Driving alligators along a sheep track

I thought I heard bleating as I walked up Drove Lane last week: it was easy to imagine ghostly sheep filling the lane around me on their way to the Alresford Sheep Fair. And no wonder – shepherds and their dogs have been driving Hampshire sheep along that track since the middle ages. Harder to imagine though, was the use the GIs put the lane to in 1944.

The 9th Infantry Division were the US Army experts in amphibious warfare: they had already invaded the beaches of French Morocco and Sicily before they arrived in Hampshire. Alresford, with its branching streams and lakes, was the perfect location for the 47th Regiment to prepare themselves for the biggest amphibious invasion in history. On the map above, you’ll notice that Drove Lane crosses a branch of the River Arle, and it was here that the American soldiers dammed the trout stream to build a deep vehicle testing pool beside the bridge. (I’ve read they did some grenade fishing there, too.)

I’ve found three amphibious vehicles listed in service with the US Amy in 1944: the famous DUKW (Duck), a 6×6 wheeled armoured truck; the LV-2/LV-4 (Alligator/Water Buffalo), a tracked landing vehicle; and the M29 (Water Weasel), a personnel carrier. Wouldn’t it have been extraordinary to see these creatures being driven along the lanes of Alresford on their way to have their water-proofing tested? I just hope Hambone Junior liked swimming.

Iris Crowfoot

Sources:

Alresford Heritage, photgraph R003 – sheep being driven along West Street

The Mobile Riverine Force – Army 9th Infantry Division

Military Combat Tanks

Alresford Around D-Day 6th June 1944, Colin Metcalfe

One thought on “Driving alligators along a sheep track”

  1. Godfrey Andrews shared this memory with me on Facebook today:

    In my youth (which I shudder to add was not long after the war) us local children used to swim in the river about 50 yards down river from the bridge you mention. The river was quite deep there. I remember the banks of the river were lined with sandbags. Hence we always referred to this area of the river and water meadows as “The Sandbags”. Surely a connection with your interesting article. Unfortunately I have very few local WW2 photographs of Alresford in my collection. I think this is mainly due to the very strict security laws regarding photography in this country during that period.

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