Hambone Junior and Company

It’s Remembrance Sunday today – a day for remembering and honouring those who sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom. Since June 6th, I’ve been blogging about Alresford’s memories of the American soldiers who came here to prepare for the D-Day invasion in 1944 and today I’ve compiled a roll of honour for Hambone Junior and Company

Hambone Junior was the mascot of the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Division, US Army. He was a ‘brown and white scruffy little terrier’ who lived in their camp in The Dene, Alresford until June 1944. He was accidentally run over by a ‘deuce and a half’ truck as the troops mobilised for D-Day and was buried beside the River Arle, which runs nearby. At first his grave was marked by a wooden memorial, but when that rotted away in 1962 the council replaced it with a proper headstone. Several GIs returned to the town for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994, and one of them left flowers on Hambone Junior’s grave with the note, ‘I still remember you, Bill‘.

Wally Weilenbeck  was a soldier who lived in the camp in The Dene. Ann Hone, who lived with her grandparents in The Dene Arms pub during the war, has fond memories of being fed chocolate by the soldiers and given rides in the US Army jeeps with her mother. Wally befriended her family and kindly sent Ann a beautiful doll when he returned safely to the USA. He went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam in the 47th Infantry Regiment – Forest Gump’s regiment in the film of the same name.

Eddy Knasel was a sergeant in the 47th Infantry Regiment. He led a unit of GIs who maintained Sherman tanks in the camp in The Dene. The tanks were delivered by rail to Alresford Station, then after servicing they were lined up along The Avenue, before driving on to the Winchester by-pass and down to Southampton for embarkation. His sons, Eddy Junior and Richard, remember his service in The Battle of The Bulge, Remagen and after the war, he acted as a translator for the military police as they gathered evidence for Nurenberg War trials. Eddy married a local girl, Marjorie Small, and settled here. They are commemorated together in St. Johns churchyard.

Dwight Eisenhower  (Supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe) came to Alresford with Field Marshall Montgomery to inspect the troops along The Avenue. Sybil Philpot remembers standing with the other in Perin’s school to watch. General Eisenhower became the 34th President of the USA after the war.

Omar Bradley  (Commander of all US ground forces invading Germany from the west) visited Northington Grange, which was the US Ninth Army headquarters. Prime Minister Winston Churchill held a planning meeting with General Bradley and General Eisenhower in the ballroom. Jim Smith remembers exploring the HQ at Northington Grange and finding ammunition dumps in the nearby woods at Abbotstone.

Walter Kraft (Captain 47th Infantry Regiment), Elvin Martin (Soldier US Army) and Ambrose Speer (Staff Sergeant US Air Force) are remembered in the Parish registers of St. Johns Church Alresford and St. Nicholas Church Bishop’s Sutton, for they married their sweethearts. Alresford’s GI brides were intrepid girls and travelled as far as Hawaii and Alaska with their husbands after the war.

Joe Louis (Sergeant US Army) was the world heavyweight boxing champion during the war years. He staged exhibition bouts throughout Southern England to entertain and inspire the troops during the build-up to D-Day. Thousands of US soldiers (and one small boy from Cheriton) congregated at Cheesefoot Head to watch him box in April 1944. Joe Louis insisted that black and white soldiers were not segregated in the audience (as they were in the US Army) and became a civil rights campaigner after the war.

Earl Rasmussen, Johnnie Defreitas, Harold Nelson, Danny Forte were US soldiers based in the camp at Tichbourne House. They were good friends to Harold Young, who remembers them going on rigorous marches in training for the conflict to come – and sharing their Chesterfield cigarettes with him on their return. Harold’s wife Pat loved to hear the soldiers singing  their call-and-response cadence as they marched through town. Both Harold and Pat remember the soldiers throwing down their English money for the local kids to pick up as they marched through Broad Street for the last time, on their way to battle.

Many other un-named American soldiers passed through the town during this time, in order to prepare for the biggest amphibious invasion in history. These young men, mostly in the early twenties, could have been daunted by formidable task ahead of them, but Alresford’s memories are simply of their friendliness and generosity at a time when we really needed their help.

Iris Crowfoot

Just messing about on the river

Here’s Big Minnow making friends with Ruby the Labrador, paddling in the river on Saturday. I had to smile at the image when I interviewed Jim Smith that evening, for he was about the same age when he met a soldier by the river in Abbotstone back in 1943.

‘Do you want a trout for your supper, lad?’ the soldier asked.

‘Well, I wasn’t bothered,’ Jim told me. ‘Father worked on the water anyway. But the soldier still threw in a hand-grenade and up the fish came!’

Growing up in Bishop’s Sutton during the war, Jim made the most of the freedom afforded by a lack of grown-ups to tell him off. He sneaked into Northington Grange (headquarters of the US Ninth Division) to look at the oak-panelling and gold-fittings. He explored the brick ammunition dumps in the woods around Abbotstone and survived to tell the tale. And when he crawled through the hedge to get into the army camp in Bishops Sutton, they invited him to dinner.

‘They lived like kings and they shared it. They would put a plate out for me, whenever they ate.’

Little Jim was also an entrepreneur: he started with two chickens (Henny-Penny who laid one egg a day and Henny-Tuppence who laid two) and sold their eggs to the cook-house at 6/- a dozen. When he expanded his flock, he was given wooden boxes from the camp to recycle into a new henhouse.

