CHICKERELL Mayor John Dean has shared his story of the American GIs arriving in the town ahead of D-Day in 1944.

Cllr Dean, 86, was six years old when the soldiers arrived in the town.

His family would often walk down to the woods at Fleet to collect wood, one day they noticed that a large number of soldiers had arrived at the woods.

Cllr Dean said he did not know at the time what was going on, D-Day was kept a secret.

However, one day, they went down to the woods and all of the soldiers were gone.

Many of them never returned.

Cllr Dean said: "In the woods at Fleet, opposite the church, is where we, as a family, would go to collect wood for our fire.

"In 1944 the woods suddenly became full of American soldiers and all their equipment.

"There were many vehicles and hundreds of young men.

"As children we would spend time down there eating candy and smoking their cigarettes.

"There were lots of vehicles moving around the village.

"One day a small convoy of lorries came down School Hill.

"They were not always sure of the route, so the first one stopped but the next six did not and all ran into the back of each other.

"This was right outside of our front gate.

"It took a long time to sort the vehicles out while we were treated to sweets and biscuits.

"Chcikerell Camp was full of soldiers. My eldest brother Alan (Bill) was about 15 years old; and along with his mates, made friends with some of the men.

"One was a young lad called Kenny.

"He was the commanding officer's driver and batman.

"Kenny used to come to our house and call my mother Mam.

"One day he brought his boss's uniform for my mother to wash and press.

"This would have been using a flat iron warmed in front of the fire.

"I can remember seeing it hung up on the picture rail in our front room.

"One night we were in our Morrison Shelter during an air raid when there was a knock on the front door. 

"It was little Kenny.

"He was coming down School Hill in his Jeep and was very scared and said to my mother 'can I come in and join the boys in the shelter'.

"Then in the beginning of June they all went to war, many never to return home.

"At Fleet they left a party off black soldiers to clean up.

"We went down there and in the field were piles of soap, which was very short in those days.

"The soldiers threatened to shoot us, but we managed to grab a few bars.

"For the D Day embarkation, the Americans built a large lorry park on the Portland Beach Road.

"The park was not used much after the war but in later years it was made into a car park, now owned by Dorset Council."

Cllr Dean will lay a wreath at a service in Chickerell on Thursday morning at St Mary's churchyard in Chickerell.

Chickerell Town Council will also install a D-Day Commemorative Unknown Tommy Statue at the churchyard.  

This silhouette statue symbolises the valour and dedication of those who participated in the D-Day landings.