The 504th P.I.R. (U.S. 82nd Airborne Division), in Evington during the war.
I was born in Leicester in March 1939, and obviously my early memories are hazy. However, I lived in Evington Drive, off Evington Lane, and as a 5 year old, paid regular visits to one of the camps for the American 82nd Airborne, at Shady Lane, Evington. My brothers and I received our first taste of real food, eg, bananas [ wot no bananas..!!!], oranges, and grapefruit. Once my father found out, he, being a wheeler and dealer, would then come home with boxes full. I was also given a considerable number of "Crickets", which the paras' would use to recognise each other, once D-Day came. They are now collectors pieces. I have many memories of riding in Jeeps, handling guns and bayonets, and climbing over mountains of stockpiled bombs and shells in the country lanes around the camp.
One day, I went up....every one, and every thing, was gone, and the camp virtually deserted....and as we know now, they jumped, mainly into St. Mere Eglise, Normandy, on D-Day, suffering a high rate of casualties, and then on to "Operation Market Garden", at Arnhem.. Recently, I was in the Airborne museum in St Mere Eglise, where I saw a framed plaque from the Lord Mayor of Leicester.
Several months after the Americans left the camp, German Prisoners of War moved in. About 10 years ago, I met one, who stayed on after the war, and married a local girl [I had long left Leicester]. He was amazed when I told him that as a youngster, we went up to the camp, and pretended to be English Soldiers, guarding them.....we have since become good friends.
I must add, that our road, Evington Drive, was bombed, and about 4 houses demolished, one only 3 doors from our house No 71. My earliest memories were of repairs to my bedroom ceiling, and windows. Apparently, during actual airaids, we stayed in an Anderson Shelter, built in our back garden. I also remember sleeping downstairs, next to an inner wall, for safety, if the airaid siren went off. Also the blackout. My father was in the ARP.
Finally, the crashed Lancaster at Thurnby, once stripped of essentials, became our playstation......so long ago now.
Submitted on the 11th July 2008
Further to my story about my memories of the US 82nd Airborne, stationed at Shady Lane, Evington, and the fact that I saw a framed plaque from the Lord Mayor of Leicester, in the Airborne Museum, in St Mere Eglise, Normandy. I thought that you might be interested to see a photo that I took of it, when I was there in June of this year...2008. I also include a photo of a full size C47 towing aircraft, and uniformed, dummy troops, in the museum, and the front of a Wacco Glider...the entire aircraft was in the museum, with dummy uniformed crew..these were the aircraft that I remember seeing at Stoughton Airfield, in 1944. You might be able to add these pictures to my story."