When General Patton
was 'over here'
Our local historian Ruth E. Richardson this months looks back 70 years to the time of D–Day and at one Herefordshire military camp in particular
It took until July the 9th 1944 before the British liberated the French city of Caen. D–Day, June 6th, was the largest seaborne invasion and military campaign the world had ever seen. The intense fighting continued until victory in Europe (VE Day) was finally celebrated on the 8th of May 1945.
Herefordshire's military camps and hospitals included those at Bromyard, Credenhill, Eastnor, Foxley, Hay, Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, Kington, Moreton–on–Lugg and Ross. Whitfield Court was a depot for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers who left behind concrete bases laid as tracks for hundreds of vehicles. It had also been selected as a future Canadian Embassy if London had needed to be evacuated. Those stationed at these camps were British Army and RAF, Canadians, and Americans. In 1946 the USA, and then Canadian Air Force, camp at Foxley became home to demobilised Polish military personnel.
The military camp south of Kington was variously described as Hergest Camp, Huntington Park Camp, or Kington Camp. The land was requisitioned in 1940 and the 5th Gloucesters, 2nd Warwickshires and 8th Worcesters were stationed there after the evacuation from Dunkirk. In 1941 reconstruction was started by Wimpeys UK for the U.S. 693 Field Artillery Unit who were stationed here in 1943–1944 to wait for the D–Day landings.
Visitors to the camp included the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and the American General George Smith Patton Junior, nick–named 'Blood–and–Guts'. Churchill was Britain's wartime leader of a coalition government which included members of his own Conservative party as well as Labour and Liberals. The Deputy Prime Minister, and the first person to hold this office, was the unassuming Clement Attlee, the Labour leader who, as Prime Minister in 1945 brought in the National Health Service, to which I owe my life, and the Welfare State.
As a boy Patton had had difficulty learning to read and write but eventually managed both due to his determination to succeed. An officer in WW1, by 1943 he commanded the American Seventh Army. An advocate of armoured warfare, in 1944 he was promoted to command the American Third Army who faced the Germans after the liberation of Normandy. His leadership helped stop the German counter–offensive in January 1945. He cultivated a 'colourful' image and his troops liked his abrasive, rude speeches. However, his divisive opinions led to a quarrel with the Supreme Commander in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (known as 'Ike') and Patton was replaced as military governor of Bavaria. He died in a road accident in December 1945. Despite the controversy surrounding him, many Americans remember him as a hero and in 1970 the film 'Patton' was released starring George C. Scott.
The Kington Camp Project aims to collate information about this site for, as they say: 'The camp brought many thousands of people to Kington under extraordinary and difficult circumstances.' (see: http://www.kingtoncamp.co.uk) Many local people still remember these Americans, Canadians and Poles and, although far from the coast, Herefordshire too played its part in WW11.
©Ruth E. Richardson 2014