The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war

I recently received the following email from Craig Smith:

“I was doing some research on a story about German POWs (written for Wikipedia) and was trawling local newspapers for information about the first German bomber to be brought down in the UK (in Newport no less) during WW2. Anyway, whilst searching I came across this request in the South Wales Argus from last year.

I’ve heard about the black GIs stationed in the Pontypool area but haven’t seen anything more definitive written about it. Wonder if it’s something you could blog about and see if it generates any interest.”

I followed the live link to the Argus article and read the following:”

 

“AN American journalist, is seeking help from people in Pontypool to build up a picture of the forgotten black American soldiers based in Torfaen in the 1940s.

Linda Hervieux, a journalist based in Paris, is writing a book about a forgotten unit of black American soldiers.
This unit spent a several months in Pontypool and the surrounding area in late 1943 and early 1944.
She began her search after one member of the unit received the Legion d’Honneur medal in France in 2009.
After this, the journalist began trying to find survivors and tracking their journey from the United States to Britain and then on to France.

She explained that these men were heavily involved in the D-Day landings, raising the barrage balloons in a protective curtain over Omaha and Utah beaches, while their medics saved scores of dying men.
But before they boarded ships and headed off to war, they spent a few happy months in and around the Pontypool area.

She said: ‘Local people welcomed them with open arms, often inviting the men to their homes.
‘Girls danced with them at the Palais de Danse on Main Street, [this should read “Crane Street”] and the GIs raised pints in the pubs alongside local men.

‘Many of the Welshmen sympathised with the black soldiers, who were treated as second-class citizens by the white American soldiers, who often abused them.

To the black soldiers, the warm welcome they received from the people of Pontypool, Abersychan, New Camp Inn, Griffithstown and other towns and villages was a revelation. . .

. . . They arrived in Wales not knowing what to expect, and to their surprise and delight they got a memorably warm reception.”

They did indeed receive a very warm reception and their colour made no difference to the people of Pontypool and they were welcomed into people’s homes.

I remember these soldiers very well indeed. As I walked along Wainfelin Road to West Mon twice a day I saw them visiting some small houses almost opposite St Alban’s church and hall, especially in the evening when I believe dances were held in the hall. There was a large yard area just in front of the houses. On one occasion when I was coming home from Boys’ Brigade with Captain Hamer, who lived in Wainfelin Avenue, quite near to School Lane, there were a dozen or so black American soldiers sitting on the wall in front of the houses chatting to some young women who were joining in the chat with some enthusiasm and giggling. Captain Hamer remarked in a very confidential tone: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some black babies around here in the near future; and he was absolutely right. However, this is not to detract from the genuine warm reception given to all ranks and colours in the American Army by both the men and women of Pontypool.

If any visitor remembers these American soldiers in Pontypool, please feel free to make a comment.

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43 Responses to “The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war”

  1. Jeannette Randall Says:

    Would like to learn more about The GI brides of Pontypool. My cousin, Megan George of Edward Street, married an American Officer by the name of Fred. I cannot recall his surname but my cousin went to California and settled there. Would love to be able to find out what happened to her. I know that she had a daughter names Denise Megan but without a surname I cannot trace her.

    Sent from Genie Dragon! Xxx

    >

    • daniels Says:

      His name was Fred Wood.
      I and my wife visited them a few years ago in there home in long beach Calaifornia.

    • daniels Says:

      My mum was a big friend of Megan her name was Charlotte Daniels ( nee Cotterell ) Fred, Megan and Denise visited us in Porthcawl in the late 50s early 60s. In the early 50s we lived in 62 Edward St next door to Mrs George.

      Paul Daniels

    • Paul daniels Says:

      Dear Jennette

      His name is Fred Woods
      They live in Long Beach California

      Regards Paul

      • Jo Says:

        Hi. I am interested that you are in contact with a former American Gi and Pontypool girl from the 1940s.
        I have good reason to believe that my grandmother had an affair with an American soldier which resulted in the birth of my dad in 1944. I would be grateful for any information you may have regarding the black American soldiers stationed at New Inn or if you have any knowledge of an American soldier who had relations with a married lady called Joyce from Griffithstown.
        Many thanks.
        Jo

      • Paul daniels Says:

        Sorry Jo I only know about the chap as his wife was a friend of my mum.
        Paul.

  2. Craig Smith Says:

    Just to clarify that the German bomber I mentioned was the first to be officially recognised as being brought down by barrage balloon.

  3. Dot Jones Says:

    Jeannette, My husband remembers your cousin Megan George of Edward Street. In his youth he lived in King Street which was quite near. He also remembers Megan married a G.I. and her Mother used to visit her when she lived in the States but unfortunately can’t remember her married name. He also remembers one time you had a cousin living in New Inn. She worked in BNS/ICI many years ago and later he thinks went to Dubai with her husband who worked out there but at this time can’t remember her name either but will put his thinking cap on!

