Preparing for Normandy: Wales, UK, Fall 1943–Spring 1944

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

In November 1943, the 111th Ordnance Company crossed the Atlantic. It was a difficult crossing–just the 111th in a convoy of boats accompanied by a destroyer.  Lt. Arthur Brooks recalls the stormy seas and dangerous conditions, as the unit zig-zagged across the ocean, through the Azores, and as they headed for Liverpool, England. From there, they were sent to Cardiff, South Wales, staying there for about a month. The number of U.S. troops living in and around Cardiff grew massively over the next several months. as the build up for the D-Day invasion of Normandy began. (By the spring of 1944, some two million American soldiers were based in southwest Britain.)

In December 1943, the 111th proceeded to their base for the next six months, the  West Wales village of St. Dogmaels, above the Irish sea and across the Teifi River from Cardigan.

Standing: James Mason, LeRoy Faehling, Matthew Ottea. Seated: James Tindall, Bill Johnson, Charles Burns in Sully, Wales

Standing: James Mason, LeRoy Faehling, Matthew Ottea. Seated: James Tindall, Bill Johnson, Charles Burns, in Wales

"A bunch of the boys." Seated right, Matthew Ottea from San Antonio

“A bunch of the boys,” in Wales.  Standing: unidentified so far. Seated: Frank Gomez and Matthew Ottea, both from San Antonio

Dad, near Caerphilly Castle, Wales, 1943
Dad, near Caerphilly Castle, Wales, 1943

They took over the local workhouse,  abandoned as such since the mid-1930s. It housed British Army soldiers in the the early 1940s. The complex was built in 1839 to house the destitute of the area, and for reasons unclear it was called Albro Castle. Dad climbed up a nearby hill and took this photo:

Albro Castle, St. Dogmael's, Wales

Albro Castle, St. Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Albro Castle today

Albro Castle today (photo by Glen Johnson)

The story of the men’s time at this place was partly told in the first blog post on this site, in September 2013. It was at a YMCA dance for the American soldiers in nearby Cilgerran where my father met my mother in March 1944.

One of the recollections of the soldiers’ time at this place is that the local school children would gather every evening as the troops marched into Cardigan to take their showers–there were no such facilities at Albro–and plead for candy and gum, which was always given, of course.

The unit left here in a hurry at midnight on June 6/7, 1944, leaving behind ammunition and supplies.

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