US 82nd Airborne Division
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Quorn on February 14th, 1944. Their camp was on the Farnham estate, now owned by Rosemary Conley. The entrance was where the current opening for Northage Close (off Wood Lane) is now. The sergeant's mess was at what is now 27 Meeting Street.
The paratroopers departed two and a half months later on Monday May 29th 1944 to prepare for D-Day (operation Overlord, specifically at St Mere Eglise) and after a month fighting in Normandy they returned Quorn victorious. But the cost was high. Two-hundred and twenty men were killed in action out of a total of two-thousand.
They left Quorn again on Friday, September 15th 1944 to parachute into Holland (operation Market Garden, mainly centred around Nijmegen, Holland), never to return to Quorn as soldiers.
The village took the American paratroopers to their hearts. There is a plaque in the Memorial Gardens, upon which a wreath is placed each year on remembrance Sunday. There is also an avenue of lime trees in Stafford Orchard (the village park) in remembrance of those American soldiers that died, together with a plaque (as illustrated).
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Below is an article written by Deryk Wills in 2006
Deryk lives in Leicester, he is a member of the British Legion and has written a marvellous book about the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, called 'Put on Your Boots and Parachutes'. He is an Honorary Life Member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and also of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and is responsible for organising their UK tours.
On February 14th, 1944, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Quorn and the village has never been the same since. The young paratroopers had already been in action against some of the best German troops in Sicily and Italy and proved they were as tough as they come. Their next assignment was to parachute into in Normandy the night before D-Day to spearhead the invasion of Europe and take the German Army on again. The 505th settled down under canvas in the fields off Wood Lane surrounded by a stone wall, The paratroopers immediately took over the public houses and a love affair started between the Yanks and the villagers.
After North Africa, Sicily and Italy this was the first place where they could relax with the local population. To them this became their home and even today, over sixty years later, they look on it as their 'second home'. Every time they come to England the request is to visit Quorn. I have had these battle-hardened old timers openly shed tears when they walk through the fields of their old campsite, remembering the good times and the men they had lost in later battles. The local population remember them with great affection and in 1994, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, I was instrumental in bringing over one hundred veterans back to the village where they proudly marched down the main road led by their own Regimental Colour Guard, especially brought over from the States, to dedicate the Memorial Stone that is beside the village War Memorial. The locals turned out to cheer them on and everybody finished up in the White Horse for lunch and a few beers.
When they gather together and Quorn is mentioned the stories of their time in the village are recalled, such as the large number of pubs in the village, the fish and chip shop and the girls. One of the paratroopers, Frank Bilich from Chicago, told me many years later: "We enjoyed the social of the pubs with the sing songs with everybody joining in. There were no English men around as they were all in the services. The pubs were full of girls, ATS, WAAFS and the Land Army. It was just heaven.
One thing I remember about the English is that nobody 'bitched' about anything, and they had it tough with their food rationing and they had already been at war for four years." The village baker, Eric 'Dud' Tomlyn, was kept busy baking fruit cakes, doughnuts and the two foot long white bread loafs with the ingredients being supplied by the 505 cooks. The young baker's daughter, 'Billie' had a constant supply of chewing gum which caused many sticky problems in the village school. Eventually it was banned and the children were punished with the cane being caught with it. Billie remembers suffering that fate.
The paratroopers were a pretty wild bunch. They were mostly farm boys who had lived during the hard times of the depression and had volunteered for the Airborne for the extra $50 a month jump pay and they were told right at the onset as they were going to be the initial shock troops in any operation, they were expendable. To them being in the army was better than their life on the farms, these days they could spend an extra hour in bed, have a decent pair of boots on their feet and money in their pockets.
On Monday May 29th the 505th left for the airfields to prepare for D-Day and after thirty-three days fighting in Normandy they returned to Quorn victorious, but the cost was high, two-hundred and twenty were killed in action out of a total of two-thousand men. They left Quorn again on Friday, September 15th to parachute into Holland, never to return as soldiers. In fact they had only been in the village for just over two-hundred days and made a lasting impression on the village of Quorn. Even though in 2006 they were all over eighty years of age, six veterans returned that year. They just could not keep away from their second home.-Quorn.