Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

D-Day Memorial unveiled at BRNC

12 June 2017
A plaque in memory of the US Forces stationed at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) during World War 2 has been unveiled on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Captain (Capt) Jol Woodard, the Commanding Officer of BRNC and Colonel (Col) Michael Brant Stephenson, the US Army Attaché at the United States Embassy in London, were invited to unveil the plaque, which has been commissioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission. 

The plaque has been sited on a wall at BRNC in the main College thoroughfare.

The US XI Amphibious Force was headquartered at BRNC during the war; arriving in 1943 as the Allies prepared for and then left the UK for the invasion of Europe to defeat Nazi Germany.

It is the shared and common values of our people, our culture and history that brings us here together, every day in the special relationship.

Colonel Michael Brant Stephenson

Welcoming the members of the US Armed Force, representatives from the American Battle Monuments Commission and other dignitaries to BNRC, Capt Jol Woodard said:  “I’m absolutely delighted to be able to mark the events of 1943 and 1944 by the unveiling of this plaque here in the College. 

“Whilst in historical terms the American Forces were here for a relatively short period, as we know the time that they were here was a defining moment in the  war and therefore also a defining moment for our country and the relationship between our two great nations.”

Col Brant said:  “It is the shared and common values of our people, our culture and history that brings us here together, every day in the special relationship. 

“The special relationship continues as we stand side-by-side to counter terrorism.  That brings us to where the special relationship really began as we stood side-by-side to defeat Nazi tyranny 73 years ago. 

“We gather here to remember that time.  This plaque is extremely important because it not only commemorates the XI Amphibious Force, but we’d also like to thank the British people. 

“They moved out, they suffered, they gave up their homes, they gave up their comfort, they gave up their lives so that the joint forces of the US and the UK could launch here for the Normandy invasion.”

During World War 2 the College evacuated to Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, and was formally commissioned there as HMS Britannia (Royal Naval College, Eaton) on 1 February 1943. 

The buildings left behind in Dartmouth were first taken over by Combined Operations and used to train Royal Marines in amphibious warfare.  

On 27 December 1943 the Americans arrived to take over the College on behalf of the US Naval Advanced Amphibious Base. 

It was one of a number of bases occupied by the US Forces throughout Devon and Cornwall.  Known as U Force, the Americans were destined to land on Utah Beach on the Cherbourg peninsula, which closely resembled the South Devon coast. 

By the beginning of 1944 over 4,000 US Navy personnel were based in the Dartmouth area.  The US troops and their equipment set sail from Dartmouth on 4 June, taking shelter in Weymouth Bay on 5th until the storm abated, reaching Normandy the next day.

Capt Woodard and other representatives from the College also joined the people of Dartmouth and the guests from the USA at the annual D-Day commemorative service in the town and the formal dedication of a memorial to the US and Allied Forces, commissioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission, situated in Royal Avenue Gardens, Dartmouth.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.