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Daphne du Maurier
The official Daphne du Maurier website, approved by her Estate

Menabilly in the lead up to D-Day 6th June 1944

War correspondents at Menabilly pre D-Day 1944

Daphne, Muriel and Angela with US Naval personnel and US war correspondents, Menabilly, May 27th 1944

With the 80th anniversary of D-Day uppermost in people's minds this week, we thought we would share a photograph with you and tell you about a little-known event that took place in the days leading up to 6th June 1944.

In the spring of that year, Daphne du Maurier was settling into her new life at Menabilly with her children, their Nanny, Margaret Eglesfield, and a number of local women who cooked and helped run the house.  Fowey was full of military activity, with American troops in camps, officers billeted in various homes in and around Fowey, and the harbour full of ships and boats, all preparing for the invasion of France.

A little recorded fact is that in the days just prior to D-Day, over 40 American war correspondents were hiding out in Fowey, where they were to be briefed on the forthcoming action.  Among the group were some well-known war correspondents of the time, including Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times.  During their three-day stay in Fowey, the newsmen were well looked after and entertained in between briefings at both Place, where Mrs Anne Treffry held a cocktail party for them, and at Menabilly, where they were invited to lunch.

Of course, everything had to be top secret, so on the allotted day for the war correspondents' visit to Menabilly, Daphne had to send everyone away for the day.  Margaret, the children, Daphne's own cook and the maids were sent off to have a picnic.  One cannot help but wonder what they all thought about this sudden and out-of-the-ordinary jaunt that was thrust upon them, but unfortunately, we have no record of how they felt or what they thought!

Meanwhile, the American high command provided everything that was needed for the lunch.  They arrived at Menabilly complete with all the food and drink, the pans and other food preparation equipment and the crockery and cutlery they would need, all with the insignia of the US Navy on it.  The chef and all the staff required to prepare and serve the meal were also brought in.  Daphne's mother, Muriel, and her sister, Angela, were in on the secret and came to help Daphne host the lunch.

A photograph was taken of Daphne, Muriel and Angela, the war correspondents and the US military personnel who were in attendance.  You can see from the picture the size of the party, with Daphne, Muriel and Angela in the middle.  So, despite the secrecy of the event, we do have documented evidence of the luncheon taking place.

List of those in the photograph at Menabilly pre D-Day 1944

List of those present in the photograph at Menabilly, 27th May 1944

Attached to the reverse of this copy of the photograph is a typed piece of paper listing those in attendance by name.

The war correspondents left Fowey soon afterwards, and within days, all the ships and boats had gone from the harbour.  Angela du Maurier was one of many local people who later recalled how, after so much activity in the harbour over the preceding months, a strange silence hung over Fowey as the journey across the channel to France began.

References taken from:

Daphne: A Portrait by Judith Cook, Bantam Press, 1991, page 177.
Manderley Forever by Tatiana de Rosnay, Allen & Unwin, 2017, page 170.
Fowey At War by Paul Richards and Derek Reynolds, self-published, date unknown, but c1990s.

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