UK, she served in various MOD sites around the country, before being acquired by the Royal Engineers Museum, where she stood as gate guardian for several years.

In 1994 number 42 returned to France, to take part in the D-Day 50th Anniversary commemorations. At this time she was named ‘Overlord’ and received a brass bell, dedicating the locomotive to the memory of all railwaymen lost in the conflict.

Commemorating D-Day

In time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, ‘Overlord’ was returned to operational service, and joined the fleet of locomotives on the railway at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

For the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, ‘Overlord’ was repainted into her wartime livery.

In September 2023, ‘Overlord’ visited the Avon Valley Railway and was reunited with her sister, WD43 ‘Grumpy’ for the first time since being in service together in Suez.

📸 Credit. IWM (B 8035) / All rights reserved

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