Blue plaque installed for former American president who played his part in D-Day

PUBLISHED: 15:55 26 August 2020

Weston's mayoress and mayor, Ivan Jeffery and John Crockford-Hawley. Picture: Weston Town Council

Weston's mayoress and mayor, Ivan Jeffery and John Crockford-Hawley. Picture: Weston Town Council

Archant

A blue plaque was unveiled in Weston Woods to mark the night a former American president slept in a caravan in the town.

Colin Parish was also in attendance with an Austin 104 from 1933 classic car. Picture: Weston Town CouncilColin Parish was also in attendance with an Austin 104 from 1933 classic car. Picture: Weston Town Council

General Dwight Eisenhower stayed one night near the water tower in Weston Woods in 1944 on the way to the D-Day landings as part of his role as Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Local historian and councillor John Crockford-Hawley gave the history behind the plaque at its unveiling on August 20.

Colin Parish was also in attendance with an Austin 104 from 1933 classic car. He is looking for anyone who once owned the car who lives in Weston.

The mayor Mark Canniford and mayoress completed the ceremony with the support of 10-year-old Ivan Jeffery, who belongs to Airborne Misfits Living History Reenactment Group.

Eisenhower is the only American president to have set foot in Weston.

The town was filled with American servicemen in 1944. Officers were billeted in hotels while other ranks slept under canvass in Ellenborough Park.

Far from throwing around his status, Eisenhower opted to sleep in a caravan parked near the water tower in the woods, in the midst of military vehicles huddled under tree cover and along the Toll Road.

Following the war, Eisenhower became NATO’s first Supreme Commander and then President of the United States from 1953-1961.

Ivan Jeffery, aged 10, of the Airborne Misfits Living History Reenactment Group, who helped unveil the plaque. Picture: Weston Town CouncilIvan Jeffery, aged 10, of the Airborne Misfits Living History Reenactment Group, who helped unveil the plaque. Picture: Weston Town Council

Cllr Crockford-Hawley said: “It is amazing when you think that all of Eisenhower and his troops movements were kept secret from the enemy.

“Weston played its role in that part of the war, and in hosting the man who was destined to become president of the most powerful country in the world.

“He may not have stayed here for a long time, or was responsible for developing the town, but the fact that he came here and slept in Weston Woods I think is something we really ought to remember and commemorate.”

It is the second blue plaque to be installed in the town this month following on from Weston Town Council and Weston Civic Society presenting a plaque for former lord of the manor, John Hugh Smyth-Pigott, at Grove House on August 10.

The blue plaque for Dwight Eisenhower. Picture: Weston Town CouncilThe blue plaque for Dwight Eisenhower. Picture: Weston Town Council

Cllr Canniford added: “So many people who live in Weston would not have a clue that Dwight was here. This gives us some real depth, Weston has so much to show and offer when you wander round the town and start realising the importance it played in the history of Great Britain and the wider world.”

An audio tour of all the town’s blue plaques is now on the town council’s website, written and narrated by councillor Crockford-Hawley.

To listen to the tour, click here.


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