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Old 4th June 2019, 15:42
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Organisation: Royal Navy
Department: Radio Officer
Active: 1949 - 1993
Join Date: May 2016
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Woolverston hall

From the Facebook Group Woolverstone: Notes and Queries

With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion fast approaching I thought it would be useful to offer a brief summary of Woolverstone Hall's role in WW2.

As a stone frigate, HMS Woolverstone had an auspicious part to play in the history of Woolverstone Hall, St Michael's Church and village during the Second World War.

After the Hall was sold to Oxford University in December 1937 it lay empty for over a year. It was commandeered by the government in 1939 for the war effort. Initially it housed troops. First there were the Beds and Herts followed by Liverpool Scottish, 2nd battalion in 1940. This was followed up by various groups of both the Royal Artillery and also Engineers regiments.

In October 1942 the concrete road from Main Road down to the river was constructed as well as the concrete hard and pier. Oil storage tanks were installed further up the hill. Also in 1942 staging was erected on the roof of the Hall for the Royal Observer Corps. (See photo). Incidentally, there had been an earlier ROC post in the field behind the Post Office on the Main Road since 1926.

HMS Woolverstone was commissioned by the Admiralty in 1943. The base was commissioned on 1/1/1943, care and maintenance from 9/7/43, re-commissioned on 15/10/43 and paid off on 20/2/46.

HMS Woolverstone was, among other things, a landing craft base and training establishment for Combined Operations. Not only were landing craft anchored here before going south and on to Normandy, but also it was part of the deception force assembled under the auspices of Operation Quicksilver where a fleet of dummy landing craft were assembled before being put out on the river to confuse the Nazis. Officers were housed in the Hall, other ranks in Nissen huts dotted around the grounds. Woolverstone church was used by the Navy for worship.

There were over 1000 personnel present at HMS Woolverstone during the “lock down” month preceding D-Day on 6th June 1944.

In one poignant account from WRNS officer, she described going to Woolverstone church on the morning of Sunday 4th June 1944 and on her return from the service she found the landing craft had slipped off down the Orwell on their way to Normandy.

On the morning of 4th June 30 fully loaded landing craft left the Cat House for the Normandy beaches. These had been loaded with troops and vehicles at Felixstowe on 2nd June and came up the river waiting for the signal to go which had been delayed by a day because of poor weather in the channel.

HMS Woolverstone continued to play a part in Operation Quicksilver and the construction of dummy landing craft after the Normandy landings.

From Simon Pearce.
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