From Davy Fitzsimons’ huge archive of material
about the US forces around Caledon and Tynan during
WWII you can quickly discover that the 23rd Infantry
Regiment were housed in the upper rooms of what, until
then, was the stable block below Caledon House.
An historic regiment, it had been founded on June 26th
1812, first fighting in the War of 1812 but then remaining
relatively inactive until the Civil War. It is interesting
to note that as a regiment it fought in the Arizona
campaign of 1866, the Idaho campaign of 1868 and the
Battle of the Little Big Horn and then in 1869 it become
the regiment chosen to be the first garrison for the
newly acquired territory of Alaska.
||It was from their base in Texas that they arrived
in Caledon in 1942 for training by the British
army in the new techniques of war that had developed
Peacetime soldiering in the United States had not equipped them with the experience
they would need to survive against the axis soldiers.
The training was hard, much harder than they had been led to expect, but perhaps
they learned their lessons well for they went on to win battle honours in Normandy,
Northern France, The Ardennes and Rhineland.
The stable block of Caledon House remains very much
as it was in 1944 when the Americans left and our request
to see where they had lived was received generously
by the Caledon Estate and we were not disappointed.
Time has taken its toll but there was enough around
to see where they soldiers had lived with graffiti and
formal regimental marking still adorning the walls.
|60 years on.. the US 2nd Division's
sign is clearly visible on a barrack room wall.
the water reference is because all the laundry water
tanks were open and made of lead as was the piping.
like this one adorn many of the walls and doors
the stable block.
were left wondering what happened to M. Olsen of
Minnesota... will we ever find out?
What was fascinating was that, shortly before we arrived,
the estate had been obliged to remove one in four of
the floorboards of the upper rooms - that had been the
barrack rooms - to treat a new infestation of woodworm.
Ferretting (it seems the best word!) under the floors
boards we found a host of 'treasures' from those days
which are illustrated here.
Bentos', the nearest equivalent of 'Bully Beef'.
Why it was under the floorboards though is anybody's
bottles with the contents still inside. The 'PineGlow'
cough elixir suggests that our visitors suffered
from our NI weather!
|A Tobacco tin.
Unlike the medicine bottles, the contents of this
were long gone.
all manner of cigarette packets too.
|We now know that in 1943 a
Kit-Kat cost two and a half D (old pennies). That's
rusty old razor blade?..not really because they
were a really hard to acquire commodity during WWII.
Those empty rooms still seem to echo with
the laughter of young men, the odd bit of graffiti leading
you to wonder about the man who leaned against the wall
with his pencil. It's not spooky but in the stillness
of this isolated place you are left wondering about
what happened to the men who lived here for that short
period, what happened to them after they were prepared
to go to war - how many survived?
to discover more of Davey Fitzsimons WWII collection.
Relevant web links:
visit to Co.Down after 63 years
Buildings in N. Ireland
Brides leave Kilkeel in 1945
more WWII stories here on YP&M