The Screaming Eagles (101st Airborne Division) Living History Group put on a ‘static display’ at Alresford ‘s War on the Line event last weekend. Sadly this meant no marching or unarmed combat demos in the station car park, but on the plus side, Mark Richards (on the right) was standing still long enough for me to interview him.
For Mark, the highlight of Living History shows is meeting the veterans, although there are many fewer of them now than when he started ten years ago. Still, a person might tell him their granddad was billeted here, or a serving officer of the Airborne Division will come up to say hi. ‘It’s great to meet them and hear their stories.’
Can you see the gleaming brass whistle pinned to Mark’s lapel? He found it using a metal detector into the grounds of stately home in Berkshire where the Screaming Eagles had their HQ in 1944. There are many other traces of the GIs still to be found there – he’s seen their initials carved on the trees, and those of their sweethearts.
The Screaming Eagles made airborne landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944 (D-Day). I asked Mark whether he would have wanted to go with them. ‘Nope. The ideal life for me would be Gary Sparrow’s [in Goodnight Sweetheart]. I could go through that alley into the 40s and come back again.’
Hambone Junior’s 47th Infantry Regiment landed at Utah Beach four days later, fighting hard to secure the bridgehead in Normandy. Their HQ in the build up to the invasion was The Grange in Northington. I wonder whether they left any treasures behind for us to find ?