Chapter 04: England 1944.

The mouth of the Mersey River was reached on 17 January, the ship sailing down from the north between Scotland and Ireland.  The ship lay in the Mersey that night and reached the landing stage at Liverpool the following day and was greeted by a British military band. But it was not until about 1030am on 19 January that the BN and attached companies debarked (0855 according to the morning report). Following a hike through the city of Liverpool troops were entrained and came by rail, via Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, to Frome, Somerset, England. William McLain recalled that the trip was made under blackout conditions and that they arrived in Glastonbury at 2245 (10:45 pm), “weather rainy, morale good”. McLain

The battalion is recorded by http://www.skylighters.org as being in Marston Bigot Camp in Frome from 14-26 January 1944.  I am assuming that these are the dates planned for the BN to be there as we know that the units did not debark from the Mauretania until 19 January. The same website lists the HHQ 40th Repl BN as occupying the site from 4 August 1944 to 8 January 1945.  It seems that this BN HQ would have processed the 54th on their way through Marston Bigot Camp.  Enough activity took place in the fields that street layouts and other camp lines are still seem in this Google Earth image from 2001.

Gordon Teasdale, of Witham Friary, Frome, England relates that the Seymour Arms pub in Witham Friary was frequented by soldiers from Marston Bigot Camp. The pub is still operated by the same owners from 1944 and they remember well the US and British soldiers that visited their pub.

The battalion left Marston Bigot by truck convoy, which took the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN and the 209th and 210th Replacement Companies to Glastonbury, Somerset (VT 9360 Ordnance Survey Ten Mile Map of Great Britain).  The Convoy took the 211th Replacement Company to Midsomer-Norton, Somerset, about 25 miles away.  On 18 Feb 44 the 211th joined the battalion at Street.

 Glastonbury, England

me-by-cross

The author in front of Crown Hotel, 2013.

Bob Butcher in Jeep in front of Crown Hotel.

Bob Butcher in Jeep in front of Crown Hotel 1944.

 Upon Arriving in Glastonbury, temporary quarters for troops and officers were arranged by the 102nd and 38th Cavalry Training Detachment, which had arrived in Glastonbury before the 54th. Subsequently, the 209th Replacement Company was established at Railroad Camp and the 210th Replacement Co. at Abbey Park Camp, both in Glastonbury.  The facilities furnished for Camp 16 (Hq Det.) were varied.  Many buildings were furnished with the village by the British, including Squire Building, 28 Northload, another location on Northload used as the Motor Pool, Poplars, Hillside, Edgarley Lodge (a furnished home), the Dispensary on High Street, numerous scattered quarters for enlisted men, an orderly room of the Cavalry Replacement Training Detachment, and the Chicken Coop.  Part of the Railroad Camp was buildings taken over from the railroad and the rest were Army Hutments.  Abbey Park Camp was hutments.  All of Camp 15 (Street) was hutment, augmented by tents, except part of the British Building Legion Building, which was used by this BN as the Army Exchange for the Street Area, and which subsequently became headquarters for the 71stReplacement Battalion. William McLain remembers that the tents were set up along a stone wall inside the gate of the Abby grounds.

 

 HQ-1

 

The Squire Building

Headquarters, 54th Repl BN was established in the Squire Building on the Square. This building still exists at 9 Market Place, on the north side of the Abby Gatehouse. As of this writing it houses Man, Myth & Magik. Staff at the shop said that the HQ offices were on the first floor and officers slept upstairs.  The photo of Bob Butcher in the jeep was most likely taken from directly in front of this building.

28-northlode

28 Northload Street

Officers were first quartered at 28 Northload Street and later part of them moved to Edgarley Lodge on the outskirts of the village.  The house at 28 Northload was then used first as casual officer’s quarters and, about the middle of April, became quarters for the rest of the assigned officers and the location of the Operations and Classification offices.  The house is now the office for Glastonbury Festival.

The Poplars, near Edgarly Lodge became the quarters for the casual officers. There is also a house known as Edgarley Hall about 100 yards from Edgarly Lodge.  Edgarley Hall was also used by the American forces, so there is some confusion as to which residence the 54th used.

 Edgarley_2008_2

 Edgarley House top  Edgarley Hall as part of Millfield School, bottom

 

Tapp-INN-location

The Tapp Inn

The Tap Inn was located on Northload Street and housed men of the 54th.  It was a long dormitory type room above the Inn. The Inn a part of the cider house which was part of the George and Pilgrim Hotel but was not in the same building. It was operated by Fred and Emily Pope.White  Frank Baker was lodged in the Tap Inn along with other enlisted men from the Hq Det. He remembers that they went into the building and up a set of stairs on the left into a large dormitory type room. Baker The part of the building that had the dormitory is no longer standing but was at the corner of George and Northload Streets. It is now a parking area.