  4. Dot Jones Says:

    Following Linda Hervieux request last year for any information regarding black American soldiers being based in Torfaen during the 1940’s, I emailed her with my memories at that time. I was around 12 years old and in St. Albans Convent. Just before entering the school grounds I used to see the soldiers drilling in the courtyard which is now part of the Museum. During this time there was still segregation between the black and white soldiers. The dividing line was near the Wain-y-Clare pub. Before British Nylon Spinners was built in Mamhilad, there was a Hostel called the “Glyn Hall” and the white Americans who were stationed in Llanover and Abergavenny could go to dances there but the black soldiers weren’t allowed.

  5. Jeannette (Osborne) Randall Says:

    Dot, thank you so much for responding to my email. I am late in replying due to a holiday. It’s amazing that your husband remembers Megan George. Perhaps he also remembers her brother, Melvin George, who I believe became a Councillor for Pomtypool. My Aunt Villa did indeed travel to California quite often. Perhaps your husband remembers her. I think she wallpapered every house in the vicinity of Edward Street and continued to do so well into her seventies. I cannot think of a cousin in New Inn other than the Hallet family so maybe it was on the Crane side of the family! I too went to St Alban’s Convent from 1942 to 1947 then to St Dials school Cwmbran for two years and subsequently to Pagefield College in Newport. It’s lovely to be in touch with you as I am still very nostalgic for news of Pontypool. If I can be of any help to you in future please contact me. Many thanks once again.

    • Dot Jones Says:

      Jeannettem my husband remembers Melvin George. He and his wife lived near Berry’s corners in New Inn and believes he was the Father of the girl he was trying to remember who lived in New Inn. He also now remembers her name – Beverley Reardon. Would this be the same Melvin George? He also recalls your Aunt Villa and her wallpapering talents. I was probably in St. Alban’s Convent around the same time as you were and then did a Secretarial Course in Cleve’s College, Cardiff. I’m not sure if you are aware that the Convent has held a few Reunions over the years – the next one is to be held in 2015, again at the “Parkway” Hotel in Cwmbran. Let me know if you require further details when I receive them as you may like to attend. By the way, are you related to Margaret Todhill nee Osborne? Both she and her elder sister attended the Convent but were not in the same Class as me. Margaret’s sister’s surname was Evans as their Mother married twice.

      • yvescorver Says:

        Dear Dot,
        My name is Yves CORVER. I am a French writer working on a novel in which the main character is a black GI of the 320th barrage balloon battalion. I have been in contact with Linda Hervieux. I know that her book will be released in november this year and I do not want to use personal stories that you may have told her. My project is completely different from hers. The fiction story that I want to tell is mainly based on the segregation point of view. Therefore, I am looking for information about the black soldiers who were staying around Camp Inn and Pontypool between february and may 1944. Can you give me some indications of were the black soldiers were billeted. Linda told me of places like church halls and different villages. Can you tell me more ? Also, you confirmed that segregations rules were applied by the american military authorities. What were the places reserved for whites and others for blacks (Pubs, dance halls, other areas…) ? Although I am a novelist, I really want my story to remain as close as possible to the reality. This is why your help would be much appreciated. Looking forward to your reply, I wish you all the best. Thank you. Yves

  6. Jane Says:

    I think you should try and trace Edward Gearing Conick from New York who married a Pontypool woman called Cicily J Huckin. he must have stayed because they have about 11 children.

  7. Jeannette (Osborne) Randall Says:

    Dear Dot, You really are amazing in collecting all this information from some fifty years ago. Youre a very busy lady. Yes Megan and Melvin George are my cousins though they were somewhat older than me as they were the children of my Mother’s eldest brother Will. When Megan married her GI I was about 3/4 years old. I seem to remember that Melvin married a Yorkshire girl who came from Beverley hence she named her daughter after the town. Now I could be wrong about this as I was very young at the time. I believe Melvin’s wife was named Betty!!! I knew nothing of them living in New Inn which is such a shame as I visited my friend who lived at 15 The Highway which was near Berrys Corner, until she died about three years ago now. Yes I too went to St Albans Convent from 1942/43 until about 1947. My parents moved to Llantarnam and as I wasn’t making any progress at the convent. Just played around most ot the time and stayed in the Kindergarten class with Sister Dymphna. About the only thing I was any good at was reading and sneaking out into the park for a swing. The sisters were greatly relieved when I went to St Dials school in Cwmbran and later when I was about 11 I went to Pagefield College for 5 years studying general educationand then the commercial course of shorthand/typing and bookkeeping. Many old girls from the convent also attended this school to complete there education. Now about the Osborne side of the family. I didn’t know very much about Dad’s side of the family. He was one of ten children and I believe his father was a baker and confectioner with a small restaurant in Osborne Road. Yes, I think you right. I seem to remember a Margaret Osborne and she was at the convent but I believe in a much higher class as she was quite a bit older than me. I really don’t know whose daughter she was and which of my father’ s brothers was her father. Isn’t that terrible. I can remember,however, conversations about someone called Evans. Was it someone to do with Fred Evans Removals. Its a long time ago I could be mistaken.The last I heard was my father me tioning that Margaret had married and lived in Llantarnam. Hope this doesn’t bore you too much because I am greatful for all the information you have given me. I hope you will keep on touch. Most of my remaining family now live in Usk but I do have my very best friend Gabrielle Nunley nee Willis, one of the well known Willis family of farmers and butchers who is in New Inn, who I do visit from time to time. Brst wishes and kind regards for now Jeannette.

