West Bay Discovery Centre, West Bay, Bridport, DT6 4EN.

The GI’s say farewell to West Bay

Published by Editor on

Our current exhibition ‘West Bay in the War’ has attracted many visitors. It looks at West Bay’s coastal defences, food rationing and the recollections of local people and GI’s living in West Bay. In November 1943 the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment US arrived in Dorset and were billeted all over the Bridport area. Company F were stationed in West Bay. It was the start of 7 months of gruelling training. Living in such a small community until May 1944 they grew close to the locals and there was sadness on both sides when they left West Bay for the last time.

Sgt Don Wilson captured his thoughts when the GI’s left West Bay for the last time:

The trucks rolled into the tiny hamlet of West Bay, around the corner past the little white church, and pulled up next to each other in the widest area of the quayside. At 0500 on this mid-May 1944 morning in southern England there was damp chill in the air, borne along by the grey-white fog drifting down from the meadowland above the tiny harbour. Company F had fallen out reveille at 0400, full field packs, weapons, duffel bags packed for storage with non-essentials. The word was that this was a final stage to a sealed area. We had moved out the same fashion several times before with our practice training runs but this time it felt different. This was the real McCoy. Attitudes had changed, orders were crisper and more direct, while idle chatter had all but disappeared. We knew it and we were ready. It was time.

I recall a particular sadness as we left. It was a deeper, more painful feeling than when I left Penn Station in New York a couple of years before. I would miss the little harbour, the quaint cottages and their tiny gardens, the West Bay Hotel with its piano and dart board and ration day and the fish and chips. But, above all, I would miss the British people, young and old, who treated us so well, who lived such simple lives, and yet were, apart from the war, seemingly content.

West Bay in the War Exhibition will run until the end of June 2024.


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