Motor-Pool

The assumed location for the motor pool.

The Motor Pool

The motor pool was along George Street , off of Northload.  The site is now developed and no longer resembles the 1944 period. White

In a phone conversation during our visit to Glastonbury,  Bill Knight, who was a child in Glastonbury during the war, questioned whether that George Street location for the motor pool was correct.  He also thought that the “Chicken Coop” may have been an elevated metal building on George Street at the time.Knight

 Dispensery

The dispensary

The central dispensary was located in on High Street, and was part of the group of buildings around the Assembly Rooms (10 High Street). The “Boots” logo can still be seen at street level on the wall. Morland Aid stations were located in campsite of the Street camper, operated by training detachment personnel. A 6 bed infirmary was located in the central dispensary for treatment of conditions that could be dealt with locally. Jabc  The nearest hospital was the 160th Station Hospital in Bath. Jabc 

The Assembly Rooms today.

The Assembly Rooms are several spaces connected by a small courtyard reached through an archway.  These were used for various recreational events for the soldiers and community

.     Assembly rooms 3

assembly rooms 4

Assembly rooms 2

There was no official mess facility for the Hq men. They would have to take a truck out to one of the company areas for meals. Baker Mess facilities were considered good by the BN surgeon. Garbage and waste removal was done by civilian contract. Outhouses with quartermaster type boxes were used in Glastonbury, while civilian latrines were used in the Street camps. Showers facilities were available at all camps. Laundry was done for the most part individually, with Quartermaster laundry facilities available for more static personnel. Jabc

Organized and supervised athletics, a civilian theatre, Red Cross Branch Club, and regular recreational facilities were available. The Special Services Section provided sightseeing tours of historic places and points of interest in the area on Sundays and Holidays if no training was scheduled.Jabc

Initially the Battalion worked to train and packets of free Cavalry and Armored Force Replacements. Jabc..

On 2 February the 209th Replacement Company moved to East Camp, Street, about two miles from Glastonbury, and the 210th Repl Co undertook operation of both Railway and Abbey Park Camps.  The 210thwas divided approximately equally with Headquarters at Railroad Camp.

On 18 February the 211th Repl Co was removed to West Camp, Street.  Both officers and enlisted men were quartered with the camps at Street. The companies remained attached to the Battalion, and the BN was, in turn, attached to the 9th Replacement Depot, operating Replacement Depot no. 9, located at Redstock and later at Midsomer-Norton, commanded by Colonel Freehoff, Infantry.

Based on the 1946 aerial photograph and maps from the Somerset Historic Environment Record, we can see that this image was the location of the 211th camp in Street:

The second area of Army Occupation is shown in the area of the 1946 Aerial photograph. I am assuming that since it is the eastern camp that this was East Camp. The intersection of the red areas is at the intersection of Somerton Rd, Elmhurst LN and Butleigh Rd.

Now the BN and the attached companies began performing the primary function for which they were activated.  The organization took over 66 enlisted men and three officers, casuals, who had arrived prior to the arrival of the replacement units. Glastonbury (designated as Camp 16 of Replacement Depot No. 9) handled Mechanized Cavalry, with a training cadre from the 102nd and 38th Reconnaissance Squadrons. Street, (designated as Camp 15 of Replacement Depot No. 9) handled Armored Force, with a training detachment from Co. C, 745th Tank Battalion.

On one occasion there was a tank maneuver taking place outside of town.  Glastonbury Tor is the only hill in the area.  Frank Baker and some other men put a jeep in four-wheel drive and managed to get it to the top of the hill where they watch the maneuvers. Baker I related this story to William McLain who said getting a jeep up that hill would have been quite a feat as it was very steep. McLain

On 3 February the BN was authorized additional personnel of five officers and 18 enlisted men, as prescribed by Col 8 of T/O &E, to include personnel for Classification, Training and the Chaplain, in accordance with General Order No. 5, Headquarters, Replacement Depot No. 9, APO 545, dated 5 February 1944

The 5 Feb 44 morning report lists the promotion of Robert Butcher from PVT to PFC. The morning report for 7 March 44 lists Butcher being promoted to T/5.

On 28 March, the 334th and 335th Replacement Companies were received by the Battalion from the United States. The 334th Replacement Company was temporarily quartered at East Camp, Street, and was moved on or about 31 March to Stoberry Park, Wells, Somerset.  The 335th Repl Co, commanded by Captain Ladis Glasgow, CAC (four officers and 31 enlisted men) was housed at West Street Camp and was attached, per verbal orders of the Commanding Officer, 9th Repl Depot, to the Battalion.

