MY AMERICAN FAMILY
This short film is dedicated to my late mother Shirley Ellery who passed away 30th March 2016, Mum's final wish was to have her ashes buried with her family in Hamilton, Alabama, my grandfathers hometown, so myself and my father traveled to US to make mum's final wishes possible. Filmed with the help of my American family from Marion County, Hamilton, Alabama.
My grandfather Gurnie Eugene Byrd was a US Medic with the 115th Medical Research Centre stationed in Tavistock, England during World War Two, This photo of my grandfather holding my mother as a baby in 1945, is the only photograph mum had of her father before he returned to the states and never met her father again, before he passed away on the 25th July 1977.
GURNIE E BYRD
WORLD WAR II RECORD
My Grandfather, US Medic with the 115th Medical Unit during WWII
Once recruitment process was complete, My grandfather Gurnie "Nickname Bill" was then introduced into a rigorous training program to shape the newly-formed unit into a combat-ready field medical outfit. Classes in nearly every phase of the field were thrown at the recruits.
Preparation for Overseas Movement
Preparations were immediately made for the unit’s movement to Camp Shanks, New York (the largest Embarkation Camp in the US), where it would board troop transport for the United Kingdom. 115th was up to its full authorized strength of 120 Officers and Nurses, and 392 Enlisted Men. 115th boarded the USS Santa Elena (a requisitioned and converted passenger cruise ship –ed). The ship finally left the New York Port of Embarkation on 15 July 1943. The ship joined a destroyer-guarded convoy which zig-zagged across the Atlantic, a voyage lasting for 11 days.
The USS Santa Elena finally arrived into the port of Gourock, Scotland on 26 July 1943, and the debarkation of the unit’s personnel and unloading of equipment took place immediately. The Hospital staff were then split into two large groups, each boarding a separate train which would take them on an overnight journey to Tavistock, Devon, England. The final leg of the journey was completed the following morning by Army transport, which carried the 115th from the rail station in Tavistock to Plaisterdown Camp, Dartmoor.
Nan & Grandad
Shortly after arriving in Tavistock, England my Grandfather Gurnie "Bill" Byrd meet my Grandmother Edna Bailey.
On 15 May 1944, the unit received additional orders for its function during the forthcoming military invasion of the Normandy coast. It was designated as Hospital Plant No. 4101 and Transit Hospital No. 2 for the evacuation of casualties from mainland Europe. News of the invasion was received via wireless at the facility on the morning of 6 June 1944, and all staff were instructed to prepare the Hospital to receive its first trainload of patients. After much waiting, the first casualties were unloaded at the complex on the morning of 28 June, when 292 men arrived via train.
Bill & Edna had a little baby girl, my mother Shirley was born 16th February 1945
In August 1945 the unit completed its move to Augsburg, Germany where it occupied the General-Kneußl-Kaserne.
By 31 March 1947, the 115th continued to operate in a limited capacity at the Kaserne until the station was officially closed on 20 July 1947. Later the same year, the 115th Station Hospital, which now existed only on paper, was officially deactivated, and re-designated as the 829th Field Hospital.
Official WWII Record of the 115th
In 2003 my brother Paul made contact for the first time with our American family from Hamilton with a letter he sent with this photo of my grandfather holding my mother as a baby.
Shortly after my American cousin Teresa contacted my family, I was so happy for my mother this was such an exciting time. The love and support they have shown my family over the years has just been amazing, I can't ever thank my mothers American family enough to finally help put all the missing pieces together and complete our families
Delmer L Byrd
My grandfather enlisted with his brother Delmer, I was lucky enough to meet Delmer Byrd who lived in Tupelo, Mississippi with his lovely wife Irene in 2007. I remember one evening we stayed up and talked for hours about his little brother Bill and his own experiences during WWII and the horrors he witnessed, Delmer's unit 11th Army 3rd Armored Division was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and on 11 April 1945, the 3rd Armored discovered the Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camp in Germany, reporting back to headquarters, requested help from the 104th Infantry Division. Nazis used slave labor there to produce V-2 ballistic missiles.
Delmer Byrd, Hamilton Alabama - May 2007
D-Day June 1944, 3rd Armored Division & 101st Airbourne Division
Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camp Liberation
HAMILTON, ALABAMA, USA
History of our American family, settlers with Scots-Irish ancestry, the most memorable is learning that my mum's American family are related to "Morning Dove White" a Native American who lived in Hamilton Alabama from 1818 - 1835
Morning Dove's husband William Mansell fought in the Indian Wars with General Andrew Jackson, later president Jackson, Mansell was compensated for his services with land and settled in Hamilton, Alabama in 1818, Hamilton was then known as "Toll Gate" a wild and hostile place to live, once served as “hunting grounds” for the Chickasaw Indians.
Morning Dove & William Mansell had three children a daughter called Morning Dizenia and two sons James and John. Morning Dizenia married Dr Russell Palmer together they had twelve children and lived in Hamilton, Alabama for the rest of their lives.
James had six children and was killed during the civil war and Dizenia's older brother John squandered the legacy of the family farm in Hamilton. 1880 he abdicated to Oxford, just outside of Tupelo, Mississippi.
My American family has lived in Hamilton for over 200 years, with family members still today living all over Hamilton, Alabama
My mother Shirley Ellery, final resting place, Hamilton, Alabama.
I find my mum's American history so fascinating, I would one day love to produce or be commissioned to make a film about Hamilton and it's American ancestors, exploring the life and struggles they would of faced in 1818 America, This would be a lovely tribute to my late mother's memory
President Andrew Jackson
made this touching statement about his own mother,
"There never was a women like her, She was gentle as a dove and brave as a lioness, The memory of my mother and her teachings were, after all, the only capital i had to start life with, and on that capital i have made my way."
DC Media Films
Special Thank you! to all my American family, especially cousins Grace, Teresa and Carol, Dennis and Judy for all your love and support without you none of this would be possible!