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Alwyne Gillard

US 29th Infantry div and Camp Hinton St. George (Somerset England) 1944 These are the recollections of Alwyne Gillard (Gill) who has lived in Hinton St. George all his life and in 1944 was 11 years old and got to know some of the US troops at the nearby army camp.

A section of the US 29th Infantry Division was camped near Hinton St. George in Somerset, England, part of Operation Bolero. The US 29th headquarters were at Mapperton House, Beaminster, but here at Hinton the soldiers settled in for the Allied invasion of Europe, the Officers were billited in Hinton village. Hinton Camp had started up in 1940 and had been previously used by Dunkirk veterans, then an Irish Regiment, followed by the Ox and Bucks and then probably late 1943 early 1944 by a section of US 29th Infantry. Black US soldiers were stationed at Haslebury village near Crewkerne and probably set up the US camps in the area including Hinton.

The camp which was just west of Hinton St.George off Pit road, in the grounds of Hinton Park - the home for many generations of the Poulett family. The soldiers of the 29th were to take part in the D-Day landings on Omaha beach 6/6/1944 where they suffered huge casualties and loss of life.

Hinton is a quiet village away from main roads, so when the US forces arrived in the area it would have created a lot of interest. Most days after school Gill and his brother Pete used to sneak into the camp through the woods and got to know some the soldiers, who were very friendly and always gave them sweets and goodies. On one occasion Gill’s brother fell over a tent rope and injured himself, the soldiers went out of their way and drove him to a military hospital at Axminster, and made sure his arm was fixed up and drove him home as well. The soldiers had some Jeeps but got around mostly on bicycles.

Every evening some of the soldiers set off about midnight in two lorries plus ingredients to a bake house in nearby Lopen, returning each morning about 5am with bread for the camp. The Americans put a phone line in across the fields from the camp down to the bake house. Hinton is a very small village, at that time it had two pubs that were used by the US forces, they also walked a little further out to the pubs at Merriot and Dinnington. All around the Hinton area, Gill recalls gliders(Waco or Horsa) being towed by aircraft and paratroopers practising their drops; the planes would circle round and return to their airfields, at Merryfield or Uppotery, this would probably be in the spring of 1944, there was also a search-light base across the fields near Lopen.

When the time came for the soldiers to leave for France, everyone in the village of Hinton St. George turned out at the crossroads to see the troops leave. They were about 1600 men who were driven to Crewkerne, they parked their lorries in South Street and marched to the Railway Station accompanied by a band. There they boarded two trains one going to Southampton and the other to Exeter and threw out sweets and all their money as they wouldn’t be needing these again. Back at the camp, not knowing quite what to do with them, they had hidden their bicycles in the wood just inside the camp, but as no one came back for them, these eventually disappeared! As did the contents of the Nissen huts.

Today there is no sign of the camp, just a wide gate off the lane amongst the trees leading to the overgrown camp road and hardly any mention anywhere of its existence. If you have any information or pictures, please contact me.

House where US 29th Officers were billited.

House where US 29th Officers were billited.

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