The Second World War

Dorset had about 80,000 American soldiers by 1943, and the American Army was segregated into separate black and white units to reflect the segregation common in America at that time. Some black units served in Dorset, and many Dorset people remember seeing a black man for the first time then. People had forgotten that people of African origin had been in the county since the 17th century.

A letter-writer from Dorset found the black soldiers ‘real gentlemen, well behaved and well spoken… a credit to their unit. British troops get on well with them, we can’t help it. They don’t boast and flash their money about or make themselves unpopular, we mix freely which does seem to surprise them rather’.

Britain did not have segregation, which enraged some white American troops, especially those from the Southern States of America. The American Army tried to allow black troops into towns or pubs one night, whites another, but many places (including Lyme Regis) would not accept this.