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D-Day: When the Americans came to Bodmin

June 6th 2024 marks 80 years since one of the most prominent moments of the Second World War.


D-Day took place on Tuesday, 6th June 1944 and saw land, air and sea Allied forces storm the beaches of Normandy in an attempt to drive Germany out of western Europe and bring an end to the war. It became known as the ‘largest seaborne operation’ in history, with armies including the British, American and Canadian forces targeting five beaches in Normandy. This led to the liberation of northern France, which had been occupied by Germany since 1940, ultimately ending with Germany’s defeat in 1945.


American soldiers in Bodmin

Bodmin was a base for many American troops, before they went to Normandy. The USA entered the war in December 1941, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Both US and British leaders began planning ‘Operation Overlord’, a huge shock offensive that would send Allied troops over to northern France to drive the Germans out. To prepare, approximately 1.6-million American troops and equipment were sent to Britain to undergo training. The US 29th Infantry Division, based in

Virginia, settled in Cornwall and Devon in May 1943, and Bodmin hosted around 2,000 troops. Later, in 1944, the US 35th Infantry Division also came to the town.


Helen Bishop-Stephens, director of Bodmin Keep, said: “The area around Bodmin and the coast was a really excellent place for training. It was unknown by the Germans and it meant that they were able to get all the troops down here and train them so they were able to go out to the boats.

“People in Bodmin got used to having them here, and one day the town people woke up and nobody was around - they had gone.”

A GI boot

The 29th Division’s 104 Medical Battalion, 110 Field Artillery Battalion and 115th Infantry Regiment were billeted in Bodmin, while the 35th Division’s 110 Medical Battalion, 735 Ordnance Company, 137 Infantry Regiment and 219 Field Artillery Battalion spent a short period of time in the town.


When Operation Overlord came into effect on 6th June 1944 and what would be known famously as ‘D-Day’ began, the 29th Division joined the 1st Division on Omaha Beach, with the 116th Infantry Regiment going over in the first wave early in the morning. The 115th Infantry Regiment landed at 11am, while the 175th landed the following morning. The 35th Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach on the 7th July 1944.


Marking the 80th anniversary, Bodmin Keep will host a D-Day service, led by Rev John Halkes, a former Vulcan bomber pilot. Assemble at the Keep at 10.30am for a short service of commemoration on Thursday 6th June.


Carclew: A House at War

A new exhibition at Bodmin Keep, opening in time for D-Day commemorations, will explore the arrival of American troops in Britain ahead of the Normandy landings, and how a Cornish mansion played its part in the war.

In Cornwall, American soldiers, sailors and airmen took over cliffs, beaches, moors, fields, woods, villages and towns all over the area. Many were stationed in historic mansions such as Prideaux Place in Padstow and the Heligan Estate, Pentewan.

In recent years, the wartime tale of another historic estate has emerged. Carclew is a seventeenth-century mansion situated on the estuary of the Fal river. While much of the site was destroyed by fire in 1934, a large portion remained habitable. At different times during the War, Carclew was the headquarters for anti-aircraft units, a base for soldiers from the Yorkshire Green Howards regiment,

and a camp for American troops.

Recent excavations at Carclew have uncovered the wartime stories of this Grade 2 listed site. These

discoveries are presented in an exhibition between the team at Carclew House and Bodmin Keep.


D-Day and the Battle for Normandy

Historian, author and broadcaster James Holland, who has written extensively on the Second World

War, will deliver a talk, D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, at Bodmin Keep on Tuesday, 11th June, which will also raise money for the army museum.

James will discuss some of the main themes and look at the human experience of war from all sides,

drawing on research from his 2019 book, Normandy 44: D-Day and the Battle for France. The talk will be followed by a Q&A.

To book, visit the Bodmin Keep website: bodminkeep.org.uk


Visit bodminkeep.org.uk or pop over to Bodmin Keep to learn more about the Second World War.

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