Meet the great Sussex character who was born on D-Day and named after the invasion

It is the 80 year anniversary of D-Day on Thursday June 6 and a Hastings man will also be celebrating his 80th birthday on that day.

Dee-Day White, who descends from an old Hastings fishing family, was born on 6 June 1944 and was given the name Dee-Day after his father visited several pubs on the way to registering his birth.

He says his father Bert repeatedly heard about “D-Day” on the wireless and it stuck in his mind so he was determined to name his son after the military action that turned the tide of the Second World War.

Operation Overlord began just after midnight on June 6 1944 and a few hours later at 3.40am Dee Day arrived in Hastings.

Dee Day said: “My father Bert White was a fisherman on Hastings beach and a head launcher of Hastings Lifeboat. During the war, he and my heavily pregnant mum lived at number 5 Old Humphrey Avenue, in the Old Town.

When a bomb landed on Old Humphrey Avenue, they were re-housed at 109 All Saints Street. Just after midnight on June 6, 1944, my father than to the local phone box to call the midwife, because the baby was fast approaching. The midwife told him she would need hot water and they were to light a fire, but they didn’t have any coal.

"So whilst she made her way down from Ore, he went over to the beach to find an old fish box he could break up for wood. The soldiers manning the barbed wire barricade asked him what he was doing on the beach in the middle of the night. When dad explained the situation the soldiers gave him a bucket of coal.

A restless night followed for dad with mum beating one ear and, on the wireless, the start of Operation Overlord beating the other. The only news being the D-Day beaches boats and planes, troops and the invasion. All night long all he heard in his head was D-Day.

"First thing in the morning my mum told him to go and register the name saying ‘We have already been bombed out of one house. I don’t want our baby to die without a name.’.

“So dad made his way to the Fishermen’s Club to announce the news and was given a pint of beer to ‘wet the baby’s head’. From there to the Crown, where he was given another pint of beer – the same in the Nelson, The Royal Standard, The Cutter and finally The Albion.

By mid-day he was very much worse for wear but knew he still had to register the babies birth at the Registry Office in the town centre. He told them ‘I’ve been up all night and my head is full of nothing but D-Day and I think that would be a fitting name’.

"The registrar said ‘You cannot just name a baby after a military invasion. Up until earlier this morning it was a world-wide secret. I suggest you come back tomorrow sober and I am sure you will have changed your mind by then’.

"Dad returned the next day with the Daily Mirror under his arm with the headline reading ‘Second day of the D-Day invasion’ . He told them ‘If you don’t know about it yet, you can be sure the Germans do’.

"So the registrar decided to put two ‘e’s in and make it a legal name. So that’s how Dee Day arrived in Hastings.”

Dee Day is now very proud of his unusual name, although it caused problems when he was younger. He said: “If I ever went into a pub to have a drink and when people asked me my name if I told them the truth they would know I was under-age. If I was to talk to an older girl, I’d say I was 17, they’d say ‘you’re not, you’re only 15 years old’. I hated it as a child, but now I wear the name with pride.”

Dee Day has been heavily involved with Old Town week and the Carnival over the years and was involved, along with Tush Hamilton, in bringing two historic lifeboats back to Hastings, including the Cyril and Lillian Bishop, which played a role in rescuing stranded troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War 2. Both are now on display in Hastings Old Town.

During Covid lockdown, Dee Day wrote a fascinating book about his life called ‘Those Were the Dee-Days’.

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