Royal British Legion President Tony Greenham remembers the stillness after US troops left Beaminster

Royal British Legion President Tony Greenham remembers the stillness after US troops left Beaminster

D Day Weymouth

Eighty years ago, Beaminster’s Royal British Legion President Tony Greenham was just eight. But he vividly remembers the stillness after the soldiers left Beaminster on D-Day.
He then lived at Pattle (now Eggardon Close). He remembers soldiers being billeted all over the town – their HQ was at Parnham House.
He said: “I remember the sweets, gifts, gum and goodies. They took over the town. But then overnight they just disappeared.”

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US troops on the Esplanade at Weymouth, Dorset, on their way to embark on ships bound for Omaha Beach for the D-Day landings in Normandy, June 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

Now 88, he has spent years working hard for the Royal British Legion in the town – which has a flourishing roster of 57 members and hosts many events for everyone to enjoy.
On the 80th anniversary of D-Day Beaminster is to pay tribute with a service, a bagpiper, an exhibition in the Public Hall and lighting the town beacon.
There are now few left who remember the GIs and their generosity towards local families. But in 2002 there were many more. Beaminster, led by Tony and his wife Margaret, hosted 45 members of the 16th Infantry Regiment, including five soldiers who had been stationed there. They enjoyed several days of celebration, with a dance and re-enactors marched through the streets.

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A brass plaque, sent to the town from America, was unveiled on the Town Hall, which had been used as a mess in the war.
Margaret said: “An ad was put in the Dorset Echo and in the national press inviting members of the 16th to get in touch if they wanted to be involved. Tony went up to London to pick up the big chief and brought him down here, then he went back to America, returning with all these people from the regiment.”
Margaret grew up in Piddletrenthide, where there was also a large encampment. Her father ran the garage there. The pair met after Margaret was sent to Beaminster Grammar as a boarder.
They love history, and have ten grandfather clocks that were all made in Beaminster – every hour sounds like the opening to a Pink Floyd song Time.
Both have been honoured for services to the town, with Margaret being handed Honorary Townsperson of Beaminster and Tony being awarded the BEM – mainly for raising £90,000 in 43 concerts of the Fairey Band, which started in 1979, but they have also got involved in numerous organisations and events over the years.
“Getting the Fairey Band to play here was a bit like getting Manchester City to play in Beaminster,” said Tony.
“The concerts were absolutely packed.”
So naturally, they spearheaded the 2002 celebrations, finding places for all the visitors to stay.

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Margaret said: “One lady phoned from Milton Keynes, wanting to bring her dad. It turns out he piloted the very boat one of the five original soldiers had sailed on – chance in a million.”
The returning soldiers – Henry ‘Hank’ Orton, Joe Argenzio, Ray Lambert, Bill Ryan and Don Wilson – brought their wives, children and even grandchildren to see the place they had been stationed. Only one of their wives is alive now, aged 93, and she writes to the Greenhams every Christmas.
They have now stepped back from organising the annual concerts that raised so much for a number of charities. But they take part in the regular events laid on by the RBL, including breakfasts for the community on the first Saturday of the month at The Greyhound, and a monthly ‘meet and natter’ event. It will be Beaminster RBL’s 100th anniversary on July 4, and they are holding a barbecue to celebrate.
Before that though, there’s Beaminster Remembers on June 6, with events most of the day. From 3pm to 6pm Beaminster Museum presents an exhibition on D-Day in the public hall, then from 6.30pm to 7pm the bells of St Mary’s will be rung. At 7.15pm a procession will leave the church, led by a bagpiper, the RBL and other organisations of the town before the Town Beacon is lit at the War Memorial in the square.
This will be followed by a service of commemoration.
All are welcome to join in, and if you would like to be involved in Beaminster RBL membership is £18 a year.


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