Retired American policeman is in Harborough carrying out detective work about US military unit based here in WWII

A retired American policeman is in Market Harborough carrying out vital new detective work about an elite US military unit based here in the Second World War.

Bill Bonnamy, 70, has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne. Outside the sign for Papillon Hall in Lubenham.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Bill Bonnamy, 70, has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne. Outside the sign for Papillon Hall in Lubenham. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Bill Bonnamy, 70, has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne.

Bill is retracing the footsteps of his dad William who was billeted at Papillon Hall in Lubenham in the build-up to the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The former veteran American law enforcement officer is working hand in hand with Market Harborough man Dave Allen as he launches his own very personal wartime mission.

Dave Allen with Bill Bonnamy, 70, who has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne. They are pictured outside Park House. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Bill, of Scottsdale, Arizona, told the Harborough Mail: “I’m putting my heart and soul into this.

“My dad served with the 319th field artillery group with the 82nd Airborne.

“He was both a gunner and a paratrooper.

“He was based at Papillon Hall in Lubenham.

Bill Bonnamy, 70, has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne. Inside Park House with the plaque. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“My dad liked living here in and around Market Harborough because he wasn’t in combat at the time and there were plenty of women!

“He was just 23 at the time and full of life.

“He came over here to Leicestershire from Ireland in February 1944 and he was training hard here till he took part in the D-Day operation that June,” said Bill, who said his dad died at 64.

“He got through the Normandy fighting thank goodness with a few nicks and bruises before returning here on July 14.

The old stable block at Papillon Hall where the Americans slept. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“And he then went off to fight at Arnhem in Holland on September 13.

“There were 1,000 men in my dad’s battalion and I’m trying to locate every single one.”

Meanwhile, Dave, 64, told the Mail: “This is a real labour of love for Bill – and I’m really honoured to be helping him on this.

“He’s over here in Harborough for a week or so as he pulls out all the stops to find out much more about his father and the gallant men who served with him in the last war.

Dave Allen with Bill Bonnamy, 70, who has flown 4,000 miles to come to the town as he strives to find out a lot more about his father’s old division, the crack 82nd Airborne. They are pictured inside Park House. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“I’ve carried out some research myself over the years in to US troops stationed in and around Market Harborough.

“And a daughter of one of the military vet’s put Bill in touch with me,” said Dave, a surveyor.

“This is Bill’s second trans-Atlantic visit here, he’s put a lot of work in striving to track down his father’s movements and history over here.

“He spent a lot of his police career in America as a top detective in Chicago so he’s putting his well-crafted skills to excellent use here!

“Ultimately Bill is hoping to set up a new memorial website for American servicemen based around Market Harborough.

“Many were put up at Papillon Hall in Lubenham while others were billeted with individual families and some stayed at Park House in Market Harborough.

Bill Bonnamy, 70, stands where Papillon Hall in Lubenham was. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“We would love to hear from any local people who remembers those days.

“Did your family help to accommodate any US troops?

“Do you recall seeing them out training here, popping into local shops or pubs – or have your parents passed down stories to you?”said Dave, a born and bred Harborian who owns a wartime Jeep.

If you can help Dave you can contact him on 07812 575 171 or by emailing [email protected]

Inside one of the stables at Papillon Hall. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER