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Opinion

UK resident seeks information on Akron soldier

12/26/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

Photos courtesy of Phil Davis
The residents of a tiny hamlet just outside of Henley on Thames, in England, are wondering if any browsers of www.Akron.com are able to help uncover a piece of their history.

Hennerton House is 200 years old and stands about a mile and half upstream from Henley on Thames, a small town in England famous for its Royal Regatta, which each summer attracts the world’s finest rowers to compete on a historic stretch of the River Thames. Hennerton House is a quintessential English historic home that oozes the past at the slightest glance; a place where visitor’s thoughts drift easily into a world of costumed drama and uniformed servants polishing the family silver. The entrance to the estate within which the house stands is at the corner of a country road (Kentons Lane), which is about halfway between Henley and a smaller village called Wargrave. It is at that entrance we find “Caruso from Akron, Ohio.”

The Hennerton entrance (pictured above) is a grand gateway. Robust iron gates hang from bathstone pillars placed there with precision in 1818, when the house was built by the first owner, C.F. Johnson, to architectural drawings created by Charles Heathcote Tatham. It is on one of those pillars that Caruso left his mark in the form of a deeply scratched heart within which are simply the words “Caruso Akron Ohio” (pictured at right). While there may have been a time in the past when Caruso’s graffiti was looked upon with disdain, today’s Hennerton residents think differently. They look rather fondly on the engraving, seeing it as piece of their history that surely has a story to tell, if only it could be discovered.

The origin of Caruso’s work is vague. Local residents say the engraving has been there for as long as they can remember. The most likely explanation is that Caruso was a member of the U.S. forces billeted for a short time at Hennerton House during World War II. The fanciful speculation is that one night Caruso was on guard duty at the Hennerton gate; bored and with his mind on a sweetheart he had left in Ohio, he amused himself by etching the heart and his name as a lasting token.

A document found in a military museum in England tells us that the U.S. military unit billeted at Hennerton House in March/April 1944 was an “Advance Detachment of the 178 Ordnance Battalion.” This independently sourced reference contains no speculation, and therefore I feel we are quite safe to assume that soldier Caruso was a member of 178 Ordnance Battalion.

Residents are hoping that someone from Akron, Ohio — maybe even someone called “Caruso” — will be able to help them learn more about what was happening in those dark wartime days and nights, 60 years ago.

Anyone with information may contact me at philmax.davis@virgin.net or Phil Davis, Hennerton Beeches, Henerton, Wargrave, Berks. RG10 8PD, United Kingdom.

Phil Davis, Wargrave, United Kingdom

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