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Author Topic: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)  (Read 2124 times)

Offline Tom E. Gunn

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"The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« on: February 13, 2017, 12:32:26 PM »
Most of you will know that I and a small bunch of volunteers and enthusiasts run a small military museum in the coastal town of Barry, South Wales, UK.  Just over a year ago a guy turned up with a vintage photograph which made our jaws drop when we saw it! The photograph dated from 1918 and showed massed ranks of American "Doughboys" at attention in King's Square, in the centre of the town. The American presence in the town during WW2 (it was a major port back then) is well documented and has been well researched by us. However, we had no prior knowledge of the "Doughboys" having been here in such numbers. So...I set about doing some research to find out just who these "Doughboys" were and why they were here. I managed to find an account of the visit in an archive copy of the Barry Dock News...a long since defunct local paper...from August 1918. Then, a little while later, I struck gold as I was able to identify them as the 311th Artillery Battalion of the 79th Infantry Division by cross referencing the name of their Colonel...one E.G. Mortimer. I located a copy of their war diary online which dovetailed perfectly with the account from the paper!  I will endeavour to cut and paste both texts below so you can read and compare them.

As for the photograph? We purchased it for the museum at some expense ( sadly, the owner was not prepared to "donate" it!)
Although it was a good, clear image, we had a digitally enhanced copy made, which was even better, and had it professionally framed. So the precious original is safely in storage to prevent fading etc., whilst the framed original is on display at the museum.  The image below is not perfect as I had to photograph it behind glass, but it will at least give you some idea of what we got so excited about!
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 12:42:44 PM by Tom E. Gunn »
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Offline Tom E. Gunn

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2017, 12:35:28 PM »
From the Barry Dock News

LANDING OF AMERICAN TROOPS AT BARRY

LANDING OF AMERICAN TROOPS AT BARRY ; EXCELLENT CAPACITY AND EQUIPMENT OF THE DOCKS; RECEPTION BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES/ THE FORCES AND TOWNSPEOPLE[/b]

Although the Barry Docks has already played a most important part in connection with the war by the shipment of large quantities of coal for the British and Allied governments and in the loading of large transports with supplies for the armies abroad, an event occurred on Wednesday last which goes to show that the port is destined to play a still further important role.
On Wednesday morning a large liner carrying American troops arrived at the docks. Although the vessel arrived in the roads after the tide and by means of the Deep Water Lock, a unique feature in dock equipment in the Bristol Channel, and for which Barry Docks is known the world over, she was enabled to enter the docks immediately on arrival and to commence the work of disembarkation without delay.
The vessel had been provided with a berth alongside one of the commodious warehouses at the docks where the large and valuable cargo which it has brought will be stored pending distribution. Alongside the vessel the trains to convey the troops to their destination were placed so that after a long voyage the troops were able to entrain without the slightest inconvenience: Barry, as a town, might well be proud that the capacity and equipment of the docks has enabled them to take so large and important share in carrying on the war.
The contingent if 1,500 strong, officers and men, which arrived at Barry was a part of a force of 50,000 American troops which were conveyed across the Atlantic for France, one ship with troops on board, proceeding to Cardiff, one to Swansea, one to Newport and one to Barry, the remainder proceeding direct to Liverpool.
The Barry force was under the command of Colonel E.G. Mortimer and were a fine body of strongly-built useful men who will undoubtedly give a good account of themselves when they encounter the enemy in the pocket!
The approach of the troops was eagerly awaited throughout the town and when they formed up on King’s Square they were greeted with loud and prolonged cheers from the loyal, affectionate and sturdy throats of at least 5,000 townspeople. Most of the members of the District Council, members of other public bodies and representative townspeople were present to receive the officers and men.
Councillor George Wareham, J.P., as chairman of the District Council and civic head of the town, in the name of the townspeople of Barry, accorded the troops a hearty welcome. He was glad, he said, to have the opportunity of meeting a section of the great American Army and to pay tribute to the splendid efforts they were making in the cause of justice and righteousness against despotic militarism. President Wilson, in his historic speech to Congress six months ago, had pledged their country to exert all its power and to employ all its resources, to bring the government of the German Empire to reason and to end the war. They were united in one great band of brotherhood to maintain the peace and happiness of the world (Applause)
Colonel Bradbridge, Commanding Officer of the Lancashire Fusiliers, said he had been commanded by the King to extend a warm welcome to Great Britain to the American Army. The British Army, like the American Army, was not accustomed to making speeches: they left that to the Kaiser and his Hindenberg henchmen. They might have it in their minds that they were fighting alongside an army of veterans.  He was with some American artillery near Verdun and they had taken over some French 75s. (field guns) The Germans, however, did not know whether the French or the Americans were firing at them. There was no cause for anxiety at that point (Cheers)
Colonel Bradbridge then handed to each of the officers and men a letter of welcome from the King, amid hearty applause. Colonel E.G. Mortimer in reply expressed his appreciation on behalf of himself and all men of his country, for the hearty welcome extended to them at Barry. They were “new at the business” but if spirit and discipline counted for anything they would surely win out! ( Cheers) They had been hoping to to be “in the midst of it” and he could assure them that they would do their part right well (Cheers)
The officers and men stood at attention whilst their respective national anthems were played, and then marched off amidst the cheers of the populace, marching through the town of Barry to Cadoxton and later entrained from the docks to join their comrades at Cardiff.
The shipping in port, the offices and works at the docks and the streets of the town were gaily bedecked with bunting to mark the historic occasion. The parade of troops was headed by Mounted Police and the military band of the “Stars and Stripes”. The Lancashire Fusiliers brought up the front and rear.

