"Portland, Dorset, U.K." Portland by ranger49

Portland Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 10 photos

The Town That Never Was - or What's in a name?

Quite a lot when there are dozens of places with the same name in different continents and countries!

But my searches on VT for the UK location Portland, Portland Island, Isle of Portland, Portland Harbour returned nothing, whereas all my Maps and Atlas indexes, guide book gazeteers showed exactly where it should be.

It surely could not be that the name by which I had known this place all my life had been wrong all the time and only the VT Database had got it right?


There is archaeological evidence that Portland has been inhabited since the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age and the Romans occupied Portland, which they called Vindelis.
It became home to the great Tudor Castle built between 1539-40 by King Henry V111 to defend his realm from the threat of invasion by France and Spain.

Portland Harbour, in the bay between Portland and Weymouth, is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. It was created by building stone breakwaters between 1848 and 1905. From then it became an important Royal Navy base, particularly in the the First and Second World Wars.

Half a million American service men trained and were marshalled here before leaving the Dorset coast for the beaches of Normandy in France in June 1944.

In the post-war years the Royal Navy and the Navies of NATO countries were based there and exercised in its waters.

My husband did some of his Naval Training as a National Serviceman in the Harbour in the 1950s....

Sailors approaching the south coast of England will be familiar with the Shipping Forecasts broadcast several times a day by the BBC which never fail to mention the British sea area known as "Portland, Plymouth and Fitz Roy"

The locally quarried Portland stone, is famous for its use in British and world architecture, including St Paul's Cathedral and the United Nations Headquarters.
It is also familiar to the thousands of people who visit British and Commonwealth War Graves where it is used to make the distinctive Headstones of the fallen. And is still being quarried.

After the end of the Cold War and changes in the defence policies of NATO countries it ceased to function as a Naval Base.
Its closure in 1995 had a serious impact on the prosperity of the town but the harbour now functions as a civilian port and has become a popular and successful recreation area with a thriving Marina and water sports association.

In fact the National Sailing Academy will host the Sailing Events of the 2012 Olympic Games to be held at its Headquarters -
Osprey Quay, Portland DT5 1SA

The Isle of Portland - What is it?

It is neither an Island nor an Isle but a spit of land permanently connected to the mainland by Chesil Beach - that miles long stretch of land known as the Jurasssic Coast - a natural World Heritage Site.
If you leave the castle car park on foot, by the side gate that opens into the harbour you will see two of the remaining Mulberry Harbours that were transported from Portland to the landing beaches of Normandy in 1944.

The American War memorial on Portland Island

The plaque reads'This memorial was unveiled by His Excellency the American Ambassador, Mr John G. Winant'

The words below read - " 1944-1945"

"The major part of the American assault force which landed on the shores of France on D-Day, 6 June 1944, was launched from Portland Harbor. From 6 June 1944 to 7 May 1945, 418,585 troops and 144,093 vehicles were embarked from this harbor. This plaque marks the route which the vehicles and troops took on their way to the points of embarkation.
Presented by the 14th Major Port, U.S. Army.
Harold G. Miller, Major, T.C., Sub Port Commander
Sherman L. Kiser, Colonel, T.C., Port Commander"

Mr Winant succeeded Joseph Kennnedy as the US Ambassordor to Britain in 1941. He quickly established himself in London and further afield and was regarded as a colourful, popular and successful appointment.
He served throughout the period of the war and became well known both in diplomatic circles and at Court. At the end of his period of Office in 1947 he returned to the States but died by his own hand less than a year later.

  • Last visit to Portland: Apr 2011
  • Intro Updated Oct 29, 2011
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