The army camp at Bishop’s Sutton was a rest camp: many different units came here to recover for a few weeks before going out into the war zone. First the black Americans, then the white Americans, then the Canadians passed through. After the war, each family in the village received a big tin of cocoa from a Canadian unit which had stayed there. Later, Jim managed to get hold of a box of paints and a sketch pad to paint this map of the camp between Water Lane and Bishop’s Sutton Road from memory (Water Lane is at the bottom).

bishopssuttoncamp

But that was enough of military logistics, I wanted to ask Jim the million-dollar question. ‘Did the Bishop’s Sutton soldiers have a mascot like Hambone Junior, the dog who lived in the camp in The Dene?’

‘No, they didn’t need one,’ he replied. ‘They had me!’

Iris Crowfoot and Jim Smith

Does anyone still remember Bill?

Photograph courtesy of Winchester City Council: Hampshire Record Office: W/C35/5/18

I found this archive photo of Hambone Junior’s grave in Alresford. It’s tucked away in a manilla folder in the Hampshire Record Office. I believe it may show two of Hambone Junior’s comrades who returned to the town in June 1994 to commemorate the 50th Annivesary of D-Day.

The clues I have about their story are:

  • Alex Hankin recorded the following in the Wessex Film and Sound Archive in 1999:

‘The dog was run over by a military truck and died. It was buried where the memorial stands, and flowers were always left. When the wooden cross rotted away, the Alresford community decided to erect a small memorial stone. On the 50th Anniversary of D-Day a bunch of flowers arrived with a note: “I still remember you, Bill.”. Alex does not know who left the flowers and message.’

  • Hambone’s headstone was unveiled by the American Vice Consul in Southampton in 1962, and so the photograph must have been taken later than that.
  • Photographs of the D-Day commemoration event in Broad Street, 5th June 1994, which was organised by the Alresford Chamber of Commerce. Local people have told me that they remember some of the original GIs returning to the town to participate.

Does anyone recognise either of the men in this photograph? Anyone remember a GI called Bill coming back to Alresford? It would be great to identify Hambone Junior’s comrades in time for Veterans Day next Friday – great to be able to say, ‘We still remember you Bill!’

Iris Crowfoot

Sources

Memories of Mr Alex Hankin recorded 22/09/1999, Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Alresford Museum Photograph Gallery, D-Day Commemoration 1994

Hampshire Hogs and Hambone’s successor

Here’s a happy sow and her piglets at Manor Farm near Bursledon. During our tour of the farm animals, Little Minnow loved throwing pig nuts into their concrete sty. We discovered that this wouldn’t have been an option during WWII, because animal feeding stuffs were redirected for human consumption. Instead, ‘Pig Clubs’ were started: the members would pool their money to buy a piglet, share the labour to care for it, supply the kitchen scraps to be cooked up into pig swill to feed it, then share the meat when it was slaughtered. But it takes a lot of kitchen scraps to feed a pig and under wartime rationing, there wasn’t a lot to spare.

One enterprising Hampshire resident found a novel way to keep his hogs fed. Les Harness, of Grange Park Northington, was a regular visitor to the various U.S. camps around Alresford collecting their kitchen leftovers.  A mess meal for a GI looked like almost a week’s worth of rations to the British and I’ve read that people were horrified when they saw the Americans stub out their cigarettes on leftover food on their plates. But Hambone Junior’s comrades were generous, even helping Les with his petrol ration when they spent three weeks away from Alresford training under canvas, so that he could carry on collecting all the waste food for his pigs. Les repaid their generosity when the men were upset by Hambone Junior’s death in a road accident a few weeks before D-Day. He gave them a puppy from a litter which had recently been born at Northington Grange. They named their new pet ‘Spider’ and it was young Spider who departed for Southampton and Normandy with the 47th Regiment in June 1944.

Iris Crowfoot

Sources:

Wartime Farm: rediscovering the skills of World War II, P. Ginn, R. Goodnam and A. Langlands

About Alresford THE 47TH U.S. INFANTRY IN ALRESFORD, H.C. and F.M. Kent

What did Hambone Junior look like?

Sarah Bridges, owner of Sarah’s Sandwich Shop in West Street, has lived and worked in Alresford all her life. I asked her what she could remember about the Hambone Junior legend.

‘I can remember going along the river path as we were children and it was always fascinating. But it wasn’t until I was an adult I even knew what it was all about.’

‘Any of the charity quizzes in Alresford and Hambone comes up. And so I looked him up online after a quiz.’

I looked him up online too, and discovered that he  is remembered as a ‘brown and white, scruffy little terrier’, whose original name was Whisky and who belonged to a lady friend of the American troops. When the GIs adopted him as a regimental pet, they re-named him in honour of a cook whose nickname was Hambone.

Sarah kindly agreed that Pike could photograph Talluah, her lovely brown and white Jack Russell x Chihuahua, for this blog. Nobody could call Tallulah a ‘scruffy little terrier’ in her smart red and white bandana though, could they?

Iris Crowfoot

Sources:

Sarah’s Sandwich Shop

Tribute to the 47th Infantry Regiment 9th Division

Alresford Heritage