Wollaton Hall façade currently has scaffolding in place as part of programme works.

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508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

 

As part of D Day 80, commemorating the heroes of the Battle of Normandy, we thought we would share some events during the period in the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

At around midnight on the 10th March 1944 the men of the ‘All American’ 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment arrived at Nottingham’s Victoria Station. Waiting for them outside was a huge convoy of military trucks with police escorts that relayed the entire regiment of 2000+ paratroopers to its new base camp, Wollaton Park.

Wollaton Park was to be their home for the next three months, with time spent preparing for Operation Neptune, the airborne phase of Operation Overlord and the allied invasion of occupied Europe, D-Day.

The paratroopers regularly travelled into Nottingham and Beeston to sample the local hospitality with pubs, such as ‘The Hand and Heart’ on Derby Road and the ‘Café de Paris’ on Pelham Street being particular favourites.

Credit: 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

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On Sunday 28th May 7,000 citizens of Nottingham, mostly young ladies, travelled to Meadow Lane football ground to witness America’s national pastime, ‘Baseball’. They enjoyed a game between the 508th Red Devils and the 505th PIR Panthers (who were based in Loughborough). The Red Devils outclassed the Panthers 18-0.

At 11.30pm on the 5th June 1944 the 508th PIR travelled to Folkingham Airfield where they were loaded onto 132 Dakota C-47 transport aircraft bound for the Normandy countryside. After 33 days of ferocious fighting the ‘Red Devils’ returned to Wollaton Park suffering heavy losses. Out of the 2,056 paratroopers who took part in the airborne assault of Normandy, 1,061 were casualties with 307 killed in action.

On September 14th 1944 the 508th PIR left Wollaton Park again to participate in operation ‘Market Garden’. As they boarded the C-47 Dakota Transports at Langar airfield some of them wondered how long it would be before they returned. The men did not know it at the time, but as the planes left England bound for Holland the 508th PIR as a regiment would never again return to Nottingham and their ‘Tent City’ on Wollaton Park.

In 1945 a prisoner of war camp was set up on Wollaton Park to house 4,000 captured German soldiers. After the POW camp, Wollaton Park was used by the British Army as a headquarters for the North Midland District of the Northern Command until the early 1950’s.

Credit: Nottingham City Libraries – Local Studies Archives

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Interested to read more about Wollaton… 

Check out this article on ITV Central showing, ‘Fascinating footage shows American paratroopers in Wollaton ahead of D-Day‘.

Credit: William Nation Jr family. Family & Friends of the 508th

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