It is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings this week. Commemorations will be attended by the Queen, US President Donald Trump and other heads of state. On June 6th in 1944, the Allied forces of the UK, the US, Canada and France attacked German troops in the north-western region of France, Normandy.
With the recurrence of the date visible on the calendar, scientists from the University of Portsmouth are carefully studying a map that was once used to plan the largest seaborne invasion in history. Reuters reported that by examining the depiction of the coasts of southern Britain and northern France researchers can look for patterns and damages to learn more about the historic event.
“You can actually map each individual pin hole and by mapping it you can actually work out where vessels were concentrated and the routes vessels took to the beaches on D-Day,” said Rob Inkpen, Reader in Physical Geography at the University of Portsmouth. “By looking at that map density we can then start to work out how the lines on the map... match what people actually did,” he said.
Just like allied commanders stood 75 years ago, the scientists now face the floor-to-ceiling wall map, which illustrates the route Allied forces took and what beaches they arrived at on June 6th, 1944. It is still located where it was in Southwick House, a manor outside Portsmouth, and the operational headquarters where Eisenhower is said to have decided to delay the invasion by one day due to bad weather.
The team was given permission by Britain’s defence ministry to carry out the research on the plywood map and uses cameras with high resolution lenses and hyperspectral imagery to reveal layers and markings invisible to the human eye.
“The whole purpose is to look at the underdrawings, or to look at the brush marks, the changes in the maps that have occurred during the planning and post D-Day landings,” said project collaborator John Gilchrist.
The researchers hope the hyperspectral cameras might reveal damage caused in the last 75 years to give better ideas on how to conserve the historic map for the future. Preliminary findings of the project’s work are planned to be published later this year.