Wednesday, 15 June 2011

So many American soldiers who left Weymouth for France were killed

WEYMOUTH and Portland has just held a variety of events to mark the anniversary of D-Day.

So many American soldiers who left Weymouth for France were killed in the most horrific of circumstances as they stormed ashore on the invasion beaches of Normandy.

Death seemed to be everywhere, not least for British servicemen piloting some of the landing craft.

I’m told of one man who took his craft in loaded with US soldiers only to see craft on either side of him blown apart by German shells.

So much carnage took its toll and he became almost philosophical, expecting to die any second as he piloted his craft to the beaches.

Inevitably there were many bodies in the water and the man was able grab one and take some of the dead soldier’s rations to eat because he didn’t expect to survive long enough to eat later.

Being British he offered part of the chocolate bar he had found to the US soldiers in his craft but they were horrified at his gesture and turned it down because the bar had blood on it.

The man took no offence and went on to actually survive the landings.

Mr Cool leaves them trailing in his wake

THEY came in their suits sporting clipboards and goodwill, a posse of helpers who fluttered round legendary Lord Coe as the famous athlete and Olympic boss visited Weymouth Beach.

He was visibly impressed by Weymouth and Portland’s enthusiastic approach to the 2012 Games which will see the sailing events hosted here.

Unfortunately his entourage was less impressed by the conditions they encountered as they stepped confidently from the Esplanade only to flounder in a sea of sand as they slogged bravely forward in the wake of Lord Coe as he took to the beach.

Paris salon shoes and sandals filled with sand while bright young things wilted in the cauldron of sun tan lotion and ice-cream and more than one distraught Personal Under Secretary – PUS for short – was seen to desperately pause and empty sand from her shoes.

How delightful it therefore was to see Seb dump his tie, wow everyone he met and leave the white collar minders trailing in his wake.

He got a gold medal because class is permanent but others were clearly struggling to match his ease.

Beware of the dog!

YOU could barely move along Weymouth harbourside or in Hope Square as crowds flocked to enjoy the popular Wessex Folk Festival.

Bands and soloists entertained on stages, individuals did their own impromptu performances and floating dresses, beards and sandals were displayed with gusto. Quite right too.

The whole atmosphere was relaxed, enjoyable and friendly… until the morris dancers started on Trinity Road.

Now a number of my acquaintances are into morris dancing which, in technical terms, involves stick bashing, hankie waving and a lot of prancing to make clusters of leg bells chime, all accompanied by music.

Their efforts are much appreciated by loyal supporters, but no sooner had the morris group I was watching started up than a passer-by voiced his disapproval.

He said: “Bark, bark, GROWL!” which sort of got people’s attention quite quickly.

The more the morris dancers got into their routine, the more this clearly bewildered dog took grave exception to it.

There was no danger because the dog was on a lead and, apart from the growling, was well behaved, but it was the looks on the morris dancers’ faces that got me as they took it in turn to come within range of the dog.

Their leaps seemed a little higher then and it wasn’t until the dog was led from the area that, with smiles all round, they seemed to relax a bit more. All the fun of the festival, eh!

Raising the flags

OXFORD versus Cambridge for the annual boat race along the Thames is probably one of the most famous of sporting clashes.

You can watch it on everything from your television to your mobile phone, but it was not always possible to have such technological access for a sort of instant “row by row” account of what was going on.

Nearly a century ago there was no television and modern communication in Weymouth was limited to a few crystal radio sets owned by the grander hotels.

But boat race fans could still find out what had happened very quickly… because it was all in the flags.

One look at places such as the Royal Hotel and people knew instantly what had happened. One woman advises me that the top hotels displayed flags to show which team had won and by how much based on information gleaned from the crystal sets and transferred to a flagpole so as many people as possible could know what had happened.

She said there was great excitement at the time when the flags went up and everyone found out whether it was Oxford or Cambridge who had triumphed.

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