Do any readers know anything about the US Army in Southmead in WW2?

For the past few years, I’ve been researching the American presence in Bristol in the Second World War. I became fascinated with this period because my great aunt had met an American officer, followed him back to the United States and married him. It wasn’t a fairytale wedding as they divorced soon after but I was interested to understand more about how they met.

Having bought every book that I could find about Bristol in WW2, I’ve developed my research to look for personal stories from both the Americans who came here and the Bristolians whose neighbourhood were part of the ‘friendly invasion’. I’ve also been mapping all the sites involved to understand the scale of the US military presence from 1942-1945.

The US Army was spread across the city and many different sites were used. For example, by Seawalls on The Downs, a servicing compound was set up for Armoured Fighting Vehicles meaning the area was sealed off by barbed wire and camouflage netting. Further along the Downs, opposite the Bristol Zoo, a huge vehicle park was set up in preparation for D-Day.

Avonmouth Docks had a large US presence particularly with black GIs working in the Transportation Corps. Fighter planes such as P-51B Mustangs were unloaded at the docks before being towed by truck to Filton Airfield where they were reassembled for flight. This was done at night or on Sundays and convoys of them would pass along the Portway, through the City Centre and up Gloucester Road.

Large camps were found across the city such as in Shirehampton, Sea Mills, Ashton, Frenchay, Knowle and the Muller Orphanages in Horfield. Private billets were everywhere with either whole houses being taken over or individual GIs living with a family. This latter example led to many close bonds being formed and a newfound affection for American youth – so different from what Bristolians had seen in Hollywood films.

American pastimes were witnessed by many for the first time. Baseball and softball were played on Frenchay Common, on the Downs and at Clifton College, where D-Day preparations were being developed. Local girls visited halls where American bands put on dances and many found romance. And each US Army unit had their favourite pub where they’d try to grips with the unfamiliar warm beer and powerful local cider.

One place I don’t know much about, however, is Southmead and I really need your help! I understand that Greystoke Avenue, newly built at that time, may have been a US Army Camp or a vehicle park. Another suggestion is that some GIs were based at the end of Pen Park Road where Chakeshill Drive is now. Unfortunately, that’s the limit of my knowledge for Southmead.

Does anyone remember the American presence in Southmead and can they give me more details? Or has anyone carried out research into the local history and can share what they know? Where were they based? Or do you know of any houses used as billets? Or were any pubs full of Yanks?

For anyone who is interested, I have put my research into a website and I can be contacted at or by writing to 45 Beachgrove Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS164AS

Thank you for your interest.

Oliver Davey