‘It was almost unbelievable, to think of Dad in the Ordnance Corps – he just wasn’t a practical person.’ Both Eddy Knasel’s sons remembered this. ‘He couldn’t even change the oil in the car, when we were growing up!’ Nevertheless, Sergeant J. Edward Knasel spent his working hours supervising a team of GIs maintaining Sherman tanks in the US Army camp in The Dean, Alresford. He was 24 at the time, a bit older than most, and he had completed more of his education – perhaps that was why he was given more responsibility.
In his spare time, Eddy went to a tea dance organised by Winifred Small at the Alresford Community Centre. ‘Who’s that pretty girl over there?’ he asked Winifred, ‘I’d like a dance with her’. ‘You have to ask me first, she’s my daughter,’ Winfred replied and thus Eddy was introduced to Marjorie Small, usherette at the Civic Cinema. The rest is history – Eddy and Marje were married in Winchester in November 1945.
Between meeting Marje and marrying her, Eddy had an eventful war. Afterwards, he suffered from claustrophobia and always blamed this on von Rundstedt, the German Commander in Chief in the West. The 47th Infantry Regiment fought in The Battle of the Bulge, from December 1944 to January 1945. As the battle lines moved back and forth through the snowy Ardennes forest, Eddy became separated from his team and had to hide behind enemy lines. He didn’t talk about it much to his family, but explained that his claustrophobia had been triggered by the sheer hell of being in a foxhole for days on end. I shuddered when I looked up ‘foxhole’ in Wikipedia – by 1944 it was a vertical, bottle-shaped hole that allowed a soldier to stand and fight with his head and shoulders exposed. The foxhole widened near the bottom to allow the soldier to crouch down whilst under fire.
Eddy was reunited with his team after two days and went on to fight at Remargen in February 1945, as part of the relief troops who came up after the taking of the Ludendorff Bridge. A fictionalised account of the capture of this bridge, one of the last two remaining which crossed the river Rhine into Germany, is given in the 1969 film The Bridge at Remagen.
After Eddy and Marje were married, they moved to Esslingen in Germany. Their younger son, Richard, explained to me that Eddy spoke some German and worked as a translator for the Military Police as they gathered evidence for the Nuremberg war trials – another chilling experience.
After Esslingen, the couple travelled back to his family home in Kentucky. Marje couldn’t settle there, but Eddy remembered how friendly the people were over here and so they returned to England after six months. They lived in London at first. Eddy studied for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the London School of Economics and went on to work in Industrial Relations at the US Embassy. Marje had a visceral feeling that Alresford was her home and so the family moved back in 1958. Eddy worked in finance for SCATS and BOC, their sons went to The Dean School, Alresford and had a typical Hampshire childhood – except for wonderful memories of times spent in hillbilly country and flying over for Christmas in a US Airforce plane, stopping in Iceland on the way!
The photo above is of Eddy and Marje celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in 1995. Sadly, they have both passed away and are commemorated together in St. John’s churchyard. Their older son, also called Eddy, says, ‘There’s a nice view from where they are – on one of the walls between the church and the path down to where the Civic Cinema used to be.’
Iris Crowfoot, Eddy and Richard Knasel
Further information on the 47th Infantry Regiment battles in 1944
Prior to the Battle of the Bulge, the 47th Infantry Regiment was positioned in the town of Schevenhutte, in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany for 2 months. From here they advanced further into Germany, and also fought for an old castle, the Frenzerburg Castle in November 1944. Private Sheridan of the 47th Infantry Regiment was mortally wounded during this battle, but received the Medal of Honor for his actions here.
After the 47th Infantry Regiment took the Castle, they were pulled off the front line to get some ‘rest’. Their ‘rest’ however, would be the Battle of the Bulge.