Posts Tagged ‘Linda Hervieux’

The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war

August 20, 2014

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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