The D-Day Celebration Begins in Wales

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Wales 1943-44
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The St. Dogmaels (Wales) Community Council put on a terrific reception for me and Ed Saturday night, welcoming us as the representatives of the 111th Ordnance Company to the village and kicking off a week of activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

If you recall, this was the village where the 180 men of the 111th were based for four months before D-Day in 1944. They left from here in two convoys for Southampton, England, at midnight of the night of June 6. They crossed the channel in LCTs and landed on Omaha Beach on D+5. Everyone here has been amazed to learn that some 200,000 American troops were based in Wales in the year or so prior to D-Day, preparing for that historic event.

The evening began with a real treat: the local Welsh men’s choir sang several beautiful old songs for us. The Welsh are fantastic singers, and their performance was amazing.

Then our hosts showed a video that Terry Cross, son of surviving 111th member Ray Cross, made of his dad a couple of months ago. In it, Ray describes the unit’s time in St. Dogmaels. As you can imagine, the local people were very interested in hearing what Ray had to say about their village 70 years ago. (When we get back to the U.S., Ed will figure out how to make Ray’s video available for you all to watch; Terry has been editing several more video interviews with his dad, and we hope to have those available as well.)

Ray Cross remembers St. Dogmaels in a video last night in Wales

111th survivor Ray Cross remembers St. Dogmaels in a video last night in Wales

Last night in St. Dogmaels, community council members and guests watching Ray Cross on video

Last night in St. Dogmaels, community council members and guests watching Ray Cross on video

Then I gave a short talk about the men and conveyed our thanks to the village for the many kindnesses shown to our fathers while they were here. I also thanked Tracy and Peter Newland, the current owners of Albro Castle, for uncovering and preserving graffiti left by two of the 111th men on a wall there, which we first saw a year ago on June 6 and which sparked this incredible year of discovery. See our very first blog post for more about that day. (Go to the Archives for September 2013 and scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

A delicious dinner followed, and we got to talk to many people who were quite interested in learning more about the Americans here. Several told us how their parents had often talked about how polite, kind, and generous the men were. Our fathers were invited into local homes for tea and for Saturday suppers; these kind people tried to make the “boys” feel at home. We also heard some good stories, which we are trying to recall this morning. We wish all of you could have been there.

More events are coming up this week. On Monday, June 2, one of the town councillors will show us places around the village where the men worked. Then he will take us to lunch at the Ferry Inn, a pub that was quite popular with some of the men.

On Tuesday, June 3, we will again be in St. Dogmaels for a tea, where we will get to meet village residents who were youngsters during the war years and who have memories of our men. We are really looking forward to hearing their stories and hope to record them on video.

On Thursday, June 5, Sue Goerges Higginbotham and her husband, Don, will arrive from Texas. We will pick them up at their B&B in Cardigan and take them directly to Albro Castle, so that Sue can see the writings her father left on a wall there almost exactly 70 years earlier. The owners of Albro, Tracy and Peter Newland, have invited the four of us to stay for dinner.

Sign in St Dogmaels for the June 6 Dinner dance

Sign in St Dogmaels for the June 6 Dinner dance

Finally, the big 1940s dinner/dance is Friday night, June 6, in the St. Dogmaels  Village Hall, a big affair with the public invited. I will give a short talk, and they organizers will again show the Ray Cross video. Prints of some of the photos of the 111th in Wales that some of you have sent to us will be on display. We will report on these events and more in future postings.


  1. Theresa says:

    I am speechless and proud Thank you so much for this gift! Theresa dalton

  2. Tom Sedlacek says:

    Looks like you guys are really enjoying the trip!

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