  8. Hayley Conick Says:

    Yes Edward Gearing Conick did indeed marry Cis Huckin – they had 11 children of which my Dad was one. He went back to the US once to be de-mobbed I believe. They stayed in the area until their deaths in the 2000s. It’s amazing that someone is researching this fascinating period – would love to know how the research went if anyone reads this. I can be found on Linkedin.

    • Jane-Marie Smith Says:

      Hello Hayley,
      My name is Jane-Marie Smith and I live in Southampton.

      I have been searching my family tree and fined that you are one of my cousins. I have been hoping one of the family would post to this site.
      Cicily is my first cousin once removed. my grandmother was Gwendoline Helen Huckin Cicily’s aunt. she married Edward Smith.
      I have a full tree that you can see on Ancestry.co.uk
      Smith_family_tree.
      I try and research 3-4 generations off my direct ancestry, the Conick’s are a very interesting family.

      you can email me at jane194.smith@gmail.com
      or contact me via facebook.

      Regards
      Jane

  9. Michele Lewis Says:

    Dear Dot

    My name is Michele Lewis and I have written an article on the Newport Past site about the GIs in Newport. I have been in contact with Yves Corver and he has asked me to contact you and ask you for more information.

    I do not belong to any of the social networking sites and have a very old computer system so if there is any way we can have personal contact I would be grateful if you would contact me. Thank you

  10. Dot Jones Says:

    I must apologise for not replying to various requests above but my husband passed away last December and since then I haven’t been on my computer very much. First of all I’m afraid I don’t have any further comments on the time American soldiers were in the Pontypool than I have already given. So sorry also Jeanette I haven’t been in touch with you but there is one coincidence – you mentioned you had a friend named Gabrielle Willis. I know her sister very well, Minty Hanford (Marilyn Willis). Her husband sadly passed away last year. His name was Don Hanford and he used to sing in a Band when we went to dances at St. Albans. In fact last Saturday I arranged a Lunch in Abergavenny for “Girls” who used to work in Parke-Davis and Minty was there. From now on I hope to keep in touch with this site more often.

  11. Bernard Evans Says:

    I remember the black Gi’s in Griffithstown. One such G.I who was about 18 named Lester Williams used to come to our house regularly. He was billited in St. Hilda’s Hall. There was dances at both St. Albans and The Palaise de Dance ( later called The Queens) but after a problem at the later they were separated to their respective dance venues. The white americans were billited in Llanover. The PX ( choc. gum and cigs ) was in Abersychan. We used to fetch their fish and chips from Parton’s fish shop in Windsor Rd, Griffithstown.

  12. Kenneth Clark Says:

    bbc2 are making a documentary in Abersychan about the Black GI s here in WW2 on16 th August 2016. Would be obliged if Dot Jones could contact me ken.clark1@tesco.net or 01495 773073. Ken Clark chairman Abersychan and Garndiffaith local history group

    • Paul Daniels Says:

      A black GI named Weston A Furgess
      Stabbed to death a relative of my mum Kenneth Hale and also knifed another guy as well and got away with it after a 3 week trial at Newpot Assizes and was shipped out. Ken took 3days to die in April 1945!! This maybe of interest to this person looking at what the black GI’s did in Pontypool

      • Kenneth Clark Says:

        Thanks for the information – very interesting – I suppose there are reports in the Argus of the trial? Further details of the dates of the incident and trial would be helpful if you have them. The filming at Abersychan has been postponed until September and there is still time to follow up. Would you be willing for me to send your contact details to the programme researcher?

      • Paul Daniels Says:

        I don’t mind but I know little more than I told you because it was another family member that looked up the information via the free press and the Argus also my uncle in Australia now in his 80th yr was only 8years old at the time.

        Regards

        Paul Daniels

  13. Darren Jones Says:

    William Thomas Griffiths (3rd Mon Reg ) of King St was the other soldier cut on the stomach chest and arm. It started outside the Library when Furgess visited the town from his barracks in Malpas.

