Colin Grainger

Pictures that illustrate the part East London played in the D Day landings

More than three years ago I wrote a piece that attracted a lot of interest about the part that our manor played in the D Day.

Thanks to the memories of funeral boss Stan Harris I told a story that had stayed relatively unknown for generations. It is a story that changed the course of the war.

And this week I discovered that  three photographs illustrating that story are now part of the Royal Docks history section of the Port of London Authority’s website.

They paint a vivid picture of our troops on the way to a vital mission.

The Royal Docks and London’s East End suffered mass devastation during the Second World War. From Black Saturday on September 7 1940, the lives of locals changed forever.

And four years after that suddenly tents, guns, provisions, barbed wire and the like were being unloaded in our manor and a commanding officer revealed the area was being turned into an army encampment. It took seven days to set up over an area covering Canning Town, Custom House, Silvertown and North Woolwich.

For the next two months the servicemen, especially the Poles, drank in local pubs, and went to local shops. They became part of the community.

“We asked them many times what they were doing, but never got a straight answer that made any sense. ‘Training camp’ was all that came back. Were we about to be invaded?, “ said Stan, know to generations as the boss of T.Cribb & Sons funeral directors.

“Then in May something wasn’t right. The atmosphere was strained and strange. You could sense it. The normal friendly soldiers were stand offish.”

The following morning, they had disappeared as quickly as they came.

“That evening the family sat down for our evening meal and tried to work out what was happening. We were all worried there was going to be another massive raid from Hitler and that would be the end .We had a restless night.”

All was made clear the following morning on the family wireless. The family listened in amazement.

“This is the BBC Home Service. D Day has come. Early this morning the Allies began an assault on the north-western face of Hitler’s European fortress.”

The troops had left via the Thames and the Royal Docks…history was about to be made.

The first picture (below) shows British troops embarking in the Royal Docks for the invasion.

The second (below) shows tanks arriving and being loaded in the Royals for the D Day landings in 1944.

And the third (also below) shows the complete Phoenix Unit leaving the King George V Dock en route to Normandy in 1944.


The pictures are all part of the Port of London Authority’s archive collection.

If you want to read the original story you can search under D Day on this page or click this link:

East London story that changed the course of the war

Pictures: PLA Archives/Colin Grainger


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This article was written on 27 Nov 2019, and is filed under D Day, East London, Heritage, History, Royal Docks, Stan Harris, World War Two.

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