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Author Topic: GI44-45 Living History group [England]  (Read 14109 times)

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Offline Johnny_costino

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GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« on: November 06, 2009, 06:37:24 AM »
We are a group of UK based living historians who portray the GI of WW2. We aim to organize and attend various WW2 reenactments, engage in high quality living history, educate the public and keep alive the memory of those who made sacrifices during WW2.

Our living history impressions are such that we rebadge to suit an event or scenario. This enables us to avoid portraying just one unit and gives us flexibility to pay homage to ALL the citizen soldiers of WW2.

The purpose of this post is to forge links with other world-wide groups, and to work in partnership, swapping ideas and information. You can join and visit our group forum in England and we would welcome anybody to pay us a visit!

Meanwhile to let you all know that we are out there "doing things", loads of recent posts have been added to the GI44-45 forums reference thread...

Wanna know about who Kilroy was?
How to build a K ration crate?

Follow the hyperlink..

Paul Costin LGOP's


Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2009, 05:00:27 AM »
Due to demand, and I'm guessing because Cold winter months are on their way. A new thread has been created on the GI44-45 forum to allow members and non members to dicuss and arrange if they wish, online gaming..

Want to create a WW2 themed team death match? Visit the forum!!

reenactor.Net, THE Online, Worldwide Home of Living History

Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2009, 05:00:27 AM »
Lost Battalions (P)

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2009, 12:56:58 PM »
From Ben Major of our group-

Just a few pictures from GI 44-45's recent exhibition at Her Majesty's Prison Sudbury. The prison was used during WW2 by the 108th and 82d General Hospital to treat wounded USAAF personnel. It was officially opened as a prison in 1948, but the buildings are largely still the original ones used by the General Hospitals during WW2.

Our exhibition was set up in the theatre, which was originally built to host the numerous dances and USO shows. The dancefloor is the original, sprung wooden one laid by the builders, and many of the other buildings remain unchanged (apart from a re-render here and there). The walkways around the site are also still there, although their shelters have long since been removed.

This was certainly a different location for a WW2 event, and I think the prison were more than happy with the exhibition. There was a lot of interested mainly from the prison medical staff.

There's a full report to follow, but the pictures below should give a good impression of the event:

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2009, 04:05:47 PM »

On the 28th and 29th November 2009 GI44-45 held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Lincolnsfield children centre, Bushey Hertfordshire (England)

The Lincolnsfields Children?s Centre is based on the original WW2 site of Bushey Hall-Headquarters of the 8th U.S.A.A.F. Fighter Command [Codename AJAX], from 1942 to 1946, as a World War II non-flying facility in England. It was established at a private golf club and was used as a headquarters facility for the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom. It was situated close to its Royal Air Force counterpart at RAF Bentley Priory, near Stanmore. It was also known as USAAF station 341.
During the war the facility was also Headquarters United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) during 1944 and 1945, a re-designation of the Eighth Air Force VIII Bomber Command. It is the direct predecessor of the current-day United States Air Force United States Air Forces in Europe. In the Fifties this site then became an important Cold War period Anti Aircraft establishment.

Our thanks go out to the Phil, Chris and all from the First Special Service Force living history group ( ) for enabling our AGM to take place at Bushey. We highly recommend Bushey as a site to use, with great hosts; it?s also conveniently located just off the M1 and M25 motorways.

The site was such that we had the use of wartime buildings and to hold our meeting and take advantage of all that the site offers.

Despite the rain, GI44-45 had the opportunity to take a few pictures inside the Gusville saloon ?somewhere in Europe? and outside. In addition to discussing much in the AGM, we had the chance to socialise, watch some classic DVD?s, participate in a little knowledge check of WW2 (well done Murph!!), and travel into town where we received a warm welcome from the locals. We also had the chance to meet up with our newest member Private Dan O?Dwyer, and thank goodness (for me) as Dan is from down South of England, so I can actually understand what he says, unlike some of our other members, who tend to get a bit ?mardy?.

Great to have you on board Dan, right kit, great attitude and we look forward to meeting up at our next event!

So with the AGM behind us, and our last event of 2009, I am looking forward to what we have planned for 2010! It looks to be a good one.

A sample of what the group got up to.....

The Gusville saloon ?somewhere in Europe?

?On patrol?

Private O?Dwyer gives a lost GI directions to the front..

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2009, 06:12:27 PM »
Latest from our member Ben Major

OK Chaps,

We went down to collect the C-47 on Sunday, and here a few quick shots of it as it is at present. As soon as I have some more to report, I will do!

Close up of the fuselage section on the flatbed prepared for transport and stropping down.

Hooked up to the Land Rover ready for the journey home.

Rudder and Stabliser Control Room section.

Looking up towards the rear of the fuselage. Note the original markings and stencils on the rear bulkhead.

Jump Signal mounting brace. Also at the right of the bracket are the four Lift The Dot fasteners for the Aeronautic First-Aid Kit.

Looking in the jump door. The horizontal ribs are remnants from the plane's time with civil airlines.

Rudder and aileron pulley mechanisms made from fibreboard.

Original ceiling light with control switch in Rudder & Aileron Control Room.

This is probably the first time a C-47 has been reversed down the M23!

Here's how the entire aircraft looked when she flew with the Belgian Air Force:

Here's the brief history that I have been able to research (and the parts which are pertinent). I am in the process of writing to McDonald Douglas in the hope that they'll have an archive, since I now have its original USAAF Serial Number (43-49240):

- Built in 1943 and delivered to USAAF on 11 January 1944
- Transferred to Belgian Air Force 11 October 1946
- December 1952: Temporarily put to disposal of Avimil/Force Publique and based at Ndolo, Congo.
- 10 July 1960: hit in the tail by bullets fired by rebels during landing at Kamina: Pilot Lt.Col. Kreps
- Sold as scrap in April 1979
- Until it was bought in 1986 by a restaurateur in Gitz, the plane's fuselage was used as a pig shed by then owner in Vladslo, West Flanders (Belgium).
- In 2000, it was used for filming a crash scene for Channel 4 series 'Sword of Honour' as FL586/AI (filming at Pinewood)

Total registered flight time: 8395.07 hours

The guy from whom I purchased the fuselage section has the original jump doors that were taken off the plane, so I might be getting them too! If I don't get it restored back to troop carrying condition, it'd make a nice mobile cinema!


Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2009, 05:25:42 AM »
It seems like only a couple of weeks have gone by since I wrote the end of year report for the group on 23 December 2008. It?s hard to believe it?s actually been nearly a year.

Looking back on the year, we seemed to have packed in so much in so little time. I think that this year we have participated in so many events, more than any other year. Some were pre-planned and others we decided to do at the last minute. I think experience the group has gained allows us to choose which events we like to support again and again, enabling us to better plan for our impressions.  For 2010 we have a full planned diary, but I have no doubt that we?ll be seen at other events ,  yet to be arranged.

2009 saw us a recruit a number of new full paid up members, and own GI44-45 forum has seen a massive increase in forum members and visits from across the world. Visits not just from the United Kingdom, but interest globally, from  a diverse range of countries like Brazil, Ukraine and Australia to name but a few.

In the last month alone, we have had 1,602 visits, from 252 absolutely unique visitors. Nearly 50 percent of these visits have been direct traffic and nearly 50 percent have been due to referring sites.

Although a smaller group in comparison with others (we have about 15 members), this has had no effect  on the quality of what we do, or can offer to those that want to see a realistic impression of the WW2 GI.  

In fact the thing that I like about being part of GI44-45 is that we are not unit specific; 3 years have given us expert darning skills, in that we are happy to rebadge to suit an impression!! 2009, saw us recreate the 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne Divisions, the 1st, 3rd and 94th, Infantry Divisions to name but a few.

I believe that this can be attractive to those that do not wish to solely recreate one impression. Because we aspire to paying homage to the Citizen soldier of WW2 , the average GI Joe. Our aims are simple-
1.   To organise and attend various WW2 re-enactment events.
2. To engage in high quality Living history.
3. To educate the Public.
4. To keep alive the memory of all those who made sacrifices during WW2. to organize and attend various WW2 reenactments, engage in high quality living history, educate the public

Whilst also expanding in numbers, we have also expanded on our range of Kit. 2009 saw the group add a Jeep, tents, a blank-firing 60mm mortar, Field Kitchen and a C47 fuselage (!!)  to our stock of kit, all of which will no doubt be utilised in 2010.

Testimony to our reputation is that now we no longer always have to ask to attend an event; 2009 saw us being approached by Organisations, Town councils and living history groups to participate in events. I hope that this may long continue ,  especially working with other groups, which I always enjoy.

So what did 2009 see us do?
In February, we walked in the footsteps of the 82nd Airborne in Belgium

Also in February, group members featured in the History Channel ?s ?Generals at War?, all about the Battle of the Bulge.

March saw us at Chiltern Open Air Museum (COAM)

April saw us at Lincolnsfield  Childrens centre , Bushey, Herts

May saw the group divided, with members displaying both at Gunpowder Mills with FSSF  as 3rd Infantry and East Kirkby  as 82nd Airborne

In May we displayed at the Bunker Bash

In June as with many other living historians we made our way to Normandy..

With Betsy  Matthes and her son. Betsy is the daughter of Edwin Ostberg, shot at Chef du Pont.

June also Saw us attending Trowbridge in Wiltshire as part of the Armed forces weekend celebrations.

Some of  the veterans

Able Seaman Roland Smith, who served with the Royal Navy on LCT 549. We got talking to this lovely old man, when he noticed I had chalked on the jeep ?LCT 498?. It turned out that he had crewed LCT 549 from about 1942 through to the wars? end.  He spent most of the time in Italy and recalls watching at Montgomery bollock Mark Clark with regard to some poor tactical decisions.

?Churchill? also turned up, and we were asked to chaperone him around the event and Trowbridge Town.

In July members attended Beltring and In August we attended Peak Rail, with our other small pice of kit-the Bofors gun!!

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2009, 05:26:17 AM »
Also in August some of made our way to Rougham airfield, Suffolk..

In September. The victory show...

And  last Major Public show of the year, Skegness

Whose hands are being held in the backgound?
Rizla and Tex?

October and our Tactical at Fort  Amherst, Chatham-always enjoyable
Getting up at Dark O?clock- sentry duty at the Forts Gates from 04.45...

Guarding the allied CP..

?We are completely surrounded?

Fresh troops arrive

Captured German receives fair treatment..

November and a Unique chance to display at a prison!!

Also in November we attended Malvern to sell all our surplus kit, ready for the 2010 season!!!

Finally, at the end of November we were back at Bushey, Herts  for our AGM and a Little photo shoot
The Gusville saloon ?somewhere in Europe?

So thats it. The 2009 season draws to a close for us, with one small visit planned for the end of December , I?m now looking forward to our 2010 events.

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2009, 02:21:07 PM »
Okay folks........Feeling down? Christmas all too much? Feeling bloated, tired, at a loose end? lacking a certain vava-voom?  Then you need to visit the GI44-45 forum, where the Sun never sets and there are no winter blues. Its free to join, and you can engage in light hearted chat, learn a thing or two and meet each and every one dazzling member of our little band of GI's!!!

What are you waiting for? Visit now!!!

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2010, 07:32:50 AM »
Well the next decade has started, and a happy New Year to all. GI44-45 have some great events planned fo the coming year; onwards and upwards! 2009 saw us recruit a number of members and also a massive increase in visitors to our forum and website.

I'm guessing that there are some things of interest on our site that inspires people to visit. Some join the forum and no doubt others don't.

You may not know but we have a guestbook on the website which you can sign if you visit. No names - no pack drill, at the risk of shooting myself in the foot, I  invite anybody to visit and sign the guestbook, you don't have to be a GI44-45 forum member!!

