This Tapestry Is as Long as a Football Field — and Tells the Story of the D-Day Invasion

In 1066, William the Conqueror crossed the English Channel from Normandy and secured his royal title of king of England following his victory on the Battle of Hastings. Centuries later, Allied troops made the journey in reverse, crusing to the sandy shores of northern France in June 1944 to liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany. 

This parallel didn’t go unnoticed by England’s Lord Dulverton, a tobacco magnate who had educated British Military sharpshooters throughout World Warfare II. Searching for to immortalize D-Day’s fallen Allied troopers, Lord Dulverton commissioned and bankrolled his personal Twentieth-century model of the Bayeux Tapestry—the famed medieval embroidery depicting the Norman conquest of England—in 1968. 

The Overlord Embroidery, on show on the D-Day Story museum in Portsmouth, England.
Royal Faculty of Needlework embroiderers (above, at work on a panel) created scenes just like the one at high—British troops awaiting departure aboard their touchdown craft—by piecing and layering collectively greater than 50 forms of material atop a linen base. (Royal Faculty of Needlework)

Dubbed the Overlord Embroidery, the work consists of 34 panels, appliquéd and embroidered with chronological scenes starting from England’s descent into the Battle of Britain to the heroic occasions and aftermath of June 6, 1944. Primarily based on designs by English artist Sandra Lawrence, who drew inspiration from interval pictures for added realism, the visible narrative took a workforce of 20 artisans from the Royal Faculty of Needlework 5 years to finish. A sampling of the embroidery’s panels seems on the next pages; the 272-foot art work is on everlasting show on the D-Day Story museum in Portsmouth, England, and extra photos are on-line.  

all within the particulars

Prime brass from England and america paid separate visits to Normandy in June 1944, however house issues prompted artist Sandra Lawrence to draft a panel exhibiting Allied leaders surveying the touchdown seashores collectively. Showing above, from left to proper: King George VI, Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery, Area Marshal Alan Brooke and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Though this particular assembly was fictional, Lord Dulverton and his advisers insisted on getting each element appropriate, from the criminal of Brooke’s nostril and the Mulberry Harbors offshore to the proper sequence of Monty’s ribbons.

above and past

A lot of the art work’s panels function quick vignettes. When it got here to recreating D-Day’s Channel crossing, nonetheless, Lawrence was urged to increase the scene and seize its scale “in panoramic type.” Lawrence heeded this recommendation and devoted a number of panels to Allied naval and air forces mid-voyage to France; the phase beneath exhibits Spitfires offering air cowl for a bevy of troopships. 


The G.I.s at left within the panel beneath, proven charging onto Utah Seaside, suffered fewer casualties (simply 197 out of the 23,000-odd males who landed there) than troops coming ashore elsewhere. Juxtaposed in opposition to a scene set at Omaha Seaside, the waves dense with corpses, the contrasting vignettes emphasize how luck wasn’t at all times distributed equally on D-Day. One facet that is uniform right here: the troopers’ battle gown, sewn in parts from real World Warfare II military fatigues and bearing genuine regimental patches. Different panels depict British, Canadian and American troops likewise sporting fight gear partly long-established from real-life warfare garb.


Allied troops who survived storming the seashores confronted further risks as soon as they reached the Cotentin Peninsula. At proper, an American soldier guards a number of Wehrmacht POWs. The prisoner on the forefront, arms held aloft as he waits to be searched, wears an Iron Cross for bravery—however within the photograph the artist used as a reference, he appears to be like way more frightened than he does brave.


The scene above, which depicts Allied bombers and tanks driving German forces from the ravaged port metropolis of Caen, composes one of many art work’s remaining panels. It was, actually, the final to be commissioned by Lord Dulverton: whereas inspecting the almost accomplished tableau in March 1973, he thought it nonetheless wanted as an instance the invasion’s toll on Norman cities and villages. The Caen panel was accomplished in early 1974; to make sure viewers acknowledged the scene as French, Lawrence added a painted advert for Byrrh, a French apéritif, on one of many metropolis’s still-standing buildings.

All photographs courtesy of the D-Day Story, Portsmouth, besides the place famous.