American Library Relaunch Soiree

This week the American Library hosted its official relaunch two years after the refurbishment project that transformed our library. We were lucky to have been joined by supporters of the library both in person in Norwich and virtually via a live stream.

Richard Middleton provides opening remarks.

To open our event, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton welcomed guests to the Forum and the American Library. He was joined by speakers Councillor Margaret Dewsbury and Colonel Charles Metrolis. Councillor Dewsbury is the Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and spoke to the rich history of the American influence in Norwich that began during World War II. She spoke fondly of her grandparents’ memories of the American GIs who spent time in Norfolk. Colonel Metrolis is the Air Attache to the United States Embassy and spent time during his service in the UK. He shared an appreciation for the special relationship that has long existed between the United States and the United Kingdom that the American Library showcases everyday.

A highlight of the event was the speeches given by three WWII veterans who served here in Norwich in the 2nd Air Division. Each veteran was able to attend the event virtually from their homes in the United States. We were so lucky to hear from these brave men who have such a strong history with Norwich.

Guests were met by virtual attendees, three 2nd Air Division Veterans: Earl Wassom, Allan Hallett and Bob Birmingham.

To close out the event, guests were invited to visit the refurbished American Library. Here they could see the WWII memorial, plane models, and the large collection of books by American writers that are available to the public. Visitors viewed the Roll of Honor, listing the names of the nearly 7,000 American personnel from the 2nd Air Division who were based in East Anglia during World War II and were killed in action. They could also see B-24 bombers, assembly ships and fighter models with information about the particular bomber or fighter group on display.

Visitors at the American Library. From left: Sheriff of Norwich Caroline Jarrold, Air Attache to the US Embassy Col. Charles Metrolis, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton, NCC Vice Chairperson Councillor Graham Plant, NCC Cabinet Member for Communities Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly.
Guests in the memorial section of the library.
Guests review the Roll of Honor in the library.

Overall, the event was a great success that brought together veterans, academics, American supporters, and locals from Norwich who represented the various groups that made this library memorial possible. It was wonderful to see the reach that the American Library has had for so many through the years and how that impact will continue with the new library. It was also a special opportunity for the Library Scholars to see the 2nd AD community in action and in person, which we thoroughly enjoyed. But nothing could top the unique 21st century moment of hearing and seeing our wonderful veterans address the gathering from across the pond and across the years.

Post by Lauren Cortese and Suzanne Solomon

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