Your comments about our group may help us to tweak things and improve our impression, website and forum for the coming year.

So follow the link and make your comments!!

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2010, 12:04:17 PM »
It?s that time of the year that I reflect on what the group has done and achieved in that last twelve months. Whilst some events remain fresh in my mind it really is hard to believe that a year has gone by since my last end of year report. What follows is a pictorial record of just some of the events we attended in 2010.

In February we attended ?In the footsteps of the 82nd Airborne? a 23km Hike in La Gleize, Belgium, retracing the foot-steps of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. As always it was great experience and we were joined by one of our newer members; Dan O?Dwyer.

In March some of the group attended Chiltern Open Air Museum (COAM)  Linking in with Ranger Re-enactments, 1st Div Living History Group and FAAA.

In April we attended the Lincolnsfield Centre, Bushey, where we had the chance to work with the 2nd Guards living history group.

Also in April we attended at tactical in Pippingford Park as the 1st Infantry Division

In May, we dug in at ?Bunkerbash? the site of the not-so-secret nuclear bunker. It was our first real chance to put to test our 60mm mortar.

In June- we went to Normandy, retracing the Footsteps of the 79th Infantry Division, a fantastic trip and one I won?t forget in a hurry. We met some great people AND Picked up another member of the group along the way. Pat Alexandre.

Also in June we attended Trowbridge armed forces celebrations

In July we displayed at Peak Rail, a chance to portray the 69th Division and work again with the 2nd guards Living history group, and also pick up another new member to the group Dean Badham-Spalding

Also in July we got back into our M1942?s and portrayed the 101st and 82nd Airborne at Staveley Hall

In September we attended Operation Neptune at Skegness, portraying the 1st Infantry Division. Despite the atrocious weather it was, as usual, one of my favourite events.

In the last year we have had the chance to develop and improve our impressions, and we have some great impressions and events planned for 2011.

If you want to be part of a living history that strives to accurately portray the GI of WW2, please contact us. We aim to organize and attend various WW2 reenactments, engage in high quality living history, educate the public and keep alive the memory of those who made sacrifices during WW2.

Finally may I wish all of you within the living history community the very best for 2011.

Offline Johnny_costino

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2011, 11:04:24 AM »
This weekend GI44-45 made their way to Bihain, in the Ardennes to retrace the footsteps of the Thunderbolts, the 83rd Infantry Division. A number of living history groups came together, uniting as one group to do their best to pay homage to the Division that served in that area in the winter of 1944.

I made my way down leaving England on the late night ferry, leaving Dover at 0015. My car was laden with a large crate order for the Belgian Friendly 101st Living history group.  I made the most of a quiet ferry to get an hour and half sleep before the long drive ahead of me. My Sat-nav was sending me via Brussels and I did not fancy getting caught in any rush hour traffic.  Driving for a few hours I eventually found myself in the Ardennes region and with it came a change in weather. Snow was still evident, and to make things worse there was dense fog, a real pea-souper, that made driving really hard. This was further aggravated by a badly pot-holed motorway that seems to have taken the worst of the freezing snow and ice.

 I had decided to first visit Bastogne and my route in town at 0600 found me outside Tony McAuliffe?s 101st Airborne HQ overlooking the cemetery that?s seen in so many photos.  I parked up and had a few more hours sleep.  After a breakfast in Bastogne, and a quick visit to the generally over-priced militaria shop in the Town I headed out to pay my respects at the national monument outside town and also visit the Historical centre as I had not visited this before. Although it was now daylight the fog was still evident. It was so thick it made me wonder how GI?s coped during the war, whilst it hampered my vision it seemed to enhance sounds around the area, and I guessed that many a shot was fired off by both sides who were probably very jittery.

I thought the historical centre was okay, but my favourite site still has to be Diekirch. I made my way over to the National Monument. The snow was really bad under foot, it was over two foot thick in places, coated by a layer of ice about an inch thick, but once I broke my foot through it sunk deep into the snow underneath only to hit a layer of slush and water. Never encountered snow like this before!!!

