American soldiers at CH during the War

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rockfreak
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American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by rockfreak » Fri May 26, 2017 8:44 pm

I was just browsing Orwell's four volumes of essays and came across an account whereby he'd nearly come to blows with some drunken and abusive American soldiers in a shop towards the end of WW2. The soldiers clearly weren't too happy to be over here fighting our war and Orwell remarked that this friction was being played down by the authorities in order not to harm the war effort. He noted that most Brits commented on how much more polite the negro soldiers were. This jogged my memory about a photo I saw years ago, perhaps in a journal like Picture Post, where an Afro American soldier is seated on a wall at CH, flanked by a couple of intrigued housey boys, wearing sports gear rather than their uniforms so I suspect the shot was taken somewhere on Big Side. They are obviously fascinated to have this foreign soldier on their doorstep, and maybe he is unused to having two white boys deep in conversation since segregation was deep in American society at that time and I believe the US regiments were segregated. Were US troops billeted at CH during the war? Or were they perhaps using CH's wide open spaces for manoeuvres? Or maybe this has all been covered on another site and I've missed it.

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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by Foureyes » Fri May 26, 2017 10:32 pm

Mmmm - curious. I have done some (but not a lot) of research into C.H. in WW2 and have a copy of HLO Flecker's (the head master of the day) reminiscences of the war. I cannot remember having seen any mention of US, nor, indeed, any other troops being billetted in the school during those years. Will have another look and also ask Peter Bloomfield who was at C.H. during the war years.
Logic suggests that, if at no other time, troops may have stayed for a short period in the school grounds immediately prior to D-day, when the whole of southern England was covered with units awaiting their turn to cross the Channel.
David :shock:

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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by Foureyes » Sun May 28, 2017 7:31 am

I have dug out the Flecker memo and reread it. There is NO mention of any US units stationed at Housie. He does mention that Canadian troops held a parade on Big Side where they were addressed by Monty, but that seems to have been a one-off event. As Flecker wrote his memo after the war I can think of no reason (such as security) why he should have failed to mention the Americans had they been there.

I have also checked with an Old Blue who was at CH for the latter part of the war. He cannot remember any US troops. He says that there were Canadians in the area, but that's it.

That is not to say that NO American troops EVER visited Housie, only that there do not seem to be any records of them having done so.

David :shock:

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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by postwarblue » Sun May 28, 2017 4:22 pm

Curious. The Canadian troops were concentrated about 30 miles west of CH and the Americans a fair distance further west than that, deploying from Dorset and Devon, their beaches being the westward ones..
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by michael scuffil » Mon May 29, 2017 1:31 pm

Re segregation of US forces (though this has nothing to do with CH):

We used to spend our holidays in the 1950s at Ramsgate. This was close to the US air-base at Manston. In the evenings, the fairground which in those days spread out all along the sea-front was full of American airmen -- but only black ones. The whites were required to seek their pleasure at Dreamland in Margate, about 15 miles away. The only exception was the military police. They patrolled in pairs -- one white, one black (at Ramsgate, and probably in Margate too).
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by J.R. » Mon May 29, 2017 2:56 pm

Many Canadian, (mostly French) troops stationed on Ranmore, part of the North Downs between Leatherhead and Dorking.
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by sejintenej » Mon May 29, 2017 7:12 pm

michael scuffil wrote:
Mon May 29, 2017 1:31 pm
Re segregation of US forces (though this has nothing to do with CH):

We used to spend our holidays in the 1950s at Ramsgate. This was close to the US air-base at Manston. In the evenings, the fairground which in those days spread out all along the sea-front was full of American airmen -- but only black ones. The whites were required to seek their pleasure at Dreamland in Margate, about 15 miles away. The only exception was the military police. They patrolled in pairs -- one white, one black (at Ramsgate, and probably in Margate too).
In the same vein the husband of a school friend of my wife was a US airman stationed near Ipswich (Bentwater?). They including wives were not allowed off base without special permission - even to visit family. SWe were allowed to visit them on base just once. They had to do their shopping on base - forbidden to use local shops, services etc. He was pretty scathing about many of the other airmen on base.
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by Richard » Wed May 31, 2017 1:38 pm

There were at least two good reasons why US servicemen’s wives (there were no ‘partners’ in the early 1960s) preferred to shop on base, at their PX store (Post Exchange). One was that the prices were much lower than in the local shops and the other was that many American products, unknown then in the UK, were readily available. One of these products, known to me personally (at second hand), was ‘Hellman’s Mayonnaise.’

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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by sejintenej » Wed May 31, 2017 10:44 pm

Richard wrote:
Wed May 31, 2017 1:38 pm
There were at least two good reasons why US servicemen’s wives (there were no ‘partners’ in the early 1960s) preferred to shop on base, at their PX store (Post Exchange).
Richard; it was not a question of preferences - it was a blanket ban on leaving the base even to visit sisters and a brother who had emigrated to the UK (and not from the USA). I cannot see that in this case it was a case of security - he was a dentist's assistant.
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by Richard » Thu Jun 01, 2017 6:51 am

Thanks for putting me straight, for I suppose it was then one of the coldest parts of the Cold War.

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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by Foureyes » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:48 am

I did not serve alongside US forces until the 1970s, but offer the following thoughts.
1. It is correct that US forces overseas tended to live in ghettoes - either barracks or air bases - where they concentrated troops accommodation, married accommodation, schools, playing fields, PXs (Post eXchange) (equivalent to NAAFI), etc, etc. BUT, so did the British and French.
2. It is also true that many of the US personnel tended to be very insular, regarding all foreigners' with suspicion and staying within their bases by choice rather than compulsion. However, there were others who merged effortlessly into local communities.
3. I can recall no occasion when visits were banned (or strictly limited) as described, except for the following. First, operational or exercise crises - all US bases would have gone on 'lock down' during the Cuba Missile Crisis, for example. Secondly, relations between the base and local inhabitants sometimes broke down, as a result of which the base commander banned his troops from leaving the base off duty or from visiting particular trouble spots, such as bars. . For example, a series of fights between the troops and locals (usually over girls or excessive drinking or both) was usually calmed by confining the troops to barracks. This happened not only with US forces, but also with Brits - anyone who served with or near The Cameronians, will know what I mean!
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by J.R. » Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:54 pm

Just to add to this thread on a matter already mentioned.

My Wife's late maternal Grand-Parents lived in Westcott, (just west of Dorking), during WW11. Her Grand-Father was a military policeman.

To the day they passed on, they lived in Watson Road, Westcott. A german bomber dashing for home, jettisoned its bombs over Dorking, one falling directly on a house right at the bottom of Watson Road causing fatalities. US Negro troops were called in to 'clear-up'. This was the first time ever that my Wife's Nan and her neighbours had ever seen a coloured man though they were welcomed into the community, and were obviously surprised at how well they were treated by 'white' people.

If you look on Google Earth at the bottom of the road on the left hand side, you will see the last houses on the left are much newer than the rest. This is exactly were the bomb fell.
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Re: American soldiers at CH during the War

Post by LongGone » Thu Jun 01, 2017 3:33 pm

I think Foureyes has it right. I have talked to several friends who were posted to the UK at times varying from the 50s to the 90s. None of them can remember spouses being confined to the base, except in the type of special circumstances listed by Foureyes. In fact they were often encouraged to mix with the locals, though apparently with mixed results.
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