D-DAY IN THE PLYMOUTH AREA

and

THE U.S. ARMY IN ENGLAND


6th. June 1944
The majority of the troops in the Plymouth area from the U.S.A. were from the 29th. Armoured Division. They may have long left,but their spirit remains. These were young innocent men,often from what would be today described as middle America. Yet they were to be transported to the obscene hell of occupied Europe....Utah, Omaha...beaches today of holiday fun, yet yesterday cauldrons of cruel death, bravery, comradeship and total self-sacrifice; or the rocky headland of the Pointe de Hoc, which today produces sea views to day-trippers but then produced a hailstorm of death.

It is not my intention to re-invent the wheel by repeating well documented history, but to bring to you the reader something that you may not know.

Before D-Day secrecy was paramount, holding camps for the troops prior to embarkation were often in wooded areas that offered some concealment from aerial surveillance; in the coded language of Operation Overlord these encampments were called "Sausages."

Locally in the Plymouth area these were in Antony Park, Saltram Park and and Mount Edgecumbe Park. Often these wooded areas had temporary hutments erected in them as well as tarmac road systems to carry vehicular traffic and provide a handy conduit for inter camp telephone cables. One of these huts, a Nissen hut in fact was found by me almost completely encapsulated in creepers and ivy. Upon gaining entry it was found to hide a wooden mine detecting apparatus and an empty ammunition box. Off duty personnel would sometimes cut their names into the bark of beech trees. These messages from the past stillremain It is a sobering thought to consider the fate of these young men..who lived ..who died...who were denied a fulfilled life with a wife and children..in order to bring light to a dark Europe As the Pilgrim Fathers left England.. actually here in Plymouth in 1620 to escape religious persecution....and sought light, freedom, tolerance in what was to become the U.S.A........these young men left our shore to bring to those in enemy occupied Europe the hope that the light of freedom would soon shine brightly on them. It is possible to bring this tree writing alive by tree rubbing.....a bit like brass rubbing.

For a transcription of these two examples of tree cut writing click this link.

They embarked on their vessels from specially constructed slipways or "hards" known as "Chocolate Box Hards"in code talk. This name becomes obvious when the surviving examples are seen today as they bear a striking resemblance to the shape of a bar of chocolate. Examples can be found in the Plymouth area at: Turnchapel, Saltash Passage,...... Barn Pool{ in Mount Edgecumbe} where pieces of chocolate box are liberally scattered around the foreshore . At Saltash Passage there is a memorial ..... to the V and VII Corps who departed from this hard and the U.S. and British flags fly side by side.

The marshalling of the troops to these hards must have been a complex task tied to an inflexible timetable. Just as today roadsigns help us navigate our way around unfamiliar places..signs guided the troops. Route 23 sign. This sign was picked up by a local man after the troops had departed and has been kept safe ever since. The original is on three pieces of wood 2cm thick by 14.5cm by 90cm long making a total size of 90cm by 40.5cm held together by two wood battens. It is the sign to the embarkation hard at Saltash Passage being Route 23 for foot infantry and Route 43 for mechanized infantry. Route 23 in Plymouth is today known as Normandy Way. I believe that this sign is a unique element in U.K.-U.S. co-operation.

Some time ago I came across this image on the military training grounds on Dartmoor....it was done by young hikers as a marker..for me it held thoughts of Pointe de Hoc and reminded me that we shall never forget.

Jigsaws and in particular a Jigsaw Library might appear to be worlds away from the remaining echoes of World War II, yet they exist side by side in 1990`s Plymouth. At the back of Pounds House in Central Park...a popular wedding reception venue, there is a wartime bunker that is home to the Plymouth Jigsaw Puzzle Library. Take away the puzzle boxes and we have an almost unspoilt 1940`s A.R.P. Command Communications Centre. Entry is via an authentic green painted gas-proof door and the gas-tight ventilation system is still in place. This system was powered by two persons sitting on an immobile bike and pedalling like mad; so powering a dynamo...to a battery set-up...to a motor..to a blower...that eventually circulates and re-circulates the air drawn from outside and passed through a complex filter system. This "contraption" is in a side room and totally unbelievably..the 1943 Instruction Manual still hung behind the door on a nail!!!!!!!!

Much of the bunker is "as was" with original paintwork and first-aid box on the wall. On one wall is a sign warning staff to be on their guard against spies or as they were often referred to as "5th. Columnists"......enemy agents operating in Britain and waiting for the instruction to become active. It is most unusual and very possible unique. Numerous other signs were lying about, all relating to. Civil Defence, and many of these were from the early Cold War era of the 1950`s and 1960`s as this bunker saw service after the war but thankfully only in a training role. The wiring panel for the Air Raid alert siren is still in situ. with the inscription "Take cover"..... which may have not been much help as in the later material Nuclear Attack was the order of the day with large cardboard nuclear blast calculators ... were found telling one the effect over distance of different Mega Tonnages of nuclear bombs.

On the subject of agents behind the lines -

CHURCHILL`S ARMY

Had the worst ever happened and the Germans had invaded; "Churchill"s Army" would have become our very own "5th Column" staying behind the advance of the advancing invader to cause him harassment and sabotage his logistic links.
These men, but very possibly women too were handpicked. There is very little written on this subject as it was all so secret, hence the role of women is uncertain, but looking at the set-up in the French resistance, women must surely have played their part. These operatives made hidden arms stores in secluded rural locations on the outside of towns and cities, yet within easy access. Such caches were often underground and the entrance would be so well concealed that unless you knew where it was, even at a distance of a few metres, it was invisible. One such place exists on the outskirts of Plymouth in woodland near the Elfordleigh Hotel. A very small entrance, which in wartime would be covered with foliage etc. distinguished by it`s closeness to a tree stump, opens into a dog-legged passage which in turn leads to a large underground space. For any emergency, such as unwelcome and uninvited visitors, there would be a discrete exit at the rear. All personnel in "Churchill`s Army" were selected on the basis that they had no living relatives, and were often elderly...in case of capture and torture..there being "no leverage" within their families to extract information. So complete and vital was the secrecy involved that details of one groups operations were unknown to neighbouring groups, so protecting the organisaation against the risk of compromise due to capture of fellow members.

Not too far away from the above location is what remains of a wartime rubbish dump. It is full of the remains of respirators{gas masks}, anti-gas ointment tubes and gas filter cartridges. Perhaps they came from a clear-out of the nearby "Churchill`s Army" base. Everywhere is the presence of those who paid in full for us today.

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e-mail STEVE: steve@cyberheritage.co.uk

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