REWIND: How D-Day was masterminded on Teddington's doorstep

  Posted: 18.10.20 at 10:00 by Cameron Eyles

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Earlier in the week we published a feature on the 4,000 year history of Bushy Park - which you can find HERE

In researching the article one particular piece of history caught my eye - that the Park was transformed into an American military base during World War Two!

So here is the story of Camp Griffiss

Setting up

The US joined the war following the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941 by the Japanese.

Soon the US joined the fight in Europe too and needed to set up a base here in England - one of the few places on the continent that had not been conquered by the Nazis.

The memorial as it stands today

So in 1942 the decision was made that the park would become Camp Griffiss and would be where US General Dwight D. Eisenhower (a future US President) and the entire United States Army Air Forces would be based.

It is believed the base was named after Lieutenant Colonel Townsend Griffiss. Griffiss had been aide to Major General James E. Chaney, and was killed in a friendly fire incident when the aircraft in which he was a passenger was mistakenly shot down by Royal Air Force (RAF) Polish fliers.

He was the first US airman to die in the line of duty in Europe since the US entered World War II.

Why Bushy Park?

The park was chosen as this important US headquarters for a number of reasons.

Firstly as it was a large open space and Eisenhower did not enjoy working in central London so preferred the more rural surroundings of then Middlesex.

A more bizarre reason is that many believe that the base was originally intended to be in Bushey, Hertfordshire, but was built in Bushy Park due to a logistics error.

Operation Overlord

The base operated from 1942 to late 1944 and it is believed that during this period General Eisenhower planned Operation Overlord - or D-Day.

Eisenhower made the park the headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force who then carried out the famous landings in June 1944.

Legacy

Following the end of the war the huts built for the camp were often used by squatters until they were finally demolished in 1963.

Nowadays near the Teddington end of the park, not far from Chestnut Avenue, are two memorials: A circular USAAF Memorial tablet on a raised pentagonal block within a five-pointed brick star within a small five-sided enclosure.

If you have more ideas of what parts of Teddington's history we can cover then email us on [email protected]

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