Memories of African American GIs in Gaddesby and Melton during WW2

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New research at the University of Leicester is looking to find people with memories about the daily lives of Black American soldiers based in the villages around Gaddesby Hall and Melton Mowbray in the Second World War.

During 1943 and 1944 over 1000 African American soldiers working in a number of Quartermaster and Engineer Units were based at Gaddesby Hall and other villages surrounding the US Airforce base near Melton Mowbray. With their huge green trucks and jeeps they were a familiar sight as they ferried everything from building materials to bombs and ammunition around the local area.

They were also regular visitors to local village pubs and weekly dances in local village halls where they mingled with local people. Dr Liam McCarthy from the University of Leicester is researching a book about the experiences of these Black soldiers and their interactions with local people. He is keen to hear about any memories from the local area; 'I know the Black GIs were largely welcomed locally with their smart uniforms and Hollywood smiles, but I am keen to talk to any local people - who will now be in their 80s and 90s - to fill in some of the blanks for me'. In particular any photographs of the soldiers in dusty old family photo albums, letters from the soldiers or even memorabilia would be really useful to find.

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Dr McCarthy said 'On many occasions there were violent clashes with white American soldiers who were not at all happy to see local people being friendly to their Black compatriots'. This was an ugly side of life in the US military which was segregated into Black and white units until 1948. Many Black GIs went back to America and took up the struggle for civil rights.

Anyone with information can contact Liam at the university of Leicester via email [email protected] or by telephone on 07549 866104.