Information Boards Tell The Story Of Braunstone Park's Role In The Second World War..

It's now a popular spot for joggers and dog walkers but at the height of the Second World War, Braunstone Park was a base for US paratroopers. Nissen huts were home to soldiers from the American 82nd Airborne Division in 1944 before being parachuted into France ahead of D-Day. The Americans also used the park as a base ahead of Operation Market Garden in September that year. The full story is explained in a new information board officially unveiled at the park at the weekend. The board, in the park's memorial garden, also tells visitors about how the park was also home to members of the Royal Artillery and the Home Guard during the war. Braunstone councillor Wayne Naylor, who played a leading role in getting the information board erected, said: "It was a very interesting time for Braunstone during the war and I've heard a lot of great stories from people around here about these big artillery pieces being brought through the area and how the young ladies all tried to meet the American servicemen. "It's a very good story and I worked with the local historian Alwyn Watson and looked at the whole period, including the Royal Artillery and Home Guard stays on the park and produced a very detailed information board. "I'm very interested in the history of the place and I'm always nicely surprised by how much interest other people in this area have in history and the local heritage." During the war, Braunstone Park was also put to agricultural use. Wheat, barley and potatoes were grown there and it was also used as grazing land for sheep. Braunstone Hall, at the centre of the park, was the base for the local Home Guard. In May 1941, the park keeper - who was a member of the Home Guard - discovered an unexploded bomb in the park when he fell into the crater it had made during a night patrol. Between 1943 and 1945, the 168 Battery of the Royal Artillery and the 52nd/53rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery were stationed at the park. The new information panel was officially unveiled by city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby on Saturday afternoon. During the ceremony, there was a march past by the 1461 Wigston and District Squadron Air Cadets. Sir Peter said: "Braunstone Park played an important local role in the Second World War and it is very fitting that this information panel should be here so visitors to the park can learn about its place in the city's history."

- Written by Leicester Mercury, Published on 15th November 2013

Lost Wartime Tunnels Found..

An underground network of tunnels lost for 70 years has been uncovered by vandals. The steel-lined corridors which run underneath Braunstone Park and the nearby Grade II-listed hall are believed to have been built by US troops who were based on the park during the Second World War. The entrance to the bomb -proof tunnels was uncovered by vandals, who residents believe got in using a pneumatic drill over the bank holiday weekend. Lee Clarke, leader of the Restore Braunstone Hall campaign group, said his 10-year-old daughter found the uncovered entrance, which has since been sealed with concrete by Leicester City Council. He said: "I was doing my daily patrol of the hall and she came running over asking me to come and look at a hole she had found. "Someone had drilled through the concrete and below was what looked like an air raid shelter. "I couldn't believe it and came back with some friends. We explored the tunnels which just went on and on - every turn you came to there was another tunnel going off in another direction. "They were in amazing condition, and there were only a few places where tree roots blocked our path. "It would be a shame if they were sealed off forever. It would be a pity if they were never appreciated again." Stuart Bailey, of Leicester Civic Society, hopes the tunnels can be restored as part of plans to renovate the hall. He said: "They appear to be in very good condition indeed. "It is unclear whether they are attached to the hall, and therefore within the boundaries of the listed building protection." He said it was unlikely the corridors were used as an air raid shelter. "There are no rooms - no place for bunk beds or people to sit," he said. "I think it is more likely they were used by the US troops based on the park in around 1942 with the 86 Airborne Division of the US Air Force, to move around the complex when the air raid siren was sounding. "It could be that they were used to dodge surveillance by aircrafts overhead." A city council spokesman said: "Air raid shelters are quite common, and this shelter isn't in a part of the hall grounds which is earmarked for development, so shouldn't affect any plans for the hall." Braunstone Hall, built in 1776, was occupied by the Winstanley family until 1925. From 1932 to 1996 the building was a junior school but has stood empty for the last 15 years. Developers are working on plans to transform and renovate the hall before submitting them to the Leicester City Council.

- Written by Leicester Mercury, April 29th, 2011


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