I was the only visitor to the site, so had a chance to pay my respect in silence.  After a while I left and drove north intending to visit Stock Ardennes to see if there were any bargains.  The fog was still bad and the country lanes were still hampered by snow and ice. I was amazed at how much the fog had closed in, plus it was deathly quiet.

After a visit to Stock Ardennes and only one ?bargain? purchased I made my way to the Hostel in Bihain. I thought it was going to be a hostel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover we were staying in a half board hotel. I met Gregory De Cock and the guys from the Belgian Friendly 101st and we all spent the evening socialising with two veterans of the 83rd Infantry, and their families.

The two veterans were Captain Leo T Hury aged 91 and  S/Sgt William  ?Bill? Spriggs,  aged 86.  Bill is incredibly spritely, he doesn?t drink or smoke, and if I could be as on the ball at 86, as he is, I will be a very happy man.  It was true pleasure and honour to be able to chat to Bill in depth about his experiences. I asked him was he happy to talk about his experiences, and he said, ?You ask the questions and I will tell?, I enquired if he had spoken to people back home after the War about life in Europe, and he told me that he felt like a preacher who had a story to tell, but turned to look at the congregation, and saw there was nobody there to listen, he would have been happy to speak, if only there had been an interested audience. He said life for him after the war was hard, in his words he had been a high school drop-out before the war and came back with no qualifications doing work here and there. He decided to go back to college, and felt like an old man being the much older person in the class.  Bill told me had 72 points which allowed him to get shipped back home. He had enlisted at age 17 with the permission of his mum, and began his basic training moving from his home state of New York, down to Alabama. After training he shipped overseas from New York via the Replacement depot, I asked him, ?You were a replacement- you came from the Repple-Depple??  He laughed and said that he had not heard that phrase in 66 years.  Bill had no idea what unit he was going to join, but as it turned out it was the 83rd Infantry.

He spent a brief time in England based in Chester, he was offered a chance to stay longer by training to become a glider rider, but he declined!

Bill arrived at Omaha Beach , he recalls, on 7th July, due to the storms earlier in month, I believe he could not land anywhere else as the mulberry harbours had been turn up, so he came in shore via landing craft jumping over the side apparently when they got closer to shore.

Bills experience as a replacement was initially not good, he confirmed that some of the vets did not want to talk to him and he and his buddy felt isolated in their Normandy fox-holes.  Bills best buddy was 6 feet 2 inches or so tall, Bill is about 5 Feet 2 inches tall.  He told me, laughing, that he had said to his buddy, that he wished he had not been partnered with him on account of the fact he was so tall.   Bill joked he wished for a shorter buddy, when he was digging a foxhole he could have done it in quick time due to his own short height. The fact that he had a taller buddy made him have to do extra work digging a fox-hole to allow for extra space needed that he was never going to use!

Bill recalled that his buddy later got shot through the cheek badly mutilating his face. He said, ?We were not like the marines, staying with our injured- we had to keep going? He explained that he tied his buddy to a tree, so that he was sat up rather than lying down. He figured that by doing this he would have a better chance of survival, reckoning that a passing medic would attend to somebody sat up rather than lying down. Many years after the war Bill found out that his Buddy survived, so I guess his idea worked!

I asked if he had ever drunk Calvados whilst in Normandy, and he grinned and raised his eyebrows! He recalled drinking it in bars.

Bill was involved in the Normandy breakout, and then made his way to the Ardennes and the fighting in the Hurtgen. He got hit by some shrapnel whilst in a foxhole and won a Purple Heart, he also received the Bronze star after rescuing a buddy who had sustained a machine gone wound in his thigh. Bill crawled out of a foxhole, and began to drag his buddy bag by pulling on his webbing; he had to keep his head down as they were at risk of being machine gunned down. Bill said that there were no particular moments in the war that were better or worse, but pausing slightly and seemingly reflecting on that moment 66 years earlier, he said that experience stood out as being pretty bad.

