By Don Allen
After the terrible fire of 1994 that devastated the Library’s holdings and led to a six year “temporary” relocation to Ber Street in Norwich, the Memorial Library was re-opened in the newly built Forum building on the 7th of November, 2001.
608 2nd Air Division veterans and their families were also in attendance, holding their convention that year in Norwich.
Outside the Memorial Library is a garden containing a number of American birch trees that were presented by the Friends of the 2nd Air Division.
A prominent feature of the old Memorial, the Fountain and Mosaic, could not be re-erected on the Forum grounds. However, the Mosaic, which contains a mineral stone from every state in the United States, was rebuilt on the grounds of the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton.
Inside the Library is a wall-length mural composed of images from the “Friendly Invasion”; Liberator models showing the Assembly Ships for the different bomb groups; and a large detailed model of “The Witchcraft”, with a 6-foot long wingspan, is hung prominently from the ceiling. For photos of these and more information see the “In The Library” posts on our blog site.
The new Library also contains over 7,000 books, computers for public use, and audio-visual equipment for viewing the Library’s film collection, which has DVD’s of past Conventions, documentaries on the individual bomb groups, and interviews with veterans, all available for viewing in the Library.
In the center of the Library is the Shrine Area. This area, designed to reflect the human cost of war, contains a map of the bomb groups as spread throughout Norfolk and banners representing each of the bomb groups, all surrounding the Roll of Honor. Each day a page of the Roll of Honor is turned, ensuring that every hero that provided the ultimate sacrifice is remembered.
For nearly 17 years the new Library has been continuing the mission the members of the 2nd Air Division began 73 years ago: to be a “living memorial” to their fallen comrades. Through annual events organized by the Library on topics ranging from WWII to current culture in America; by visiting schools to provide activities and learning opportunities for the younger generation; through the American Scholars program where American students at UEA work at the Library, providing a real-live American presence throughout the year; to the physical Library itself, providing a place to come in and learn about nearly every American subject, the Library provides a place for the special relationship between the US and the UK to continue to grow.