The incredible story of how D-Day was planned in Largs is being revisited for the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings this week.

But a historian has cast doubt over whether Winston Churchill ever actually visited the town during the top-secret planning for the invasion of France in June 1944.

Thanks to the Official Secrets Act, the part Largs played in the preparations for D-Day didn't become public until 1993.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

The News has kept a close eye on the story over the years, and in 2014, we published an obituary for local businessman Hugh McKie in which it was claimed Churchill came to the area as preparations were stepped up for what would become known as Operation Overlord.

The plans were discussed at the 'Rattle Conference' held in Largs from June 28 to July 2, 1943, just under one year before D-Day.

One of Hugh's closest friends, Ken Welch, who is now aged 89, told us Hugh's story.

Ken said: "I was in conversation with Hugh many years ago, and he told me that he could verify that Winston Churchill stayed at the Manor Park Hotel in Skelmorlie, which was then called St Phillans.

"Hugh's sister Mary was working for the Post Office and had to deliver a telegram to the hotel. She had to wait for a response to say he had received the telegram.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Wee Craft Shop's big secret! Late shop owner Hugh McKie confided in friend that his sister Mary delivered telegram addressed to Winston Churchill in LargsWee Craft Shop's big secret! Late shop owner Hugh McKie confided in friend that his sister Mary delivered telegram addressed to Winston Churchill in Largs (Image: Newsquest)

"It was definitely addressed to Winston Churchill, and Hugh was absolutely certain that Churchill stayed at St Phillans.

"If he stayed there, it is almost certain he was at the conference.

"He told me that there was a conference, but he never said that Churchill was there.

"He did confirmed that Mountbatten was there and that is where the D-Day landing plans were laid."

Ken said he was pleased that there was now nationwide coverage of the small but significant role played by Largs in the preparations for the events that would turn the war firmly in the Allies' favour.

He added: "It is something that Largs should really be quite proud of.

"Hollywood was also part of the story with a lot of the service people put up there when it was a hotel; a lot of planning must have been done here."

However, local historian Ian McIntosh has disputed the claims.

He said: "I am afraid the 'evidence' is not supported by the historical facts. The Rattle Conference is well documented in the files held in the National Archives.

"The files include the full minutes of the conference, the seating plan for the conference, the attendance list, the travel and accommodation arrangements, etc etc.

"The conference was held in HMS Warren, the Hollywood Hotel.

"Vanduara was at the time The office of Flag Officer Carrier Training, Vice Admiral A.L. St G. Lyster. No mention is made of either the Prime Minister or General Eisenhower attending the conference.

"General Eisenhower was, at the time of the conference, Supreme Allied Commander North Africa, and was engaged in the preparations for the Allied invasion of Sicily, which took place eight days after the end of the conference.

"General Eisenhower was not appointed Allied Supreme Commander for the North West Europe Campaign until December 1943, whilst he was still in North Africa. He did not arrive in London to take up the role until January 14, 1944.

"His own report to the Allies Combined Chiefs of Staff on the North West Europe campaign makes it clear he had no contact with the plans that were being developed for Overlord until his appointment in December 1943.

"The Rattle Conference in June 1943 was intended as a course in Combined Operations for staff officers, but Lord Mountbatten and General Morgan, then Chief of Staff, as yet unappointed Supreme Commander, conspired to use the occasion to make some history."

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

The Rattle conference was known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold because of the number of high ranking officers taking part.

According to the Brigadier’s book, at the Battle Conference held at HMS Warren (Hollywood) there were 20 assorted generals, 11 air marshals and air commodores with eight admirals and brigadiers.

Another local hotel, Vanduara, was also used by Combined Operations. Instead of being prepared for the onset of the busy tourist season in Easter 1942, the summer holiday residence became HMS Monk, headquarters of the Combined Operations and nerve centre of many attacks on German-held Europe.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations 1941 to 1943, was a favourite of Winston Churchill's Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations 1941 to 1943, was a favourite of Winston Churchill's (Image: Newsquest)

In an article published in the News in the 1970s, Vanduara's owner, Mr W. Derby, said: “One morning I answered a knock on the front door. On the front steps stood General Harold Alexander, who went on to become Lord Alexander of Tunis.

"He asked if he could see around the house. I showed him around and he said he would come back.

"That night I answered the door and found a party of about 20 high ranking officers.”

Leading the party was a commanding figure in Admiral’s uniform.

He continued: "At first I thought it was the King, but when he moved into the light I saw it was Admiral Mountbatten.”

After an inspection, the secret transformation of Vanduara into HMS Monk was begun.

The building on the seafront is now a private house.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Vanduara in LargsVanduara in Largs (Image: Newsquest)

An article in the 'Wee Paper' in 1993 claimed that both Churchill and Eisenhower had visited.

That article stated: “Most of the townspeople heads filled with the latest war talk were blissfully unaware that one of the most crucial conferences in the history of the world was taking place right under their very noses.

“Some noticed more security around Vanduara and Hollywood Hotels along Greenock Road. By then most people knew that military bigwigs were using the hotels as a base.

"Churchill and General Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Supreme Commander, and later 34th President of the United States, visited Largs during the conference.

“The two great leaders stayed at St Phillans, which later became the Manor Park Hotel, between Largs and Skelmorlie.

"The high profile conference talks took place at Vanduara, with Lord Mountbatten later saying that the Largs gathering was one of the crucial points in the preparation of the D-Day landings."

However, Mr McIntosh told the News: "I would really love this to be correct, but I am afraid the 'evidence' is not supported by the historical facts."