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Memorial unveiled to American paratroopers at Wollaton

Memorial unveiled to American paratroopers

A memorial to American paratroopers stationed in the East Midlands, before the Normandy landings, was unveiled on Sunday, 27 June, 2010.

The service at Wollaton Hall, in Nottingham, was part of events to mark Armed Forces Day.

Nottingham's Wollaton Hall and the surrounding park was a hive of activity during World War Two.

It acted as a temporary school, became a prisoner of war camp and was home to thousands of American paratroopers.

Wollaton tour guide Mick Whysall said: "It made a bond between us and the Americans that last to this day."

As part of Armed Forces weekend (26 - 27 June 2010) special World War Two tours will be conducted around the site revealing more of Wollaton's past.

The area's association with the Second World War began at the end of 1939 when an air raid siren was installed at the hall.

By mid-1940 the hall was playing host to more than 1,000 troops that had been rescued from Dunkirk.

It was also used to educate pupils from Radford Boulevard Boy's school, including the young Alan Sillitoe, later to become famous as author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Mr Whysall said the relocation took place because of the school's close proximity to the Raleigh factory which was producing munitions at the time.

"[The authorities] felt it was dangerous for the children because no air raid shelters had been built so they moved them to the hall."

Yanks arrive

Probably the biggest upheaval came with the arrival of more than 2,000 paratroopers of the American 82nd Airborne Division's 508th Parachute Infantry in March 1944.

Mick Whysall said they were impressed by their surroundings. "They got to Wollaton in a blackout so didn't see anything when they arrived.

"When they woke up the next morning, being Americans, they thought they were in Nottingham castle."

They camped in the grounds of Wollaton.

We still have contact with the families of some of those German prisoners
Mick Whysall on POWs at Wollaton

"They were paratrooped into Europe twice, first at D-Day, then later as part of Operation Market Garden," said the tour guide. "They took heavy casualties."

In fact more than half their number were killed or injured, a sacrifice that bonded them to the Nottingham public.

"They couldn't believe how strongly the Nottingham people felt their losses and tragedy after they returned. It made a bond that lasts to this day."

Lock up

Over the Christmas period of 1944 a prisoner of war camp was established at Wollaton. It was built by Italian prisoners but went on to house more than 2,000 German POWs.

Mr Whysall said: "They were quite positive about the treatment they got in Nottingham. They stayed till 1947.

"Towards the time they were leaving, Nottingham families were asked if they'd have them over for Christmas. A queue formed of families willing to take the German POWs home for Christmas lunch.

"We still have contact with the families of some of those German prisoners."

World War Two Wollaton Hall tours will take place as part of Armed Forces weekend on 26 - 27 June 2010.

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26 Jun 10 |  Nottingham
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