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D Day Preparations in St. Mawes

Landing craft and personnel started arriving in August 1943 consisting of 25 Officers, 60 boat crews (240 men) and 67 admin staff. They were billeted in the Ship and Castle and Idle Rocks Hotels and in various houses. By November more crews and officers had arrived and suddenly 700 US Naval personnel were living in St. Mawes. ”Their mission was to assemble, maintain and operate a flotilla of landing craft and give training to the crews handling the craft”

To accommodate all these people the 29th US Naval Construction Battalion constructed, within weeks, a small town on the fields above Freshwater Lane. This Included a camp for 661 men, recreation buildings, an armoury, a dance hall, a hospital station, shops, storehouses, gun mounts, a water supply, and other utilities. The American Red Cross provided a reading room in Pomery’s Garage. They also built a pontoon at Polvarth on the Percuil river.

St Mawes pier, quay and harbour were designated as the US Naval Advance Amphibious Training Sub-Base. Weather permitting at low tide, daily boat handling exercises took place with six-wheeled (DUKW) amphibious transport and LCM’s (Landing Craft Mechanised). They rehearsed beaching the craft on to the sand in the harbour as if they were on the Normandy beaches.

During this time life changed for St Mawes residents with locals finding new jobs supporting the visitors. Rene Wulchuk washed and ironed 20 US naval uniforms by hand every day for one shilling (five pence) and Melville Chester repaired shoes in his shop on Hillhead. Locals also benefitted from the exotic American goods arriving in the village, having been on rations for several years.

The camp was decommissioned before D Day, after only 9 months. The craft and personnel left overnight and suddenly the village fell quiet again and returned to a sleepy fishing village once more.

Personnel of the 29th US Naval Construction Battalion stationed in St. Mawes:

1st May 1944:  1 officer 30 men

1st June 1944:  1 officer 13 men

1st July 1944:  1 officer 31 men

1st August 1944:  Departed St. Mawes and returned to US in September before being deployed in the Pacific.

See document: 29th Naval Construction Battalion Historical Information