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Evacuation, the Blitz and Montgomery – uncovering the University’s forgotten World War II history for D-Day 75

Brigadier Bernard Montgomery pictured outside Ravelin House. Photo credit: The D-Day Story, Portsmouth

As the world prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we have delved into the archives to uncover the University’s forgotten history to reveal the impact of the Second World War on students, staff and buildings – including a strong connection to a famous D-Day figure.

Who lived in Ravelin House?

As well as a naval dockyard town, Portsmouth was a significant army garrison. Just before the Second World War the then Brigadier Bernard Montgomery was the Portsmouth Garrison commander. His headquarters were at Ravelin House in Ravelin Park, where he lived in 1937 with his family.

Known by his nickname Monty, he commanded the British Eighth Army in the North African, Sicily and Italian campaigns including his renowned victory at the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt. He joined British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American General Dwight D. Eisenhower to plan the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe –  becoming the Allied Land Forces Commander for the initial assault phase of Operation Overlord, including D-Day on 6 June, 1944.

Ravelin House today

Ravelin House today

His strong connections to the city continued after the war when he became President of Portsmouth Football Club between 1944 and 1961. Montgomery died on 24 March 1976, and is memorialised by a statue outside the D-Day Story on Southsea seafront.

Evacuation, the Blitz and – wartime impact on students and staff

We were granted University status in 1992, but our roots date back much further, including Portsmouth Municipal College – a predecessor institution based at Park Building from 1908 to 1954.

Entrance steps to Portsmouth Municipal College (Park Building) in their black-out paint. Photo credit: Evening News

The University’s Archivist, Anna Delaney, has researched old copies of the college’s student magazine The Galleon, which continues with the same name today as the University’s student newspaper.

Anna has written a blog post looking at the college in 1944 and the continuing impact of earlier events – giving us an insight into what it was like to study or work at the college in wartime, including evacuating students to the countryside, sheltering local people from the Blitz and coping with a sudden post-war surge in student numbers.

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