Seaton historian calls for war memorial

A SEATON historian has called for a monument to be erected in the town in memory of fallen American soldiers during World War II.

Ted Gosling’s call comes after a former US army colonel visited the town - to retrace the steps of his father, who was stationed in Seaton before fighting in the D-Day invasion.

John Rudman, from New Jersey, took an emotional trip around the resort where his father Robert had been based for six months in 1944 - before heading to France.

The visit took place on Thursday last week and Councillor Bob Palacio, the chairman of Seaton Town Council, was among those to greet him.

Robert Rudman landed on Utah Beach, in Normandy, in June 1944. During that fateful battle hundreds of his comrades, including his best friend, would die.

Mr Gosling, who is curator of the Axe Valley Heritage Museum, said: “Up to 4,000 Americans came to Seaton from 1942.

“They were only young men, who came all the way over here to fight for us, to liberate Europe and I think this should be recognised.

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“Many would serve in the D-Day invasion and many were killed or maimed.

“Without their help we wouldn’t have won the war, so it’s a shame there’s nothing here.”

John said his father had been traumatised by the war, but rarely spoke about it.

Instead, he had to piece together the facts using history archives and the odd snippet his dad would pass on.

He said: “He rarely talked about the war.

“I think he tried to forget the war and keep it from impacting on his family. The only thing he would tell you about was the landing on the beach.

“His best friend had been killed and every time he talked about it, even when he had Alzheimer’s in later years, he would get upset.

“We saw he had a copy of Saving Private Ryan [which opens in Omaha Beach ] and, when my brother asked if it was really like that, he said: ‘No, it was worse.’

“We can’t fathom what it was like.

“War has become so precise, almost robotic.

“These men were running through minefields trying to save each other.”

John visited Trevelyan Road and Havenview Road, which featured in his dad’s old photographs.

The former holiday home, now the Tesco redevelopment site, housed soldiers from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Spain and the US.

John found his father’s name on documentation for a ship out of Seaton, setting out for the infamous invasion.

Utah Beach was the westernmost of the five landing beaches and troops landed with relatively little resistance compared to Omaha Beach, with 2,400 casualties reported.

Robert later fought in Hurtgen Forest, which has been labelled as one of the fiercest and bloody battles in World War Two - claiming the lives of 24,000 Americans.

Robert died in December 2007 and John believes some of his happier times were in Seaton.

He said: “Coming to Seaton means a lot.

“My family has never been able to come back here.

“It means I can start connecting things.

“This was before he went out to war and it may have been his happier days.”