The 82nd US Airborne Division are an airborne infantry division of the United States Army. On February 14th, 1944, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division set foot in the rural Leicestershire village of Quorn, where they would remain for the coming months in preparation for the war in Normandy.
Setting up camp on the Farnham estate, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment quickly won over the hearts and minds of local villagers, with one former paratrooper, Frank Bilich, referring to his unconventional second-home as “just heaven”, recalling that “we enjoyed the social of the pubs with the sing songs with everybody joining in”. Local resident, Mary Totnam, has described the impact of the 82nd Airborne Division arriving in Quorn as a child, remembering 76 years later that ‘the effect on our small village was immediate’.
After spending two and a half months in Quorn, the troops left late in the night of May 29, 1944, towards Normandy in preparation for D-Day. A month of fighting and eventual success saw the heroic return of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, but with heroism came tragedy, as 220 of the 2000 men lost their lives and thus never returned to their adopted community.
On the 15th September 1944, the 82nd Airborne Division bid farewell one final time to Quorn’s pubs, restaurants and community which took them in as their own. A plaque commemorates these American paratroopers in the Quorn Memorial Gardens, which can be seen from the windows of The Royal Oak, and an avenue of trees was planted in their memory in Quorn Park. Since, Quorn and The Royal Oak have warmly welcomed returning paratroopers from the 505th Airborne Division as many have returned to their long-lost community.
We hope their memory lives on as an integral part of Quorn and The Royal Oak's history.
Information and image provided by Quorn Museum.
Quorn has been infamous for its floods since the 1800s, and The Royal Oak in particular has borne the consequences in the past. This photograph, taken outside the Royal Oak in either 1932 or 1933, shows the landlord, George Archibald (front in lighter colour coat), with a group of community members bailing water from the street.
Image from Quorn Museum.
Another photograph from Quorn crossroads shows The Royal Oak from across the road. The pub is almost submerged in water during another bout of the 'Quorn Floods' in around the 1950s.
Image from Quorn Museum.
On a casual Monday afternoon, a shocking event occurred when a young man named Harold Widdowson collided his van with the car of Mr Hugh Jones, causing the latter to crash into the side of The Royal Oak and Millner’s shop (now Ferrari’s) in 1917. The incident clearly caused quite a stir, causing the policeman and even local school children to gather for a photograph for the local newspaper!
While both men survived the accident, the car was badly damaged and a passenger in the van was badly cut from being flung into the windscreen. Mr Jones also left with injuries – although he was promptly reendowed with a new car from his employers. Fortunately, however, The Royal Oak remained unscathed!
Image from The Loughborough Advertiser, 1917 at Quorn Museum