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Downpatrick Duties For An American Soldier

by CSV Media NI

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
CSV Media NI
People in story: 
Robert McDowell
Location of story: 
Downpatrick, Northern Ireland
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 January 2006

The following story was posted by Mark Jeffers with permission from the author.

We were billeted in Newcastle for about two weeks. I seem to remember that we stayed somewhere near the present Newcastle Centre. At that time, I was with ‘B’ Company of the 123rd Ordnance Battalion of the First Armoured Division, but I was then able to rejoin my original unit, ‘C’ Company, in Downpatrick. The 210 men of ‘C’ Company were billeted in the Old Gaol there, which had been a barracks for the Royal Welsh Fusiliers earlier in the War.

One of our regular duties was to go on patrol duty around the town. We had a circuit that began at the Gaol, went down English Street, up Irish Street, took in a water reservoir and back round to the town, ending up on Church Street. The circuit took about two hours, as we were always greeted by local folk at their front doors and windows and offered tea and crumpets, and often treated to cream and sugar into the bargain. I got to know a girl who worked in a fish and chip shop in Scotch Street. I remember her name was Margaret, and I went to her house for dinner with two of my friends, Fred Hamilton, from Charleston in west Virginia, and Charles Dearing, from west Kentucky. We took a can of pork meat with us as a gift, the type that could be sliced. We had all kinds of rations that weren’t available outside our canteen, so we shared them round with the friends we made. I heard later that Margaret had married a GI and went over to the USA.

I remember that our Mess Sergeant liked the canned pork and would make up a good meal of pork, mashed potatoes and gravy. We also had a solid chocolate bar that could be dissolved in water to make a chocolate drink, and we would give these to local children to take home to their families. Chewing gum was also a novelty in Downpatrick. A friend of mine took a girl out to the cinema in the town and gave her some chewing gum. A few minutes later she asked for some more, as it turned out she had swallowed it!

While in Downpatrick I remember walking up to see Saul Church, and I also remember the King and Queen visiting County Down. There were dances in the Town Hall from time to time, some for enlisted men and some for officers. We would visit the bars in the town and sometimes there would be fights. At the railway station one time, two men from my company got into a fight, and one put his fist through the window of the station building. I celebrated my 19th birthday on 5th September 1942, just six weeks before we left County Down. I had some photographs of the gaol, but I lost them in north Italy. It was quite something to discover that the gaol I had been in had become a museum, and a figure of a GI had been set up to commemorate our time here from May to October 1942.

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