  14. Tony hale Says:

    I am looking for my grandfather who was a black gi who meet Mavis Pearce and had a son my father Howard Phillips
    I believe his name was Howard Johnson?

    • Jo Says:

      Hi. I highly recommend you do a DNA test via ancestry.co.uk I did this and managed to find out who my grandfather was. (We didn’t even have a name – just a rough conception date of Feb/March 1944 and the fact that he was stationed at the polo grounds)
      Good luck!

      • Kenneth Clark Says:

        Thanks Jo. Very useful and your story would be good to read when you write it – you should. Tony Hale can use this information in his search. Tony – if I can help in any way I will. I knew Howard Philips when he lived on Talywain.

        Regards

        Ken

      • Tony Hale Says:

        Hi Jo
        thank you for that i will follow up
        regards,
        Tony

    • Kenneth Clark Says:

      Linda Herveuix, who wrote a book called ‘Forgotten’ told me that most of the army records of the GI unit in this area were accidentally destroyed and tracing these soldiers through army records would be unlikely. One woman from this area is said to have traced her (deceased) grandfather’s family through DNA. She will be present at Abersychan later this month when BBC2 do filming for their programme and I will get more information on this to reply further.

      • Jo Says:

        Hi Kenneth,
        I am the one who has traced my grandfather through DNA. On writing to the records office for details of my grandfather’s service, I was sent records which confirmed he was a member of the 320th stationed at Pontypool.
        Unfortunately, I’m not able to be present at the filming now that the date has been postponed but Linda has my email and has permission to give it to anyone who would like further information.
        Regards,
        Jo Richards

      • Al Says:

        Hi Jo,

        Which Records Office did you contact?

        Did they send you a list of names all of the soldiers from the 320th stationed in New Inn, or did you have to submit a name to get a response?

        Thanks

        Al

      • Jo Says:

        Hi there,
        I wrote to Dr Niels Zussblatt at the NPRC. I requested records for a named person under the War Babes Agreement. (There is specific wording to follow etc) I just said that all DNA and research pointed to him and they sent records saying what unit he was in and it all slotted together from there.
        I had considered asking for lists of personnel etc for years but wasn’t sure if that would help.
        Linda Hervieux’s book, “Forgotten” has photographs and names of members of the 320th which could be a good resource if you’re looking for clues.
        If you are searching for someone, I highly recommend the ancestry DNA test. It certainly helps that many of this group were from the Virginia area as there are excellent records available and a number of people in that area are interested in family history etc.
        Jo 🙂

      • Al Says:

        Many thanks for the detailed info Jo.

        Ancestry DNA hasn’t thrown up enough of a concrete link, yet, but as more people add to the database may be we’ll get a better hit.

        I was interested to know if I can source a list of the 320th soldiers who were here. It sounds like you had to know a name and make a request specific to against name?

        Thanks

        Al

      • Tony Hale Says:

        Hi Jo,
        Which Records Office did you contact?

        Can i get a list of list of names all of the soldiers from the 320th stationed in New Inn, or did you have to submit a name to get a response?

        Thanks
        Tony

      • Kenneth Clark Says:

        Thanks Jo. Sorry you are not able to be there – it would have been good to talk to you, regards

        Ken

      • Tony Hale Says:

        Hi Kenneth
        Great information from you.
        when is the filming?
        regards,
        Tony

      • Jo Says:

        Hi Al,

        Have you uploaded your raw dna to ftdna? And also to gedmatch? I did this and ftdna threw up a closer match. These databases are a bit larger I think.

        Tony and Al,
        I think you could possibly get a full list as I think Linda Hervieux may have managed to do that when she was researching her book.
        Niels Zussblatt at the NPRC is very good – you should mark the envelope “Do not open in the mailroom” as I think he does it in his own time. I wrote quoting the War Babes Ruling and had to give as much knowledge as I could about the man I was researching.

        There is a facebook group for people searching. It’s a closed group and all info is kept confidential. (You would need to send a message detailing why you want to join etc.) It’s called GI & Family International Search.

        Good luck both!

        Jo 🙂

      • Clare Says:

        We don’t know where to start

  15. Jo Says:

    Hi Kenneth,
    It certainly is a shame but unfortunately I’m away that weekend celebrating a friend’s 40th so no can do! (Been booked for months!)
    I still live in the area though (new inn) so will hopefully catch up on events even if I can’t be present on the actual weekend.
    Regards,
    Jo

  16. Kenneth Clark Says:

    Tony, filming and dedication of plaque is on Saturday 24 September . Fuller details available soon.

    • Tony Hale Says:

      Hi Ken
      where and what time?
      regards,
      Tony

      • Kenneth Clark Says:

        Trinity Church, Abersychan 2.30pm – 4.00 pm – choir, various people with connection to the time, descendants, etc., speak,, author, Linda Herviex,,, etc.. Should be interesting. Hope to see you there, Others welcome.,

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