On an unspecified date Company C of the 745th Tank Battalion took charge of training in the Street area. On 2 April, Co C of the 745th Tank BN was moved from Camp No. 15 and was replaced by a new training detachment; Co A, 707th Tank Battalion.

A tragic event for the BN took place one day (date unkown) in Glastonbury. Frank Baker had been out on an errand with two men from the motor pool in a BN truck. On arriving back at the motor pool the man sitting on Baker’s right got out and went behind the truck to help back the truck into a parking spot. Somehow the driver did not see the man behind the truck and backed over him, killing the motor pool man. The name of the man is unknown. Baker

The 71st Replacement Battalion, From the United States, moved into Camp 15 on 6 April 1944 and on the following day assumed command of the Street Area. At this time the 209th, the 211th, and the 335th Replacement Companies were relieved from attachment to the 54th Repl BN and were attached to the 71st Replacement Battalion, leaving the 54th with only one attached company, the 210th Repl Co.

The following day, 7 April 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Tindall, who had commanded the BN since its activation, was transferred to a casual status with the Replacement Depot No. 10, and on 8 April, Lieutenant Colonel Ranald B. Engelbeck, Cavalry, joined the BN and assumed command.

Lt. Col. Englebeck from National Archives files.

To the end of March 1944, the BN had handled 137 causal officers and 1526 casual enlisted men, of which 46 officers and 333 enlisted men had subsequently been transferred, leaving a balance of 91 officers and 1193 enlisted men as of 31 March 1944.  Transfers during the first few days of April and the relief from attachment of the three Replacement Companies on 6 April reduced the casual strength to 23 officers and 434 enlisted men, all in Camp no. 16.

General Patton arrived in camp one morning to do an inspection.  Mclain had worked late the previous evening and slept in a tent away from his regular quarters. The next morning Patton saw him before he had a change to shave and clean up. McLain tried to explain but was told to “Go home and shave now. McLain also said that “He [Patton] was so spit and polished it pissed me off a little bit. He had and orderly to polish his boots and buttons and he gave me hell because I wasn’t up to his standards”. Goolsby

The expansion in personnel necessitated the taking over, in the latter part of March, of a building in Glastonbury called the Chicken Coop, for casual enlisted men.  On or about 16 April it became necessary to clearthis building in order that it might become the United States Post Office for the district. It was possible at this time to absorb the casuals into the established camps.  The two APO units, which arrived to run the Post Office were quartered at Hillside, near the Poplars, which had formerly been occupied by a detachment of Quartermaster troops performing experimental work on supplies.  These quartermaster troops, in the location for about a month, remained, in general, outside the jurisdiction of the Battalion.

On the same day, 16 April, a group of five officers and 125 enlisted men from the 15th, 17th, 25th, and 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons, Mechanized, arrived. They became the new Cavalry Replacement Training Detachment, replacing the 102nd and 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron’s Detachments, which departed on or about 23 April.

For the period 12 – 31 May 44 the battalion headquarters trained Battalion Headquarters, 5th Provisional Replacement Battalion in the performance of the duties required in the accomplishment of their mission. The 210th Replacement Company is the only listed attached company. The 20 June 44 report shows that the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 5th Provisional Replacement Battalion had been transferred to the 71st Replacement Battalion.

One story I remember Bob Butcher telling me concerned getting vehicles ready for deployment to France.  He talked about how much work it was to get vehicle properly stenciled with identification and that every number and letter had to be placed in just the right position. Another task he talked about was applying a clay-like substance to the motor area and adding long vertical exhaust pipes so that the vehicles could run in some water.  I am assuming he was talking about getting the vehicles of the attached units ready to go into Normandy in the days after the initial invasion. The 6 June 44 morning report lists that Robert Butcher T/5, appointed to Tec 4 rank. The morning reports also report that Butcher was on detached service with the Ord Depot 0-617, APO 553 from 1-17 June 44.  One function of Ordnance Depot 0-617 was to conduct training in waterproofing vehicles for transport to the continent

I thought he told me that some of the attached units went over on D-day plus 10.  The 7 July 44 report seems to say that the training detachments from the 15th, 17th, 25th and 86th squadrons were relieved on 16 June 44 by Troop B (less 1 Platoon), 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized. I assume that these are the troops that Bob was referring to. However, it has been widely reported that there was always a shortage of drivers to move men and equipment to France and beyond. So it is possible that Butcher drove trucks for the replacement companies during the crossover to France and then returned to the 54th, as the records show that he was still in England on 26 August 1944.

