Somewhere in the Midlands

On the 7th December 1941 the events at Pearl Harbour altered the United States position with regard to the war in Europe. Four days after Congress had declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. America found herself involved in a war on two fronts. This resulted in plans being made to send troops both to the Pacific and to the British Isles.

By the spring of 1942 large numbers of American troops began arriving in the UK. In order to prepare for the planned American air offensive against Germany, a large-scale airfield construction programme was undertaken to accommodate the fighter and bomber forces and their personnel. Many former RAF stations were upgraded and transferred to the 8th and later 9th USAAF. In addition, the USAAF administered a number of support installations such as Headquarters, Quartermaster depots and supply and maintenance depots.

The subject of this book is the main Air Force Signal Supply Depot that was located in Smethwick, a small industrial town in the Midlands, from the summer of 1943 until the end of the war. Its function was to store, supply, maintain and repair signal equipment used by the American airforces in England.

Somewhere in the Midlands chronicles the day to day running of USAAF Station 522 and recounts the experiences of the men of the 879th, 892nd and 908th Signal Depot Companies that were based there. It also looks at the sociological effects that the American Unit had on the locality of Smethwick and Bearwood, one of those being the numerous Anglo-American weddings. 

The Base was in use until October 1945 as storage, supply and repair depot for Air Force equipment. It was responsible for supplying all the radio and radar equipment for the American air bases around the country. After D-Day a contingent of men from Smethwick was sent to the continent where they carried out similar duties.

Behind these gigantic air assaults lies a story, not spectacular enough for headlines, but none the less essential - the story of supplies, and what particularly concerns us in this history, signal supplies. The roaring towmotors and bustling GIs weaving in and out of the long rows of stacked crates and boxes accounted for the very creditable shipping figures, all the result of solid work days interrupted only by the one hour a day spent marching up to Guest Keen's Recreation Grounds for a snappy drill session or other training activity.


Official History of Station 522

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ISBN 1-85858-119-2

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