(Transcribed from the original article in The Barry Docks News, August 2nd, 1918.)
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 12:40:56 PM by Tom E. Gunn »
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Offline Tom E. Gunn

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2017, 12:38:05 PM »
From the 79th ID / 311th Arty Reg., war diary.

A ROYAL WELSH RECEPTION.
A surprise reception was in store for the soldiers aboard the S. S. Morvada when it came to debarking on foreign soil. As the ship plied the channel waters on the night of July 30th, 1918, but few on board knew what port was its destination; but not so with the people of the British Isles. They knew the plans for the arrival of the American army transports. On July 31st, the people of Barry and Cardiff, in common with Newport, in the province of South Wales, did honor to the American troops.
Barry, the urban district and seaport of Glamorganshire, Wales, on the Bristol channel, was the foreign shore that greeted the troops on the Morvada early in the morning of July 31st.
It was perfect weather for such a visit, the first ever paid to Barry by a large body of American troops, and Barry’s reception was whole—hearted. The citizens turned out in great force. Enthusiasm was manifest on every side, and this, despite the fact that, owing to the unavoidable delay in the ship’s arrival, the people had to wait several hours while the Morvada rested at anchor in the harbor until docking could be accomplished at 9 a. m.
While preparations to dock were in progress crowds lingered on the piers. The soldiers amused themselves by tossing one—cent pieces to the Welsh children. Immediately a demand for American cigarettes and chewing gum arose among the older Welshmen.
The crowds and the town itself were in holiday attire. The vessels in dock were gay with bunting. Flags were displayed from shop—windows, the municipal offices and the fire—brigade station, while from the summit of the Barry Railway Company’s offices “Old Glory” was flying to the breeze.
As the Morvada docked and the command was given for the troops to debark, loud welcome was sounded by sonorous “hooters,” screaming sirens and shrill ship and loco whistles.
At 10 o’clock the soldiers were assembled on terra firma once more. Parade formation was ordered in answer to the glad welcome plans of the inhabitants.
Headed by the regimental band the 311th Artillery skirted the banks of a small brook named Barri, whose waters encircled an island–the island which in the 7th century is supposed to have contained the cell of the Welsh saint, named Barri, from which the name of the island and the river is derived.
British troops, with rifles at present arms and bayonets glistening in the sun, formed a guard of honor that lined both sides of the streets of Barry, through which the American troops passed in royal welcome. The march proceeded until King’s square was reached, where official ceremony of welcome to the town was enacted.
Here the officers and men formed in the large public square in front of the municipal offices, where Councillor George Wareham, J. P., as chairman of the district council, extended to the Americans a hearty welcome.
Lieut.—Col. Bradbridge, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, addressing Col. E. G. Mortimer, in command of the 311th, said he had been commanded by His Majesty, the King, to welcome all to the shores of Great Britain.
Each soldier was then presented with a copy of an autographed letter from King George V., bidding God—speed and every success. The letter was as follows:

Windsor Castle. Soldiers of the United States–The people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the armies of many nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom. The Allies will gain new heart and spirit in your company. I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you, and bid you God—speed on your mission. GEORGE R. I.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 12:42:17 PM by Tom E. Gunn »
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Offline ScottG

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2017, 07:58:50 PM »
   A fantastic photo and a great piece of research Ian! These types of artifacts really help to bring the past to life for the public. The fact that They can go and stand in the footsteps of the AEF in Glamorgan is inspiring. It makes the museum business that much more satisfying.  Scott
Always looking for 32nd Division items and 13th Armored Division items. Please keep me in mind if you have any.

Offline Tom E. Gunn

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2017, 10:01:50 PM »
   A fantastic photo and a great piece of research Ian! These types of artifacts really help to bring the past to life for the public. The fact that They can go and stand in the footsteps of the AEF in Glamorgan is inspiring. It makes the museum business that much more satisfying.  Scott

Thank you Scott...yes, indeed it does as you well know! Several years ago we unveiled a plaque in that very same square to commemorate the arrival of the GIs in WW2. Plans are afoot to do the same for the Doughboys in 2018....so watch this space!

Ian  ;)
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Offline Tom E. Gunn

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 11:13:02 PM »
The troopship SS Morvada, as referred to in the text.
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Offline Rakkasan187

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2017, 06:20:49 AM »
This is a great read Ian...

Wonderful information... "Tossing pennies and chewing gum".... So typical of Soldier's....

Smitty
"Pain is only weakness leaving the body"

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Offline Tom E. Gunn

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Re: "The Yanks are comin'!" ....( Museum Matters)
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2017, 09:21:29 AM »
This is a great read Ian...

Wonderful information... "Tossing pennies and chewing gum".... So typical of Soldier's....

Smitty

Thanks Smitty. To be honest, when I read that I was surprised as it's something we in Britain usually associate with the friendly invasion of GIs during WW2.
"He who dares, wins!"

 

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