We Few, We happy Few….

I recently posted a comment or two on the last post of OldAFSarge (“Where do we go from here?”) where I made reference to a new acquaintance I made yesterday, Clive Stevens, a local amateur historian with special knowledge of the acclaimed work of the eminent American author, Dr Stephen E Ambrose.

Clive Stevens grew up in Wiltshire, England. As a senior at college, he embarked upon detailed research into the history of the American military who were based in England during World War 2. He started with the American Parachute Infantry Regiments for no better reason than so many people in his community had first hand knowledge of the `friendly occupation` as it was sometimes known. For Clive grew up near the village of Aldbourne, which Lexicans may recall was where the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, United Staes Army were based for their advanced tactical training in preparation for the invasion of Normandy on June 6th 1944. Easy Company is now immortalised in the TV mini series, “Band of Brothers”.

I thought it would be interesting to add a little of Clive’s work by posting an extract from a 2004 publication of his entitled `The Gathering of Eagles`

`In June 1991, as a prelude to the publication [of band of Brothers] Dr Ambrose led a trans Atlantic tour made up of three Easy Company veterans and a group of historians from the University of New Orleans; the object of the trip being to trace the path of Easy company from their beginnings in Toccoa, GA, through to their capture of Hitler’s `Eagles Nest` in Berchtesgaden.

Sadly the tour was not scheduled to include Aldbourne, but following a meeting in London between Marlborough amateur historian Neil Stevens [Clive’s brother] and the three veterans of Easy Company, a detour was hastily arranged. Therefore, the following day the tour group made a fleeting visit to the village en route from Aldershot to Portsmouth for the cross channel ferry to Normandy. During the brief visit that followed, the group toured the village on foot, visited the last remaining stable block at High Town [a troops billet] and partook in the church fete on the village green. Neil then gave the three VIP veterans, namely Dick Winters, Don Malarkey and Carwood Lipton, a whistlestop tour of their old haunts in a WW2 Willy’s Jeep, before posing for photographs in the jeep in front of the stable block. The date was Saturday June 29th 1991 and for Dick Winters it was his first return to the village since WW2. Upon his return home Dick wrote the following to Neil:

“It was very nice of you, your parents and friends to go to the trouble of making an extra effort to make our visit to Aldbourne a very special and emotional day. I have never seen Aldbourne in such a festive mood. It was wonderful to see all the children having a good time at the puppet show on the village green, the happy faces at the flea market tables and a regular crowd of people in every direction you turned. The jeep ride you gave us to the surrounding hillsides and the view down onto the village, all bringing back good memories. All of these factors are the same reasons why, as we were returning to Aldbourne after the Normandy campaign, we all felt as if we were returning to our home”

By the end of 1991 Ambrose’s book was finished and upon publication in 1992 it sold extensively throughout the world. Despite this international exposure it would be almost 10 years before Stephen Spielberg, captivated by Ambrose’s work, set about creating the most expensive dramatisation ever made for television.`

Of course, what followed Mr Speilberg’s HBO tv series made the aforementioned veterans something approaching Hollywood- style celebrities. It must have been a massive shock after so many years. So, fellow Lexicans and others, I hope you enjoyed this little peep behind, or perhaps that should be ahead of the `Band of Brothers` at a time before the book was published and when comparatively few people had ever heard of them.  It is stories like this that make me passionate about how our history was shaped and the importance of remembrance of those who shaped it.

14 Comments

Filed under History, Paratroopers

14 responses to “We Few, We happy Few….

  1. Rick Lobbes

    Brilliant. Thanks, Mate.

  2. Old AF Sarge

    Brilliant HD. Somehow I knew you’d turn your comment into an excellent post. Well done!

  3. Dan Henningsen

    Wonderful post!

  4. thcarr

    Here is a video of that trip, I stumbled across it several weeks ago and I as read this post I was reminded of it.

  5. Bill Brandt

    It wasn’t until he died that I found out – years later – that a neighbor of mine, Clarence Hester, was in this now famous company. Went to school with his daughter. Hester had a roofing business of many years, and never made mention of his service.

    Reminds me of the story of John Bradley, made famous by his son James in Flags Of Our Fathers”.

    It was only after his father died, and they are going through the attic, they tat discovered the extent of his wartime service – he was the Navy Corpsman, one of the 6, made infamous by the Joe Rosenthal photo of the 6 flag raisers – 5 Marines and one Navy Corpsman, at Iwo Jima.

    Growing up, when the calls from reporters came with each anniversary of Iwo, he was told to tell them that “my father is fishing in Canada”.

  6. Buck

    As the others said, Hogday… brilliant. Thank you for this.

  7. Hogday

    Wow. Thanks to thcarr for adding that amazing video. The young man driving the jeep is Neil Stevens, Clive’s brother. It was filmed by their father. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post. I will prepare some follow-ups.

  8. virgil xenophon

    Late here, but great stuff! Btw, Fwiw, I took an American Hist course under Ambrose at LSU in spring, ’65 when he was a newly-minted PhD out of Wisc.
    (He played football at UW iirc, or maybe it was HS ball) before he grew his hair long, went to Kansas (KU) and became anti-war for a period before ending up at the lakefront in New Orleans at U of New Orleans as a born-again pro-muilitary guy. (He was biorn just 50 mi north of me in Decatur, Ill, btw.) He was a great and highly animated instructor at that time and really made a required course, the topic of which I’d had over & over in grade school, Jr High and HS, totally “unboring” with many colorful anecdotes about the Revolutionary period the subject of which I’d previously been unaware.. Aced the course, btw (he said as he walked away patting himself on the back, lol, as if anyone cares..it is to brag.)

    • Bill Brandt

      VX, his book on George McGovern – The Wild Blue will surprise you about McGovern, as a pilot of a B-24.

      Also made me realize that the 15AAF deserves a lot more credit than it has gotten, being overshadowed by the 8th.

  9. virgil xenophon

    PS: Snake, if you stop by, you see I’ve recaptured my AF Blue Avatar, lol.

    • Hogday

      VX, that is really interesting stuff re you and Mr Ambrose.
      BillB: His book about Crazy Horse and Custer is a must-read too. btw and off topic, I managed to source a copy of that book about Hep by her son. Excellent, thanks.

    • Snake Eater

      …a classic example how small things can and do mean a lot to our less fortunate brethern…oh…and happy Easter my Zoomie friend. Best, Frank C.

  10. scottthebadger

    Steven Ambrose was from Whitewater, WI, which made him a Badger. Badgers are everywhere!

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