Rocky Marciano, an American GI at Swansea

Rocco Francis Marchegiano;

Born 1st September 1923 - Died 31st August 1969

John Summers reveals what the great boxer Rocky Marciano told him

concerning his time spent in South Wales during The Second World War.

Rocky Marciano asked me: "Is the Mumbles train still going?" (see below)He had been a GI billeted on Mumbles Pier, Swansea Bay, sleeping on straw palliasse-matresses; he was a truckdriver here for D-day. He was also at Scurlage on the Gower and at the US Forces hospital at Morriston that is now Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

It was his brawl with an Australian soldier in Wind Street, Swansea, that propelled him into boxing. He'd been arrested he'd said, by the 'snowdrops' ie the US military police who wore helmets painted white, and they put him to boxing rather than court-martialling him.

He even maintained contact with his Swansea priest. After an early bout with Carmine Vingo (a US boxer), in which Vingo nearly died of his injuries, Marciano was on the point of giving up. He had unsuccesfully tried to adapt his style to become more of a boxer than a fighter. He phoned his Swansea priest who told him: "Rocky, you either got to give up entirely, or stop trying to be a boxer, which you are not fitted for... or just USE the strength God blessed you with!"

As my interview showed he eventually turned against boxing altogether and advocated its banning. He was killed trying to save a few dollars by cashing in his return air-ticket and accepting a lift in a small private plane which crashed.

Marciano made several nostalgic visits back to Wales to where he would catch the Pullman train as far as Cardiff and then a taxi from there to the scenes of his GI days. He said his practice was to board the Mumbles train out to Oystermouth to where in the wartime years he had regularly gone to the Stella Maris teaching school, and from there he would go on as far as its terminus at Mumbles Pier (photo). A brisk walk along its wooden boards where he had once slept and then the Mumbles train back to Rutland Street in Swansea and another walk up through Swansea Market where he would relive old memories with a purchase of some cockles and mussels and a couple of slices of Welsh breadpudding.

No-one, he said, ever recognised him in his corduroy ratting-cap and plastic mac and sandals. Then it would be back by taxi to return to London on the Pullman. All in one day.

Acknowledements:

BLACK ARMY/AIR CORPS UNITS STATIONED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

(as of 30 June 1944)

Researched and submitted by Phil Grinton

Mumbles 470 Quartermaster Group HQ & HQ Detachment

Mumbles 3345 Quartermaster Truck Company

(as of 31 August 1944)

Mumbles Transportation Corps Mar(ine?) Operations TC

John Summers: He has chewed the fat with Rocky Marciano; taken tea with Evelyn Waugh; spent quality time with the Churchills. In Russia - where he travelled extensively - his books are still used in schools to teach the English language. But it is for his novel The Disaster - a fictionalised account of the Aberfan tragedy - that John Summers is perhaps best remembered. Here the Welsh writer reflects on what has, thus far, been an eventful and sometimes controversial career. This interview was completed in March 2004. By ANTHONY BROCKWAY

Editors note:

Rocky Marciano also visited Summerland House

when he had been a GI billeted in Mumbles and Gower.

In September 2012, we received information from Bob Carison in America, who reported that Rocky Marciano was a member of Company C, 348th Eng. Combat Battalion.

The 348th Engineer Combat Battalion, consisted of five companies totalling about 750 men.

5th Engineer Special Brigade

37th Engineer Combat Battalion

336th Engineer Combat Battalion

348th Engineer Combat Battalion

151st Engineer Combat Battalion Note: arrived in France Jan 1945

5th Engineer Special Brigade was formed from November 12, 1943, Swansea, South Wales, UK and participated in the Invasion of Normandy Omaha Beach Included 348th Engineer Combat Battalion

On D Day the 5th Engineer Special Brigade was attached to the 1st Infantry on Omaha beach East

One author claims that he was in the 150th Combat Engineers, but it cannot be confirmed that this unit was in Swansea.

According to THE FREE LIBRARY website -http://www.thefreelibrary.com/

There are records of Marciano being stationed in Swansea Bay from 1943 to1945 as part of a supplies group. He was among a group of GIs billeted in what was then a disused tower (now part of the Towers Hotel) in Jersey Marine and also at Margam Castle.

The Mumbles Village and Gower

Mumbles often called ‘The Gateway to Gower’ and ‘The Jewel in Swansea’s Crown’, is perhaps best known as the destination of the world’s first fare-paying passenger railway, when back in 1807, Benjamin French introduced a horse-drawn carriage on rails, which would run from Brewery Bank in Swansea five miles around the bay to Castle Hill (opposite today’s Quarry car park) in Mumbles, taking paying passengers on sightseeing excursions for a fare of one shilling each way — a great deal of money in those days. In 1877 the railway company brought in steam power and the line was electrified in 1929, introducing a fleet of eleven large tramcars each seating one hundred and six people and which many of us remember fondly. Today over fifty years after its closure and replacement with a promenade, the village continues to attract visitors to such familiar sites as the imposing Norman castle, the Georgian lighthouse (photo) built in 1794 and the Victorian pier opened in 1898.