According to the criteria for selection for UNESCO World Heritage status, a site must be of international value and directly or tangibly associated with events representing major stages of earth's history. As the 'springboard' for D-Day Southampton supersedes the criteria because without the contribution made by the port there would be no UNESCO to award such status. Yet this role is not properly recognised even by authorities within the city of Southampton today. This is not purely accidental because during WW2 the local population was deliberately treated with a campaign of misinformation, in which even the king was a willing participant, intended to mislead the enemy. During WW1 Southampton was the Number 1 Port of Embarkation for the British Army. This did not change in WW2 but because of D-Day this knowledge was highly classified and it was not until a year after the end of the war that the Southern Echo was able to report the role of the port. The result is that the historical narrative is distorted. Instead of Operation Overlord, the history of Southampton is overshadowed by the Blitz of 1940, including the controversial Hodsoll Report, with the implication of cowardice. Wartime secrecy means that the significance of sites within the docks are forgotten. For example, the Western Docks where Patton's Third Army embarked for Normandy ready to 'tear up' through France. Berth 36-40 in the Eastern Docks where Churchill saw British assault troops leave for D-Day. The Embarkation Hards where Canadian troops left in landing craft during Operation Neptune. Central Road where General LeClerc's Free French army, both men and women, marched to liberate their own country and capital. It is impossible in such a short statement to do justice to the range of sites. So the proposal would include a new visitor centre in Mayflower Park called , 'The Mulberry Experience' with the WW2 'Whale' as the centre piece. But of course it is Associated British Ports ABP who own and operate the port and would need to cooperate and support the application to UNESCO by permitting public access to these sites. One proposal is that this could be achieved without interfering in the smooth running of the port by allowing a restricted minibus tour on a specified route from the Mulberry Experience perhaps to also include the Civic Centre which was the headquarters for the US Army during D-Day and Operation Overlord. On Dock Gate 8 is a plaque that reads, “1939-45. This tablet was presented to the Southern Railway by the 14th Major Port, United States Army, in proud and glorious memory of the men and women of the forces of the United Nations who sailed from this port during the great war against aggression to secure the freedom of mankind”. Lest we forget. (Please also sign the ePetition, to save the WW2 Grade 2 Listed 'Whale' Roadway Section and Buffer Pontoon).
This ePetition ran from 06/12/2020 to 17/05/2021 and has now finished.
153 people signed this ePetition.
Thank you to the organisers for taking the time to organise this
petition about Southampton’s heritage.
We note that the Council is asked to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status for Southampton Docks because of the principal role played during Operation Overlord and the liberation of Europe in World War Two. Whilst the Council recognises the historic role of the docks in World War Two and features this in the city’s museum, Criteria No 8 is a natural criteria further defined as applying to sites that include the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features. In this situation, none of these apply to the use of Southampton Docks as part of the D-Day operation. It might be possible to include the role of Southampton Docks in D-Day under Criteria 4 To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. Unfortunately, the post-war changes that have taken place to the Dock estate means that sadly little survives in terms of monuments directly associated with the events of 1944.
Southampton Docks are in private ownership and it is also worth noting, that applications for World Heritage Status are put forward by national governments so the Council will not be able to approach UNESCO directly on this occasion. However, there is an opportunity to liaise with the organisers of Heritage Open Days (to whom we can make an introduction) to explore the opportunities to celebrate and promote this part of Southampton’s heritage.