Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Black Swan pub in Bristol

The Black Swan pub (on left) from a 1930s postcard. Click for larger image.
The Black Swan today, courtesy of Google Maps.
Before the Normandy invasion my grandfather was stationed in Bristol, England. During the day his company trained and moved military supplies at the docks. In the evening they stayed in private homes in Stoke Bishop, a suburb of Bristol. My grandfather has always enjoyed his beer. When telling me about the 304th Port Company's stay in Bristol he made sure to mention his favorite pub:

“We went to a place called ‘The Black Swan.’ We called it ‘The Dirty Duck.’” Guinness Stout was the drink of choice. Corty was amused by the long-handled English taps. “It’s funny, you go into these places, and they have these long handles for the beer. The beer was warm! I guess they didn’t make it cold until after the GIs came.” Cold or not, the beer flowed freely. Drunk Americans stumbling home at night were liable to be picked up by the local authorities. “Our CO [commanding officer] didn’t want that. He liked his beer too. He appointed MPs to help the guys back to their barracks, instead of jail or the stockade. I never drank too much, so I could find my way back.” —Longshore Soldiers, p. 50.

I talked to the other veterans, did a little Googling, and think I found the right place. There's a Black Swan at 92 Stoke Lane, Westbury-On-Trym, Bristol, BS9 3SP. The Bristol area has two pubs by this name, but this one is a short distance to the homes in Stoke Bishop where the GIs were billeted. At the time of publication (2010) I was unsuccessful in finding a photograph of the pub in the 1940s, so I made the the little drawing at the left to print in my book.

This month a retired staff member of the city library in Bristol emailed me the top photo of Stoke Lane. It comes from a 1930s postcard which was reproduced in the book Westbury on Trym, Henleaze, Westbury Park : on old postcards by Janet and Derek Fisher. So, I finally have a photo of the street the way it looked when my grandfather was there.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Three 339th Harbor Craft Company GIs on the roof of Tampico Flats

Photo probably by David Stein, 1945, Tampico Flats, Antwerp. 
The daughter of David Stein, a GI in the 339th Harbor Craft Company, contacted me by email. Her dad and his company were housed in Tampico Flats during their service in Antwerp. Her dad's photo album included this nice shot of three GIs on the roof of the apartment building. Maybe you recognize one of these guys?

I wrote a short post about the US Army Harbor Craft Companies in Europe. I have a bunch of photos of the 339th Port Company. I'll post those sometime soon.