Wed, 28 Oct 2020
A PLAQUE commemorating the hospitality shown by the people of Tadley to American servicemen based there during the Second World War has been placed at a new site.
The plaque was initially installed on June 6, 1997, but over the years had become dirty and unreadable.
It was also located on the corner of Blake’s Lane where it was rarely seen.
The plaque has now been cleaned and on Saturday, October 3, members of the Tadley community gathered to see it unveiled on the Turbary Building in Franklin Avenue.
A second smaller brass label was also mounted alongside the original to explain the change in location.
The event kicked off with an introduction from Tadley and District History Society chairman Carol Stevens and an Act of Remembrance led by Padre Charles Lewis, before the newly-refurbished plaque was unveiled by Tadley Town Council chairman Jo Page and local historian Gordon Timmins.
Padre Lewis then rededicated the plaque to the memory of the people of Tadley and the 9th US Army Air Force, who gave their service in defence of the country, followed by a short address from Mrs Page.
Mrs Stevens said: “It was a very wet morning so the event had to be held under a pop-up awning and observe the Covid-19 restrictions.
“It was long overdue to be done.
“It was originally somewhere else in Tadley, unknown by most Tadley citizens that it was there, and had got black over the years and unreadable if you did know it was there.
“We decided to take it down, clean it, refurbish it and put it some-where more prominent for people to see.”
The plaque was originally designed and unveiled in 1997 by American G Paul Gerbracht of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) 458th Service Squadron and 318th Service Group – who had been stationed in Blake’s Lane.
Mr Gerbracht first came to the area as part of the 318th Service Group in October 1943 to be based at the Royal Air Force Aldermaston, which had been transferred to the USAAF in August 1942.
The squadron stayed at Aldermaston until February 1945, supporting the 434th Troop Carrier Group.
Throughout the afternoon and evening of June 3, 1944, the 458th Squadron were responsible for painting the ‘invasion stripes’ on all the aircraft awaiting D-Day at Aldermaston.
Following the end of the war, Mr Gerbracht married a Tadley girl, Doris Barlow, in 1945 and moved back to the US in January 1946.
He visited Tadley a few times over the years, before he passed away in August 2011.
A second plaque was also erected on the site of the Aldermaston Airfield, Station 467 – now the AWE – on the 60th anniversary of D-Day in June 2004, dedicated to the memory of those members of the Airborne Forces who died during the Second World War.