Recording heritage and disseminating the untold stories of Second World War troops
The D-Day: Stories from the Walls project explores the stories of some of the American soldiers that passed through Southampton during the Second World War and the city’s crucial role in the war. Though their passage was comparatively fleeting, the legacy of these soldiers remains in the form of ‘graffiti’ etched into walls near the city’s docks.
Only one section of wall bearing this graffiti now remains. In 2019-2020, we made a digital record of the wall and its inscriptions in order to preserve it for future generations. The project commemorated the 75th Anniversaries of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Through a programme of fieldwork, research, exhibitions and outreach, it engaged volunteers and communities in the discovery of Southampton’s crucial role during the Second World War and the stories behind the men who carved their names on the wall.
This project has been made possible by money raised by National Lottery players; it focuses on an important heritage feature of Southampton.
Explore the wall in 3D & view soldier stories
Through our ‘D-Day: Stories from the Walls’ 3D interactive viewer, you can explore the wall in spectacular detail, zooming in on its bricks and seeing its inscriptions up close. Once inside the viewer, you will be able to view information in the right panel: here, different resources and the soldiers’ stories can be viewed using the icons at the top of the panel. You can also open the left panel to scroll through all the names we have recorded – this will take you to the part of the wall where you can see each soldier’s associated inscription.
You can also explore some of the bricks held in Southampton City Museum Collections in 3D:
Watch our fascinating ‘D-Day: Stories from the Walls’ documentary
It explores Southampton port during WWII and the lives of the US soldiers in the city. It presents the techniques used to record, document, and digitally preserve the wall, and the research that has revealed the fascinating and moving stories of the soldiers who made their mark before embarking to Europe. We also hear from volunteers and their experiences of being involved in delivering the project.
“ ‘D-Day: Stories from the Walls’ really sums up why I am such a keen supporter of Maritime Archaeology Trust and why I believe they’re the best in the world at what they do. Their detailed exploration and analysis of the wall has allowed us all to enjoy the wonderful records of American servicemen who passed through Southampton during the war. The Trust is also very adept at presenting its discoveries in a way that is accessible for schools and for the rest of us. Its 3D projects are amazing. Its website is amazing. Thank you to the whole team for working so hard on the ‘D-Day: Stories from the Wall’ project”. Dan Snow, Historian.
Read about the project
Banner exhibitions were held during the project at the Grand Harbour Hotel (next to the wall), the National Oceanography Centre, and Southampton Central Library. You can see the banners below.
Visit the wall
You can easily see the wall in person by paying it a visit at: Western Esplanade, Southampton, SO15 1AG. The wall is on a public road with nearby parking. If you enjoy both history and walking, perhaps you could visit as part of our WWII Southampton Walking Tour, put together by volunteer, Richard Wyatt:
You can download and have a go at our quiz here. The answers to the quiz are here – no cheating! There is also a history-themed geocaches in the area – find the clues to it here!
If you are unable to visit the wall in person, you can try our virtual exhibition instead! Stand among the soldiers at the wall and get a feel for what it may have been like at the time.
Running the virtual exhibition:
Currently available for Windows only.
Download the file, unzip, and select the black and white ‘U’ icon (DDayVirtualMuseum.exe).
On some computers, you may be asked to choose an app to open it with. Click ‘no’ and it will open anyway. You may also get a security warning about an ‘unknown publisher’ – the file is safe, so choose ‘run anyway’. Some computers may require the installation of DirectX for the Virtual Exhibit to work – this can be downloaded directly from Microsoft here.
Please note, the virtual exhibition may take a few minutes to open on older computers and will present a black screen while loading. Once open, use the mouse or touchpad to look around, and the W, A, S, D keys to move forward, backwards, left and right and navigate around the virtual world.
This virtual museum is still in development. If you encounter any bugs, please report them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bringing history to life
Using MyHeritage’s Deep Nostalgia tool, we have animated some of the photos of the soldiers to bring them to life.
Find out more about our work on the Second World War: