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Milwyr Americanaidd yn y DU yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd / US troops in the UK during WW2 - US National Archives

Hard as it may be to believe, but at the very height of the Second World War, Amlwch was invaded twice in one day.  The first time was not altogether aggressive, and the second was actually a most benign and heartwarming experience.

The Saturday began for me when I saw the local Home Guard gathering in the Crosville Garage, next to my home in the Police Station. In their early days the men paraded with nothing in the way of uniforms -- nothing other than armbands proclaiming that they were "Local Defence Volunteers" -- and armed with broomsticks onto which some had tied kitchen knives as poor substitutes for rifles and bayonets.  Comical as it would be to behold today, it was all deadly serious then.

Caernarvonshire attacks

There was an exercise on, and our men were preparing to defend the town against an invasion by "enemy" Home Guard units from Caernarfonshire.  In a desperate attempt to Llandyssil Home Guardgain some intelligence as to the enemy's whereabouts, I (being the only one around with a bicycle) was asked by the Sergeant if I would ride as fast as I could as far as Llaneilian to see if there was any sign of them.

I pedalled as furiously as I could without seeing a soul in uniform, only to return to find that Amlwch had fallen in my absence to the sneaky invaders, who had travelled unseen across the fields instead of along the roads where ambushes had been prepared for them.  So ended my very brief but tiring career as a wartime spy.

Invaded by Americans

That same evening we children were gathered outside Thomas's chip shop, as usual, when to our great surprise a convoy of some 10 jeeps cruised slowly down Queen Street to stop head to tail along Salem Street alongside us.  Each contained 4 African American "G.I.Joes," many of whom immediately disappeared into the nearby pubs, whilst others found their entertainment elsewhere. 

Some however had come prepared to meet the local children, for loaded in the backs of the jeeps were cartons of sweets and chewing gum the likes of which we saw only in our wildest dreams. 

chocolateThere were boxes of Hershey's chocolate bars and Wrigley's chewing gum of the flat variety we had then only seen in films.  This was a distinct improvement over the sugar-coated "Beech Nut" variety we had been used to, and most certainly it was far, far  superior to the once-only, vile flavoured ersatz "chewing gum" made of candle-wax which stuck tenaciously to our teeth for days.

While some of the soldiers organised queues for the fair distribution of the sweets they had brought, others bought "penny mixes" for us, which were small bags of chips and mushy peas produced as fast as they could by the Thomas family. 

An unlikely friendship

I fell into conversation with one young soldier as we both sat on canvas seats in one of the open-topped jeeps (which was a thrill in itself). Although he seemed a grown man in my eyes, he was, with hindsight, probably still in his teens. Having asked me about my life here in England (?!!), he told me of his own upbringing in one of the southern states and his subsequent enlistment in the U.S. Army.

He said that he and his comrades had half expected to meet with some measure of prejudice on their arrival in the UK, but were more than pleasantly surprised when they were welcomed unreservedly into our midst.

Our conversation must have lasted well over an hour, and I was very sad when all of the soldiers came back as if by magic at an appointed time to return to their camp somewhere on Anglesey. 

Lasting memories

Before he left however my new-found friend whose name I have regretfully forgotten presented me with his silver-piped forage cap as a souvenir.  It is true to say that for months after, the only time during the day or night when I didn't have the cap on my head was in class where such juvenile indulgences were forbidden.

We all longed to see them again but never did. More's the pity.

I have very many times thought of my American friend since then. Did he survive the war? Did he return to the United States a hero, as he and his comrades surely should have done?


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