Skip to main content

Blandford Camp became a bit of America!


In the latter years of the Second World War, Blandford Camp was occupied by the U.S. Army. While Langton House, now demolished, became the base of the 1st United States Infantry Division.

In preparation for the 1944 Normandy Landings, part of Blandford Camp was transformed into a major U.S. Army Hospital complex. It was to be known as the ‘22nd General Hospital’. The site was converted from a British Army training camp to a hospital containing wards, operating theatres and medical stores. While the hospital was being constructed, Blandford Camp was also used as a parking zone for tanks and vehicles awaiting the Normandy invasion. This area was well camouflaged and protected by anti-aircraft guns.

American Army medical staff arrived in Liverpool in April 1944 and travelled on to Blandford by train. There were five hospital units set up which each had 1,248 beds. They started receiving patients about two weeks after ‘D Day’ (6th June 1944). Many casualties were flown into the wartime airfield at Tarrant Rushton from the Continent. As many as 500 casualties arrived in a single night.  During its existence, it is reckoned the U.S. Army Hospital at Blandford Camp cared for around 19,500 American casualties. Among the Hospital visitors were General, later to be U.S. President, Dwight Eisenhower, the Duchess of Kent and British born, American comedian Bob Hope. Roosevelt Park was opened at Blandford Camp in May 1945 dedicated to the work carried out there by U.S. Army medical staff and also to the US servicemen who had lost their lives. As a local newspaper reported at the time:

‘Bit of Blandford became America!

One corner of an English field became America yesterday to the memory of the 150,000 men of the US who gave their lives to help win the War.’

(Gloucester Citizen: 31st May 1945)

U.S. medical personnel left Blandford Camp at the end of the War many returning to the U.S.A. in October 1945 on the British transatlantic liner, SS Queen Mary.

(Image: US Military Police in West Street – source Blandford & the Military [Alan Harfield])

 

 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Shapwick Sea Monster

On a Tuesday in October 1706, a travelling Poole fishmonger was wheeling his cart on the outskirts of the village of Shapwick. Unknown to him, a large crab fell from his barrow. This was to cause panic and alarm among the Shapwick villagers. Living inland, and perhaps in the 18 th century not having travelled beyond Blandford, the Shapwick villagers had never before seen a crab. Trudging home and exhausted by his day’s labour, a Shapwick farm worker discovered this crawling creature by stepping on it. So strange was its appearance, he believed it was the devil himself. Running on to the village, he told everyone excitingly of his horrid find. Fearing it was the work of the devil, the villagers armed themselves with pitchforks, sticks and stones. Knowing not what to do, they decided to consult the shepherd Rowe considered by many to be the local wise man. Sadly, the aging oracle was now past his prime and for the last six years had been confined to his bed. The old man was as infirm as

Blandford Races

It might not have been Ascot, Epsom or Aintree but Blandford Races was once quite an important event in the county’s social calendar. Blandford Races date back to 1603 and were held on the downs which today would be part of Blandford Camp. Meetings continued until the middle of the 19 th  century with few breaks in between. The longest interruption was when Oliver Cromwell was Head of State and Government. As Lord Protector he was not amused by such events. Apart from horse racing, there were other entertainments. These included wrestling matches, cock fighting and dancing. Much feasting took place which was highly lucrative for the town. In 1780, cudgel playing was advertised and resulted in a Shaftebury man losing his left eye. This was then replaced by a sword and dagger contest between the gentlemen of Dorset and Somerset. One of the race patrons was Lord Palmerston who was later to be Prime Minister. In 1824, he had had a winner, Luzborough in the Dorsetshire Gold Cup. Normally he