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Life in Aldbourne during WW2 by David Webster

June 6th 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy that began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual Allied victory in World War Two.

As many Aldbourne residents know, among the American troops stationed here from 1943 until the summer of 1944, were men of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, aka the “Screaming Eagles”.

Though there were many units billeted locally, most well known, due to the very successful TV miniseries “Band of Brothers”, were men of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th.

This TV series derived from the book of the same name, written in 1992 by historian Stephen Ambrose. One key source was the memoir of Easy Company soldier David Kenyon Webster.

Webster originally trained with Fox Company (see veteran Bob Noody’s recent visit), who were also stationed in Aldbourne, and he jumped on D-Day with Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, then requested a transfer to Easy Company and served in the Company until discharged in 1945.

Webster’s memoirs, though unpublished during Stephen Ambrose’s period of research, eventually appeared in print as “Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich” in 1994.

Recently a copy has been found, in the attic of the Court House, of Webster’s highly detailed draft account of being stationed in Aldbourne. Forwarded onto us by the Fitch family, it appears (verification much appreciated) that only a much shortened version of this diary then appeared in the book mentioned above. Though a facsimile, it appears to bear the handwritten notes and edits of David Webster himself, and was written when he was back in the States, living in Los Angeles.

Sadly, David Webster died relatively young, in a boating accident in 1961. We have been able, with the kind assistance of Marianne Adey, to contact his first wife, Barbara Embree, still resident in California. We are enormously indebted to her, as she has given her blessing to making this fascinating account of wartime life in Aldbourne available to you, here on your village website (see download link below).

Entitled “Aldbourne’s Awakening”, this document provides an astonishingly vivid snapshot of life in and around the village during the build up to the Allied invasion of Europe. It would be very interesting to know if it has ever been published in full before, so if anyone can provide any further insight into the document please do contact us, it would be much appreciated.

The document runs to 24 pages, consequently the file size is larger than normal, so please be patient whilst it downloads. We will endeavour, in due course, to get a transcript composed that will reduce the file size and make the download easier.

Thanks once again to the Fitch family, and Marianne Adey, for helping bring this fascinating slice of wartime history back to life.

Posted by: RB on 6th June 2014