Llansadwrn’s Forgotten Past – Abermarlais Castle
Local historian Philip Howells has published ‘Oxwich To Omaha’ – American GI’s in South Wales which talks of our own special historical site. For further information 07788 81660.
One of the most important historical sites in Wales, Abermarlais Park previous owners had amazing histories. An early incumbent here in the Parish of Llansadwrn had commanded the Welsh archers in the Battle of Crecy (1346) and his descendant Rhys ap Thomas reputedly slew Richard III at Bosworth (1485) handing the fallen monarchs’ crown to Henry Tudor – the future King Henry VII.
The old castle was gifted and rebuilt as a mansion by Lord Nelson’s Admiral Foley in the 1800’s and has been home to the Hunter-Weston family (a familiar name on Llansadwrn War Memorial).
Typical of aerial photographs taken by the RAF just after World War II, the above enlargement highlights the familiar ‘halo’ effect of concrete tent bases of the ‘winter’ camps and the faded trampled grass of ‘summer’ camp tent bases. Abermarlais House can be seen at centre.
The A40 runs top to bottom partially obscured by trees with the Marlais stream directly to the right of it. The drive approach to the house & camp can be seen at the foot of the picture where the existing entrance still lies complete with the ‘Bosworth’ standing stone, before crossing the east to west footpath from the main road before widening out for truck parking and swinging to the west.
The southern corner of the ‘walled garden’ can just be seen at the top with grassland of what is now the caravan park. The mansion housed the HQ and Officers Mess with Nissen huts erected to the west side for troop messes, canteens, stores, workshops etc.
Pyramid tents provided accommodation for the men, the camp originally built with Canadian troop labour, but it became a ‘Bolero’ camp for US troops in preparation for the Invasion of Europe.
First to arrive was Company ‘C’ of 1/372nd Engineer (GS) Regiment which began improvement work in September 1943 to accommodate 33 Officers and 772 men. Similar works were going on all over Britain and in October the ‘Keystone’ 28th Infantry Division from the Pennsylvania National Guard arrived in S. Wales, their proposed camps in SW England not being ready.
Abermarlais housed the division’s 103rd Engineer Combat Battalion – the ‘ Dandy First’- one of the oldest formations in the US Army which could trace their Philadelphia origins back to American War of Independence. Happy times were spent in and around Llansadwrn with a Xmas party being provided by the Americans in the school on Boxing Day.
However big changes took place in mid April 1944 as the 28th Division was replaced by the regular army ‘Indianhead’ 2nd ID slated for the immediate D-Day follow-up force. Only here for a month, the 2nd ECB left Abermarlais on May 16 for their Marshalling Camps near the S.Wales coast ports with HQ/HQ Service Company and Medics trucking to Mynydd Lliw and the Companies to Wenvoe, Scurlage and Kenfig Burrows to join their respective division RCT’s bound for OMAHA Beach, Normandy. Mrs Cambell-Davy so enjoyed the US Army presence that she intended to purchase Neuadd Fawr in Cilycwm so she could house more troops in the event of another war!
Nothing now remains, the camp being dismantled in 1947.
Abermarlais House burnt down in 1978.