Laura White
Laura White

During the Second World War in the spring of 1944 Marden Common near Moretonhampstead became a tented camp for 1,500 American soldiers to train for D-Day.

The mainly white US Army officers were billeted in the town while the mainly black Afro-American units of GIs lived in the tented camp on the common.

It is during this period that Joe Louis, ‘The Brown Bomber’ and one of the most famous boxers in the world, Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world fought a demonstration fight at the Marden Common camp.

The US Army had worked out that Louis along with other famous black people and sportsmen including fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson could be used to raise morale amongst the US troops before D-Day.

The publicity of the campaign made Louis widely popular. Although Louis never saw combat, his military service saw challenges of its own with blatant racism.

In 1945 Louis was awarded the Legion of Merit for ‘incalculable contribution to the general morale’.

The arrival of 1,500 US GIs in the area did have consequences, with US Military Police patrolling Moretonhampstead after a man was stabbed at The Bell public house in the town.

Local Life