August 15, 2020, will mark the 600th anniversary of The Mayflower sailing from Southampton, England, and its historic voyage to North America.
It may be of some interest to the people of Southampton, Suffolk County, USA, to know a little about the namesake town in the U.K. from which their own town may have taken its name, and of its Anglo American links.
Southampton sits at the head of a waterway and is a city in the county of Hampshire. It was first settled by the Romans, who named it Cluasentium. Around 650 AD, Saxon invaders from Northern Europe arrived, founding a new settlement called Hamwic; later, the name Hampton was used, then finally Southampton.
Many fine old buildings survive in the town, some dating back to the 12th century, including some old inns, a 12th century church and remnants of the stone walls that once enclosed the old town.
Southampton grew into a busy port, and by the early 1900s many ocean liners were leaving regularly for New York — including the ill-fated Titanic. The transatlantic trade flourished until the 1960s, when it declined due to cheaper and faster air travel.
An honored award called the “Blue Ribbon” was given to the ship that made the faster crossing: In 1952, it was awarded to the SS United States, whose record-breaking time remains unbeaten. The crews of these ships were mainly local men whose friends and families were grateful for the varied gifts that they brought back from the States: Levi’s jeans, Ben Sherman shirts, Fruit of the Loom boxer shorts — all unavailable in the U.K. until the late 1960s.
In 1917, servicemen of the 342nd Regiment of the United States Signals Corps were based in Southampton before departing to the first World War conflict in France.
The Spring of 1942 saw the arrival in Southampton Docks of the much welcomed Lease-Lend cargoes from the USA.
In 1944, men belonging to the American 14th Major Transportation Corps were based in and around the town, planning and preparing for their “D” Day departure to Normandy.
The town (now city) also benefited financially from American-owned businesses, including the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, The British American Tobacco Company and the Esso Refinery, to name just a few.
Southampton boasts a soccer team, nicknamed The Saints, who play in the English Premier League.
Finally, I would like to send my best wishes to all Sotonians and hope that peace and prosperity may always be found in both towns.
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One fine body…