THE AMERICANS IN BARRY

Children who lived in Cadoxton, especially those who lived on the Moors in the 40's, had daily contact with the American soldiers who were based there. The Americans lived and worked in the close vicinity of Cadoxton. Most of these troops were very friendly, missed their families and tried to make up for that loss by befriending families who lived in the area.

Cadoxton children were invited to film shows at their camp. They were picked up by lorries at Cadoxton railway station, and taken to the camp at G40 on Hayes Road. Before the show started, they were given sweets, chocolate and the inevitable sticks of gum. During the time they were at Sully the Americans gave every schoolchild a ration of drinking chocolate. Some Cadoxton residents were the recipients of dried egg powder, dried milk (Klim), and sometimes-large tins of Spam.

Within two months of the American arrival in Barry they had built a camp at Highlight (near Tesco's), which later turned into a prisoner-of-war camp. They built munitions storage units near Ranks Mill, levelled most of the site that Distillers' factory was built on, and dug drainage channels, some of which are still in use today. Later on they built another camp on the St. Andrews side of the road at the top of the Docks Link Road.

G40 site on Hayes Road was split into two camps, the seaward side was for coloured troops and the Windmill side was for white troops. There was also a site on the Sully Road that they shared with British troops. This was the ordnance supply reserve depot (known to all as the O.S.D.) which stored guns, ammunition and explosives.

Most of their equipment was brought into Barry stacked on flats for easier handling. These flats, which were similar to pallets, were eagerly snapped up by the locals for building chicken sheds and similar structures, and as the last resort, for use as firewood. Children from the Moors also had a use for them, as rafts to sail on the old brickworks' ponds. When a number of youngsters were nearly drowned playing on these rafts, the Americans quickly filled the old ponds in, and built more huts on the site (now part of ICI). Whilst swimming in the river and being watched by the troops working nearby, freshwater clams (that the GI's loved) were collected and could be exchanged for chewing gum and sweets. When this became known, the number of clams in the river diminished quite rapidly.

Vere Street in Cadoxton, and Thompson Street in Barry Dock, were places where meat, butter, coffee, chocolate, etc were bought and sold, and also given in exchange for favours received. Dinam Hall became known as "The Donut Dugout", and was used by the Americans as a stepping stone to visit Thompson Street by either walking down Merthyr Street or Belevedere Crescent. This was before Thompson Street was placed "out-of-bounds" to them.

The GI's were welcomed by girls whose boy friends had been called-up, or had joined the Merchant Navy. Their uniforms and footwear made them better dressed than most of the remaining male population left in Barry and their rates of pay were more than four times that which was paid to the local workforce. Consequently they could be far more generous than the locals.

Occasionally fights would break out, usually over a woman. Most of the coloured contingent travelled to Cardiff and met in the Colonial Club and other premises in Bute Street. One of the reasons given as to why Thompson Street was placed out-of-bounds to American troops, was that a white American using one of the clubs saw a coloured American being served, objected and said "that he would not drink in any club where coloureds were served". He then asked that they be banned, whereupon he was told to leave and not return. The club had never had any trouble from any of the coloured GI's. On his return to the camp, he complained to the commanding officer, who promptly placed the street out-of-bounds to all in the camps.

As time passed, the build-up for "D-Day" took place with American Railway engines being brought into the area for use in France when the invasion took place. Some of these were stored on the Barry Railway line at Tonteg, but a number were used in their depots in Barry. The sidings at Coldbrook was one of their main storage areas, and many of the locals considered the wagons to be fair game, helping themselves to anything if the wagons were "inadvertently" left open.

Many Barry railwaymen became friends with the American drivers and footplate men who drove these engines (known as 2-8-0's), friends whose generosity was legend in Barry. Cans of chicken, pork, Spam, salmon, coffee and other luxuries that many in the town had never seen, let alone eaten before, were given to the railwaymen. These men were the only ones allowed into the American supplies compound, as they drove the trains loaded with stores ready for the invasion. This compound was surrounded by a high wire fence and patrolled by armed soldiers.

To accommodate the huge number of vehicles arriving at Barry, Porthkerry Park was used to store them. An assault course set up by the Americans in Pencoedtre Woods proved to be a great attraction to local youngsters. When the Americans weren't using it, they proceeded to use it themselves, and became so proficient, that very often the training personnel used them to egg his men on, by holding up the youngsters as an example of how easy it was to complete.

As the build-up for "D-Day" continued, more camps were needed to accommodate the troops arriving in Barry. A tented camp was set up on the Moors as a temporary measure, but it was not in use for long as its residents were soon shipped off from various Welsh ports for embarkation to Normandy.

Barry was one of the main supply ports for the invasion and a few days before it took place, over 40 ships left the port loaded with stores and men on their way to France. Victoria Park, Cadoxton and Dock View Road were some of the best vantage points to see the vast armada as ships from the ports of the Bristol Channel assembled to make their way to France.

© T. CLEMETT 1999


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