D-DAY...70 YEARS ON: Welcoming the Band of Brothers
IN Aldbourne many people still refer to the playing field as The Camp. The name is a clue to the key role the village played in some of D-Day’s most pivotal Allied successes.
So were the bullet holes found in the old weathercock on St Michael’s Church when it was taken down for replacement at the beginning of the century. They’d been made by Americans honing their aims in readiness for June 6, 1944.
It was in December of 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, that the United States declared war on Japan. Nazi Germany, Japan’s ally, then declared war on the United States.
The following month, American troops began arriving at locations throughout Britain, joining Allied preparations for the inevitable driving of Hitler’s forces from occupied Europe.
It was in September of 1943 that the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment arrived following basic training in Georgia, and were housed in Aldbourne and other local communities, including Ramsbury, where the local brewery still makes a fine ale called 506 in their honour.
Among the troops sent to Aldbourne were the men of Easy Company, whose role on D-Day would be to land behind enemy lines hours before the beach landings created chaos among the defenders.
They called themselves a ‘band of brothers’, and seven decades on the world still knows them by that name, thanks to their exploits being commemorated in print and a remarkable drama series.
Officers were billeted with local families, while enlisted men slept in roughly converted stable blocks. The last of these was carefully dismantled some years ago for shipping to a museum in Georgia.
The survivors of Easy Company have always spoken warmly of the little corner of Wiltshire they once called home.
The most famous of those survivors was probably Major Dick Winters, who died aged 92 in 2011.
He once told an interviewer: “Aldbourne, to me, is the warmest place we ever camped or could call ‘home’. It wasn’t just the atmosphere of the village but the people – they made it a home.”
To this day The Blue Boar, one of the two local pubs, keeps a small display of Easy Company memorabilia and letters from veterans sharing their memories.