Exploring the the 2nd Air Division Digital Archive

The 2nd Air Division Digital Archive has been live for some time now–if you haven’t already, be sure to have a look! It’s a unique collection of over 30,000 images of original photographs, letters, memoirs and other documents. So instead of having to visit the Norfolk Record Office in person to view a document, you now have access to the material online.

The archive was built up over several decades and is preserved at the Norfolk Record Office’s purpose-built archive storage facility–with over 200 boxes of unique material, scanning and describing all of the items was definitely no small feat.

Here’s a sample of just a few of the items that the Digital Archive has to offer (click on any image to enlarge):

Photographs of a rodeo at Carrow Road Stadium


In this gallery you can browse through a fascinating series of photos depicting a traditional American-style rodeo that took place at Carrow Road Stadium, in August 1943. A fund-raising event for the Norfolk and Norwich War Charities, the people of Norwich attended in droves to watch events like steer-riding…


pig wrestling…


fire breathing…


car pulling…


and much more!


Red Cross service club registers

state register

These four registers for the American Red Cross Service Club were used to document the names of the American servicemen who visited the Club between 1943 and 1946. These service clubs were established throughout the UK in order to provide beds and services for men on leave (American-style coffee was apparently particularly popular!), and to generally be a “home away from home.” Servicemen would sign their names and official information in the register during their first visit to the club, thus making it the the most comprehensive list of of American servicemen in Norfolk during the Second World War.


The registers were also used by the men to find contact details of other serving personnel from their home state, and even to write messages for their friends. It’s fascinating to flip through these pages (zoom-in is recommended) and to find the personal notes men wrote for each other, and to get a sense of the sheer variety of places the men are from. It’s a powerful experience, to think about how behind every name is an individual story… You can see additional photos of the American Red Cross Service Club (such as the kitchen, entrance hall, and sleeping spaces) here, as well as an article about the opening of the Service Club at Bishop’s Palace in Norwich.


Informal and formal photographs of James Reeves and others

This is a lovely collection of both formal and informal photographs of James H. ‘Jim’ Reeves and fellow serviceman. These photos give you a good sense of everyday life as a serviceman in Norfolk, with moments including a day out on the Wroxham broads…


a glimpse of the armed forces band…


a visit from the Glen Miller band…

Glen Miller

a trip to the Norwich Hay Market…

Hay Market

and even a glimpse inside a residential Nissan hut! (On the back of this photo, James writes, “the box I am looking into is my grocery store where I keep all my eats.”)

Nissan hut

There’s lots more, so be sure to take a look!


Overseas photos

The Archive certainly isn’t contained to glimpses of Norfolk and England. The ‘Other places’ section is a fascinating one to explore. This collection of photos taken in Marrakech, Morrocco (primarily of 1940’s street scenes) was my favorite, along with this series taken in Libya and Tunis.





This post was primarily focused on photographs, but there is definitely a wealth of other material to be enjoyed. Can you find the brochures advertising the early fundraising efforts for the Memorial Library? Let us know if you’re successful in tracking it down! 🙂

A full catalogue of the collection (with links to the items that are digitized) is available here.




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