When the American GIs arrived: a collection of memories

Here, several local villagers share their memories of this welcome invasion

John Pickard recalls: I was a very young child holding my mother’s hand standing at the bottom of St Peter’s Road looking towards the church hall. You will appreciate that the field where the vicarage is now situated was full of tents with American soldiers. The church hall was their dining Hall and both the doors were open showing the cooks dishing out the food to the queue of American soldiers.

The American Forces Dining Room

Newton Village Hall has now been built on the same site

Betty Sivertsen recalls- When the American GIs arrived in Mumbles, at first, they lived in Saint Peter's Church Hall and out at Summerland and marched down to Underhill Park for their meals every day. Three huts were built by the Yanks which after they left, were used as changing rooms by the Rugby, Football and Cricket Teams.

A genera view of Underhill Park, the Changing Rooms & the Pavilion

The Huts built by the Americans in 1943, for dining and shower facilities.

One of the three huts has been demolished, another was replaced on the original base, but the central one remains and is still in use by Mumbles Rugby Club, after being substantially refurbished in 2007, thanks to a grant from Mumbles Community Council.

[There are plans to modernise this area over the next few years.]

One day my brother brought a coloured American GI to our home at Newton Road, (see note below) and asked our mother if he could have a bath. I should have had a camera when my mother saw her first black person; the look on her face was worth recording, as she had not seen one in the flesh before. He was welcomed; had his bath and we found out that his name was . . . FLOWERS and he wanted to be back in America with his family.

Caswell Valley

Barbara Brimfield remembers when the Yanks arrived and were housed in tents in Caswell Valley.

The American flag was flown from a flagpole on the to of the cliffs overlooking Caswell Valley, near the main American Army Camp. Officers lived close by in Summerland House a

Apart from all their War equipment, they had some secret weapons — Nylons, Chocolate and Chewing gum and, to people starved of such things, it was heaven. Daily they were besieged by children outside the Hall and they were generous to them.

The locals used to have them in their homes for baths and a meal, which they used to call ‘mommas home cooking.’

They did appreciate whatever folk did for them.

Dare I mention girls ! !

Summerland House, used as an American Officers Club, from 1943

Valerie McKay remembers her father telling her how these solders threw rations over the wall to her family in the gardener’s cottage and of a visit by GI Rocky Marciano (later to become a World Heavyweight Champion boxer) to Summerland House.

The Auxiliary Fire Engine outside Pressdee's Garage

John Pressdee is at the back right of this photo, c1939

John Pressdee describes his memories, ‘The Yanks seemed big and black. I had never seen a black man before and thought that all Americans were Indians.

I remember bringing home two grapefruit and giving them to my Mother, who asked where I had got them. I also received Hershey bars. They were great. At that time there was no chocolate to be seen.

Trucks and the odd ‘jeep’ came up Castleton and the men threw out Hershey bars, PK rations, canned fruit, stewed steak, corned beef, tinned bacon and the kids would shout ‘The Yanks are coming!’ I used to be given Lucky Strike cigarettes and sometimes nylons, when they asked, ‘Have you got a sister?’

Oxwich Bay

Many beaches in Gower were used for Amphibious Training by American Forces

Sometimes their exercises were held in Caswell and once or twice I cycled to Oxwich to watch them training for D-Day with landing craft and DUWKs.

We were kept away but still managed to see what was happening’.

American Landing Craft

A co-ordinator of this project, is Mumbles born John Powell,

who can be contacted on 01792 520540 and email:j.powell20@ntlworld.com

He can keep you up to date and is always willing to receive information regarding

GI veterans who served in the area of Swansea & Gower.

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