Sherborne’s links with America go back to Sir Walter Raleigh who, though he never reached America’s shores, was responsible through his agents for introducing potatoes and tobacco to England. It is said that Sir Walter was enjoying a pipe of tobacco when one of his maids poured a bucket of water over him, thinking him to be on fire. A number of local sites claim to be the setting for this event.
Sherborne’s War Memorial in front of the Abbey displays two plaques commemorating the 294th Engineer Combat Battalion of the United States Army. One commemorates 29 members of ‘C’ Company who were killed on 20th March, 1944 in an anti-tank mine explosion while training in Sherborne for the D-Day landings. The second plaque is inscribed: On June 6th, 1989, surviving members of the 294th Engineer Combat Battalion presented this plaque to commemorate its members killed in action and to express its gratitude to the people of Sherborne for their friendship in 1944 while the Battalion completed its preparations for the invasion in Europe. The Battalion left this town to serve as part of the V11 Army Corps in the battles in Normandy, northern France, the Burtgen Forest, the Ardennes, the Rhineland and central Germany. We recall those killed during these campaigns. During the Remembrance Sunday parade in November a major from the U S Corps of Engineers, on attachment to the School of Infantry in Warminster, places a wreath on the War Memorial.
The 228th American Hospital was built in Haydon Park in 1943 and treated over 22,000 patients both Allied and POW before it was disbanded in 1945. Sherborne library contains Jean Treasure’s excellent book about her experiences as a young secretary working for the Americans at the hospital.
The town has links with Sherborn, Massachusetts, which was founded by folk from Dorset. Indeed in the great Sherborne Pageant of 1905 a crowned lady depicted Sherborne and another her god-daughter Sherborn, Massachusetts. Sherborne Museum proudly displays the copy of a formal address sent by the American Sherborn in 1905 on the occasion of the twelve hundredth anniversary of the founding of the ‘Mother Town’, Sherborne, England. There is close contact between the two towns’ museums who regularly exchange information and members from both organisations visit each other from time to time.