Saturday, August 9, 2008

Further WWII snippet from Alan Drewett's Gloucestershire Transport website

Despite its distance from the embarkation ports used by Operation Overlord, Gloucestershire played a vital role in the preparations for D-Day on 6 June 1944. As well as the GRCW produced Churchills, Sherman tanks were a common sight around Tewkesbury.

The Royal Army Service Corps moved out of its base at Ashchurch ( only built in 1940 and now a British army vehicle depot once again) in July 1942 to make way for the US 3025th, 3026th and 3043rd Ordnance Units as well as the 622 Unit Ordnance Base Automotive Battalion. Within a year, over 2 000 GIs were stationed there - some being billeted at Tewkesbury's Royal Hop Pole Hotel while others found digs with local families.

More US service personnel took over Mythe House, which had previously been occupied by the Healing Family who owned Borough Mill in Tewkesbury. The fine country house became a military hospital, with wounded soldiers being brought to Ashchurch by train and transferred to Mythe House by ambulance. However, such was the damage that the Americans had inflicted on Mythe House by VE Day that it was too expensive to repair and was finally demolished in 1955.

A similar fate almost befell Cheltenham's Pittville Pump Room, where both interior and exterior embellishments were used for target practice and a large stuffed anaconda from a glass case in the Pump Rooms ended up in Pittville lake. The Queen's Hotel, meanwhile, became the American Officer's Club - and played host to such visiting entertainers as Bob Hope - and Imperial Gardens became a truck park. At Ullenwood, the 110th US General Hospital was built to accommodate 2 000 wounded: with every brick, pane of glass, length of timber and bag of cement being imported across the Atlantic.

However, Cheltenham was by this time even more cosmopolitan than usual with uniformed men from the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand and Australia and many of these visited Cheltenham Services Club in Regent Street. This was founded by local philanthropist Cyril Bird " for the moral welfare of Cheltenham as well as the pleasure and well being of the forces." The club was run jointly by Cheltenham Corporation, church groups, the WVS and YMCA.

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