War] What was it good for?: Where can you see Hitler on a potty? Tony Kelly sifts through some Second World War nostalgia at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth

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The Independent Culture
The D-Day Museum in Portsmouth shows a short film about the Second World War. It begins with Chamberlain's return from Munich and ends with a requiem for the dead, but most of what you see in between is wrapped in a layer of nostalgia. Flanagan and Allen, ration books and 'Dig for Victory' appeals, GIs arriving at Liverpool to the sound of 'White Christmas'; all combine to conjure up an image of a more innocent age. A time when we knew so little about the world beyond our shores that the Foreign Office had to ask people to send in their holiday snaps of the Normandy beaches and D-Day soldiers were issued with guides to French etiquette.

The centrepiece is the Overlord Embroidery, the world's longest tapestry (detail above), at 272 ft outstripping its rival at Bayeux by 41 ft. Commissioned from the Royal School of Needlework in 1968, its 34 frames were designed as an English counterpart to Bayeux, describing as it does a Channel-crossing in reverse, 900 years after William's invasion.

Sandra Lawrence and a team of 20 staff created the embroidery over five years using materials including gold braid, khaki uniform cloth and a paratrooper's beret. She began by copying drawings from wartime photos, turned these into full-size cartoons, then traced the pattern onto linen by shaking powder through pinpricks before completing the work with needle and thread. Silk faces - from Churchill and Montgomery to a German PoW - were made separately and sewn onto the fabric afterwards.

Several new exhibits have opened for the 50th anniversary year. You can walk through disappointing models of a German bunker and a Dakota plane. There is also a cartoon of a baby Hitler on a swastika-adorned potty and the caption 'Who'd want to breast-feed that?'

'What does all this mean to someone your age?' a man of about 70 asked me, before sharing his memories of nights in underground shelters. 'The war may have been necessary, but it wasn't glorious. We should remember the war, not glorify it,' he said.

A selection of memories from people still living in Portsmouth is introduced with a quote from George Santayana: 'Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.'

D-Day Museum, Southsea, Portsmouth (0705 827261). Open 9.30am-7.30pm in summer, 11am-5pm in winter. Extended opening to 9pm in Jun and to 10pm 6-12 Jun. Admission pounds 3.50, children / OAPs pounds 2.00, family ticket pounds 9.00. Free entry from 1-7 Jun. For details of anniversary events in Portsmouth (0705 814800)

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