Special GWR Train Used by Eisenhower, June 1944
Media: acrylic on board
Size: 345 x 445 mm
Acquired: 1996; Purchase
Accession Number: 1996.125
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, together with British and American Chiefs of Staff, enjoyed the use of a special GWR train during the period leading to the D-Day landings in Normandy, in June 1944.
The necessities of war-time security at that time have continued to hamper recent research into the train and its movements but sufficient has been discovered to suggest that visits to Wales, for example, are believed to have been rare. Hitherto (6/95) only a single Welsh journey has been traced, when the special train - code named ALIVE - left Addison Road Station for West Wales. This Kensington terminus normally dealt with goods traffic but was well suited for Eisenhower's purpose; it was located close to central London and away from excessive public scrutiny, and also provided good access to the essential main lines radiating from the capital. It was much favoured by him.
It appears the train's destination on 31.3.1944 was Tenby, where the General inspected the 110th Infantry Regiment (28th Infantry Division). It rained ; the General caught a cold! Kay Summersby, Eisenhower's driver throughout this period , later recalled,
"On a trip in the vicinity of Tenby that month, we drove about 120 miles in one day, a lot of milage for England (sic). The rain was incessant; General Ike insisted on every stop, on time, and ended up with a bad cold"
Eisenhower was my Boss : Kay Summersby (1952) Werner & Co. NY
The journey home was broken up at Bridgend for a visit to troops at Margam Abbey and continued to Blandford (Dorset) for an overnight stop. After further inspections in the Chard and Taunton districts, Eisenhower returned to Addison Road on 2 April.
At this time, the train consisted of 11 vehicles, 10 of which were of GW origin; the exception was a 1st Class LNER Sleeping Car (code name "Bayonet" and stabled at Old Oak Common) - it was used personally by Eisenhower. In the painting, this is depicted as the penultimate vehicle - its normal position in the train. The two vans nearest the locomotives were GW "Monsters" and were used for conveying the General's Staff Car (normally a Packard) with various support vehicles such as jeeps and motor-cycles. The third vehicle was a utility van which housed an electric generator and steam-heating boiler. The remaining carriages comprised Sleeping Cars (2), a Restaurant Car, a Conference Car and more general passenger/brake vehicles. All the larger windows in these carriages were equipped with special metal shutters, operated electrically from within; windows in external doors were reduced by about 50% and also fitted with metal shutters, operated manually. The painting depicts some carriages with shutters in the closed position.
Eisenhower continued to use the train after D-Day and in December 1944 it was shipped from Southampton to France and used in Europe until it returned to UK control on 30 July 1945.