Bill said that when he was in his squad, the first Sergeant ran the show and that they could make decisions without having to seek a higher authority, He never saw the Captain who tended to be in the rear, and occasionally saw a lieutenant.

Bill was asked if he ever acquired and wore German equipment, and he said, ?No?, that they would take it off another GI, figuring his need was greater than somebody who was dead or wounded. He laughed about the Germans saying they were really noisy, that a GI could hear them talking and all their kit clanking about long before they saw them. On one occasion a surrendering German ran towards him, with a wooden bowl covering his head. Bill wondered why it was so, and saw that it contained various meats. He said the German , despite surrendering, protested that he wanted to keep the Bowl and meat, but Bill replied, laughing ?That?s mine!? explaining that this would be a delicacy in place of a diet of C and K Rations.  I gave Bill one of my Costino Industries D Rations, and he laughed saying that he used to keep one in the top pocket of his field jacket (suggesting he wore an M43) and one could last him six weeks. Bill told me that he had been on the ?Eastern front?, having crossed the River Elbe and travelled six miles in land where they met some Russians. There was a suggestion that maybe not documented that his unit had met the Russians before the 69th did at Torgau.

I told Bill that my favourite 40?s pin-up was Rita Hayworth and he agreed that she was a looker, but I didn?t get to find out who his favourite was. Maybe next time.  It really was a great honour to speak to Bill, and I hope someday, soon, rather than later, I?ll get the chance to speak to him again.

On the Saturday Glen Mallen, Ian ?Shady? Saunders and Eric Hudson joined us, and all the various people from European countries formed up in squads outside for some basic rifle drill. The last time I had done this was at Crich with Sam ?Double-tap? Harris, and I was a little rusty, but the experience was good, and at the time of the unveiling of a memorial to the 83rd, I think we did pretty well.

The march itself commenced and soon we were in woodland, walking was quite hazardous as again the surface of the snow was caked in ice, but underneath the soft snow was a layer of slush and mud, the like of which I have not experienced before.  The snow was deep in places and to walk on the track was difficult and some took to walking through the woods, which was just as hard going. What lay underneath the snow was hard to tell, sometimes there were deep holes filled with water and taking a step through such snow often resulted in breaking and ended up Ankle deep in icy water. A few people went down, me included, as it really was hard to make our way through it all. 

As the march progressed we tried to make our way across a stream, but due to the melting snow we faced a wider, fat rushing torrent of water, and so followed the flow of water down where we crossed via a submerged bridge.  Unfortunately this resulted in everyone?s buckle boots becoming sodden with water adding to the difficulty of marching.

At the half way mark we stopped for a rest and all the squads were issued a D Ration courtesy of Costino Industries.  We continued on where we paused briefly at another 83rd memorial to the fallen, and eventually we arrived back in Bihain, where we concluded with a tactical assault on the small hamlet.  Arriving back at the hotel, the place was fall and Bill was Leo was treated like true heroes, chatting to the various nationalities present. This is one of the parts of the ?In the footsteps? type trips that I like, making friends with, and socialising with people from various Countries.  The end of the evening concluded with a couple shared glasses of Calvados, which I do to pay homage to the GI?s who must have drunk the same some 66 years earlier. I like Calvados but it did nothing to stop the hangover I suffered the next morning!

The next morning we said our goodbyes, and for me to chat briefly to Bill one last time, an absolute pleasure.

In conclusion the 83rd march is a lot shorter than the others, it?s achievable, but the experience and opportunity it brings to meet other people is a match for any of the other trips I have been on. I?m looking forward to next year and hopefully meeting Bill and Leo gain.

A few pictures, there would have been more but I dropped and broke my camera!

Fog closing in

Bastogne Historical Center and Monument

Inside the Center

Meeting Bill Spriggs

Rifle drill! Shady puts us through our paces!

A rare picture of Glen Mallen smiling- he had just stolen my D Rations!

Waiting for the memorial service

With Leo Hury and his Son Thomas

The march..

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Re: GI44-45 Living History group [England]
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2011, 11:04:24 AM »
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