The rest of this chapter is compiled by the author from monthly reports from the Bn.

On 14 June 1944 the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN, along with many other replacement battalions were relieved from assignment to Com Z, ETOUSA (base sections in which located) and assigned to Ground Force Repl System, ETOUSA. The attached units remained in place with the 54th.

From June through August the Battalion continued to operate as a Replacement Battalion. The main function of the Battalion and attached company was the reception, administration, and transfer of replacements and casuals to tactical units in the theater of operations as directed by higher authority. The 22 July report states that the headquarters was organizing a Cavalry Training Detachment to give further training to casual and replacement personnel “attached unassigned to the battalion.”

On D plus 28 (July 4) McLain’s company, the 211th Repl Co. sailed to Omaha beach and he spent the most of the rest of the war in France forwarding tank replacement crews to Patton’s 3rd Army.

Records state that in the period between 3 March and the 7 July report to HQ that the Battalion had received 208 casual and replacement officers, and 2172 casual and replacement enlisted men, and shipped 13 officers and 1371 enlisted men.

August brought a change of location to the 54th Replacement BN.  On 8 August the Battalion moved from Glastonbury England to Tidworth Barracks, Hants (Tidworth Park Camp), by motor convoy; 14 officers (including attached) and 41 enlisted men (including attached). Then on 17 August the unit moved to Tidworth Barracks, Wilts, by motor convoy; 13 officers (including attached) and 44 enlisted men (including attached). The 8 August morning report states that the unit departed Glastonbury at 0830 and arrived at Tidworth at 1100, “weather good, morale excellent”.

During August time this Battalion operated as a separate Replacement Battalion.  It had absorbed, temporarily (20 August – 3 September), the mission and functions of the 9th Replacement Depot to which it was formerly attached. The 9th Replacement Depot had been moved to the continent and the 54th was to act as Replacement Depot until the next Depot, the 12th Replacement Depot, moved in. Records show that for the period 30 June to August the battalion handled approximately 1000 officers and 6000 enlisted men, in addition to the 220 officers and 5280 enlisted men who were part of “Transient Packages.”

On 28 August the BN was detached from the 9th Replacement Depot and was assigned to the 12th Replacement Depot, along with the 210th and 325th Replacement Companies ETO

By September the mission of the Battalion included retraining enlisted men of the services as infantry (there was a shortage of infantrymen at the time and many men were retrained from their original function to be infantrymen).  This mission continued through the end of November 1944. During this time the Provisional Company “R” was formed and attached to the battalion from 18 August to 8 September 1944. Another Provisional Company “U” was also formed earlier and attached to the battalion for the period 8 September -30 October 1944.

On 20 September command of the 54th was passed to Henry A. Keipe, Major, Infantry.

A growing psychological reaction against the use of the word ‘replacement’ caused a change, during the month of December, 1944, in the designation from the ‘Replacement System’ to the ‘Reinforcement System’ and it was directed that the Reinforcement System be composed of the Ground Force Reinforcement Command, and the Air Force Reinforcement Command. All Units of the Reinforcement System in the European Theater of Operations were directed to use the term ‘reinforcement’ and cease using the term ‘replacement’ (Eisenhower, p 7-8).

Records show that on 4 October the BN had the following Repl Co’s attached:  210th, 325th, “U” Provisional Repl Co, 514th Repl Co. The 526th Replacement Company was attached to the Battalion on 27 October 1944. Atthat time the location was listed as Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth.

Troop Assignment No. 31, Headquarters, GFRS, ETO, dated 2 December 1944, announced that the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN, along with the 210th, 325th and 523rd Repl Co’s were relieved from the 12 Repl Depot and assigned to HQ, GFRS, for duty at the port of Marseilles. the 526th Repl Co was released from the 54th BN and assigned to the 9th Repl Depot (ETO, 571d, p70).

Recent research has revealed that on 22 September, Pfc Leonard J Doucette, Pvt Ollie H Ballard and Pvt Robert S. Butcher were released from assignment to the 54th and transferred to 3rd Platoon, Det 80, GFRC, APO 551 (p2 SO 182 Hq 12th Repl Depot) under 2nd Lt Zenon E. Ostrovski (0545461).  This is part of a group of 189 truck drivers assigned to Replacement Detachment X122A, unit serial #A 0122, location: 12th Repl Depot APO 551.Lady Bird Research   This timing coincides with the addition of a second route for the Red Ball Express. Bob butcher once talked about hauling supplies to Patton’s Army “When we could find the SOB”.  This is the first record that I have found that supports the story.  Records have not been found to date that indicate if or when Butcher came back to the 54th.

 

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