Plymouth, where thetvdetective series is set, has strong links with the United States, and its history. The town of Plymouth in south-eastern Massachusetts was the first permanent European settlement in New England. It was from Plymouth, England, that the Pilgrim Fathers began their voyage to the New World on their ship, The Mayflower on September 16th, 1620. After an arduous 65 day journey, they finally saw Cape Cod and anchored at the site of Provincetown, then discovered Plymouth Harbour, on the western side of Cape Cod Bay and made their historic landing on December 21. There they laid the foundations of the New England states and began settling the New World.
In England, on Plymouth's waterfront, in the city's historic Barbican area stand the Mayflower steps, the monument which commemorates the start of the great voyage of discovery. A series of plaques tell the story, and list the names of all the Mayflower's passengers.
The historic links continued through the years, and were strengthened anew in World War Two.
Plymouth and the surrounding Devon countryside was a highly important base for thousands of American soldiers in the War, as they trained for the D-Day landings of 1944. To keep them entertained, dances were organized, and many local girls ended up marrying American soldiers, eventually travelling back with them to the US. The families of American soldiers often return to the area to see where Mum and Dad, or Grandma and Grandpa met. Histories of the time speak of Devon being swept from its feet by the influx of charming, smiling and generous young men, always ready to share their fresh fried donuts and apparently endless supplies of chewing gum. They also talk of the shock when the army of Americans disappeared overnight, only in later days the people of Devon coming to realise the charming army had sailed and flown overseas to demonstrate their extraordinary courage in beginning the liberation of Europe.
Dartmoor, the great natural wilderness so beloved of Dan and Rutherford in thetvdetective series, was used for military training in World War Two, as it still is today by the men and women of the modern armed forces. Its rugged terrain provides a range of challenges and teaches many vital survival skills.
Devon also played an important role in one of the most renowned exploits of the war.
On 5th June 1944, the day before D-Day, 81 aircraft of the United States 439th Troop Carrier Group took off from Pottery Airfield in East Devon for an advance mission behind enemy lines in France. It was highly dangerous, but vital work. They were to clear a secure route from the beaches of Normandy, before the landing of a million British, American and Canadian troops stationed in Britain. Among the advance party was I Company, 101st Airborne Division 506 Regiment Parachute Infantry. It was these men, and their heroic actions in the Normandy landings who were dramatised movingly by Stephen Spielberg in the TV series "Band of Brothers".
For one particular part of Devon, the war meant a significant and somewhat surreal change in lifestyle. This was the mass evacuation of all the residents and animals of an extensive area of some of the county's finest countryside known as The South Hams. It was organised so American troops were able to practice warfare on a huge scale, in preparation for D-Day. About three thousand local residents had to leave their homes. Histories of the time say it was remarkable how few complained - for they understood the importance of why they had to leave. The long stretch of south Devon beach - some 8 miles - was ideal for exercises involving landing craft from ships anchored in Start Bay, particularly because of its similarity to the beaches of northern France. The area which was cleared stretched some 10 miles inland, and included dozens of picturesque and vibrant Devon villages.
This evacuation took place in just six weeks. By Christmas of 1943 every person, animal and pet, together with all their possessions, and even farm machinery was gone. Emergency temporary accommodation had to be found for these three thousand people, and it was. But perhaps the biggest problem was finding farmland and buildings for all the livestock which had to be moved. Some went to stay just outside the prohibited area, but many had to be moved many miles away. Some even ended up on Dartmoor, entirely different, far harsher upland terrain than they were used to with the gentle South Hams.
But that was a small concern compared to what was happening elsewhere in Devon. The deadly reality of war had come to the county.
Plymouth suffered terribly in the German bombing campaign of The Blitz, the attempt to force Britain into surrender. Much of the historic city was destroyed, hundreds of people killed, thousands more left homeless. The ruined Charles Church, which gives its name to the neighbouring police station from where Dan and Adam work stands as a memorial to the destruction. It dominates the centre of one of the city's busiest roundabouts, a continual reminder of the suffering of the past.
A plaque within the remains states: Charles Church. Built 1641. Consecrated 1665. Completed 1708. Named in honour of King Charles I. Ruined by enemy action, 21 March 1941. Partially restored 1952, by the City in co-operation with the Ministry of Works. The idea of restoration having been sponsored by the Old Plymouth Society, as a memorial to those citizens of Plymouth who were killed in air-raids on the City in the 1939-1945 War.
Simon hopes this gives you a taste of the history of Plymouth and Devon, and the area's links with the United States. He also very much hopes that you enjoy thetvdetective books!