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Memories of the USA 82nd Airborne in Quorn – Looking back 76 years!

Mary Totman (nee Webster) and her sister grew up in Quorn in WW2. The family had moved from Leicester in 1937, to a semi detached house at 2 Loughborough Road, Quorn and their father, William Webster ran his plumbing business from a workshop in the yard. In 1944 when Mary was twelve years old 2,000 American paratroopers from 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment descended on Quorn.

On 11th November 2020 Mary spoke at the remembrance ceremony at her retirement home in Canada about the impact that the war and the Americans had on Quorn. She has been kind enough to share these memories with Quorn Village On-line Museum.

The photograph is Mary in 1947 when she was at Rawlins Grammar School.

Mary’s Account
I grew up in Quorn, a village of 3,000 people – and 13 pubs! We were spared the heavy bombing which took place in many communities during World War 2. Food, clothing and petrol were rationed, and we all had gas masks; and evacuees also came to Quorn.

Two incidents seemed to bring the war closer to us: one was the sound of the big anti-aircraft guns in Derby, about 20 miles away, as they defended the Rolls Royce factory there; and the other was the all-encompassing red sky when Coventry (30 miles away) was burning.

But on 14th February 1944 something happened which had a significant impact on us all: 2,000 members of the US 82nd Airborne Parachute Infantry Regiment came and lived in tents in the grounds of the local manor house. The effect on our small village was immediate. I was only 12 at the time, but I clearly remember that if we saw the soldiers on the street in their glamorous (to us) uniforms, we would shout “got any gum, chum” and they were always very generous! Families would invite a couple of soldiers for tea/supper, and one who visited us was thrilled to be able to play the piano – something he hadn’t been able to do for quite a while.

I also remember the bus which ran to the nearby town of Loughborough. It was so small that, when it was full inside, soldiers climbed onto the roof, or hung on the outside of the door and the rear of the bus – so keen were they to go to a proper town. No one was ever charged!

And then – on 29th May there was silence in the village. The soldiers had left overnight. My father said “The invasion must be close”, and of course it was. Only 1,400 soldiers returned, and on 15th September they all went to Holland to continue fighting there.

In 1952 an avenue of trees was planted to commemorate the presence of the American troops and in 2010 a metal arch was erected in tribute to their contribution to the war. When I visited Quorn about ten years ago I saw both, and it was very poignant for me. I thought of those men with sadness and regret, but above all with overwhelming gratitude.

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 Submitted on: 2020-11-13
 Submitted by: Mary Totman (nee Webster)
 Artefact ID: 2419
 Artefact URL: www.quornmuseum.com/display.php?id=2419
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own (new browser tab).

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