- Contributed by
- John P Kerrigan
- People in story:
- John P Kerrigan
- Location of story:
- Aintree, North Liverpool
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 May 2004
Walton Vale Liverpool. May 1941 After a landmine hit The Windsor Castle
From Black and White to Colour
It was 1943 and I was then six years old , when suddenly, every thing changed in North Liverpool. The American Army arrived and overnight everything seemed to change from black and white to colour.
I was reminded of this event, which happened over sixty years ago, when
I was visiting my daughter and her family in Utah, USA earlier this year.
I was in a small town called Ogden visiting the local railway museum, and talking to one of the guides who mentioned that the Union Pacific Station there had been at the crossroads of the many wartime military training camps in the area. It was from here that many US soldiers would set out on the first leg of their long journey to Britain and begin their preparations for the invasion of Europe on D Day.
It prompted me to think about my own memories of those times ,when as a small boy, I watched with fascination, as a succession of troop ships arrived at Liverpool Pierhead Landing Stage.
I can still clearly remember thousands of GI's marching in columns along Walton Vale, as I came out of school. They were followed by enormous trucks, jeeps, tankers and every conceivable type of military vehicle.
They were marching from the docks to take up residence at the world famous Aintree Racecourse — the home of the Grand National. Eventually over sixteen thousand of them were camped there, with the racecourse turned into a vast parking lot for military vehicles and equipment
Walton Vale — Aintree 1942
Memories of individuals like the GI who was walking towards my sister and I as we walked home from school along Moss Lane , he was carrying a large box of chocolates in a box tied up with a ribbon.
He asked if we liked Candy — ‘What is it ?’ we said, then quickly added, ‘Yes please’. He had obviously failed to impress one of the local girls, but certainly impressed us.
Of the time when a trio of musicians in uniform came into our classroom and mercifully relieved us from our boredom by playing some swing music.
How they never seemed to tire of being asked countless times ‘Got any gum chum’ by hordes of kids
The Americans soon took over the area, especially cafes, milk bars and pubs and dancehalls.
One of them, the Aintree Institute, later became more well known-as one of the venues of The Beatles in the sixties.
Liverpool is fondly remembered by many U.S. servicemen who were stationed at bases around the city, such as Aintree and Haydock. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Liverpool in 1942. But the biggest U.S. base was Burtonwood, around ten miles outside Liverpool, which still housed tens of thousands at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s. Consequently many 'GI brides' originated from Merseyside.
The Mersey was the Western gateway for supplies and troop movements and Liverpool housed the Allied headquarters for the Battle of the Atlantic.
HERE IN THE DARK DAYS OF WAR
AND IN THE DAWN OF VICTORY
AMERICAN TROOPS AND CARGOES
MOVED THROUGH THIS PORT
BRITISH AND AMERICANS WORKING TOGETHER
THIS STONE RECORDS THEIR UNITY IN
ACCOMPLISHING THEIR MISSION
ERECTED BY THE 15TH PORT UNIT
UNITED STATES ARMY-1944.
This plaque was erected at the Pier Head Liverpool to commemorate the fact that over a million US soldiers passed through the port on their way to take part in D day. Many would later return in one of the thousands of military coffins stored in a requisitioned warehouse on the waterfront, But that was a part of the war I was yet to discover. After the heavy bombing which had already devastated large parts of the city during the May Blitz of 1941, the war had now became an exhilarating and colourful experience for us small boys, with the continuing excitement of so many new people and events happening almost daily all around us
It now appears that through the all the pain and suffering that brought about the eventual victory over the enemy- that what lasts is the bonds of our common humanity.
Now whenever I pass the racecourse at Aintree, I recall those times sixty years ago when Little America came to visit in 1943, and then quietly went back home in 1945.
And of the many little acts of kindness which these strange and colourful allies brought to our community during those dark and dangerous times
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