Category Archives: Archive Items

Upcoming Events!

We have an exciting summer of events coming up at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library; from the UEA Lecture series focusing on the political climate of American current events to events exploring the historical role of Americans in East Anglia there is a talk for everyone.

A few of the historical talks coming up include:

This session will allow you to get up close with American artefacts from WWII – perspex windscreen jewellry for an airman’s sweetheart to silk maps used in the event of emergency landing (or worse!). Come along and have a look at the different items and learn a bit of Norwich history.


Recently we have launched our digital archive – a massive project that allows anyone to access the treasure trove of artefacts and memorabilia of the 2nd Air Division Memorial from any computer. This talk will not only show you how to navigate and search for items within the digital archive but also whet your appetite for the kinds of things that can be found – poetry, letters, diaries, photos, and so much more.


A bit different from the digital archive, this talk at Hunstanton Library will showcase some of the film footage taken by and of the American airmen during their time in East Anglia. The archival footage is a fascinating way to put yourself in their time and will surely get you thinking about how life has changed in the years that followed!


We hope to see you at any (or all!) of the above talks this May. Please refer to the appropriate digital flyer for booking, location, and time details. 

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Filed under American History, Archive Items, Current Events, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Public Events, World War 2

More Items from the Memorabilia Collection

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The newly organized archive.

We’ve already highlighted a few items from our recently reorganized Memorabilia Collection and thought it’d be fun to show a few more. We have well over 300 items of memorabilia stored at the library, which have been acquired over many years from veterans and their families, as well as local patrons.

The reorganization of the collection was a big job. For many years the collection was kept in a variety of boxes and envelopes, and items were difficult to find and frequently got put back in the wrong place. Heading the project was Rachel Willis, who previously worked with the Norfolk Museum Service and brought with her a wealth of expertise. Without Rachel’s experience and knowledge, this job would certainly have never been completed, especially to such a high standard.

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10 pieces from Roger D Roe jigsaw puzzle

The puzzle above is one example of the kind of stories that exist behind the archive items, stories that highlight the connection that grew between local residents and the America This wooden jigsaw puzzle was offered to the archive by a gentleman who’d been a young boy in the 1940’s. His family, like many others, made friends with some of the American servicemen that they’d met in Norwich. One serviceman was kind enough to have a Christmas gift box of presents for the children in his ‘Norwich’ family sent from the States. One of these gifts was the jigsaw puzzle. The gentleman told us he had never put the puzzle together as he had been too young at the time but had kept it through the years and wondered if we would have a use for it. Look at those unusually shaped pieces!

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This is an example of sweetheart jewelry, made by servicemen to send back to girlfriends or wives in America. This particular example was made by an American airman for an English woman, who was only a young girl during the war, when the airman used to visit her family. It is a Perspex heart with small gold wings embedded.

dance invitation

An example of a dance invitation at an Officer’s Club.


More dogtags

Above are dogtags, which is an informal name for the identification tags worn by military personnel, named after the resemblance to actual dog tags. The tag is primarily used for the identification of the dead and wounded, and also carries essential basic information for the treatment of the injured (blood type and history of inoculation), along with providing religious preference.

French armband

This armband was used by the French Forces for the identification of their fighting units.

Russian armband

Essential Russian phrases for American servicemen, should they be shot down in the area.


We also have quite the collection of medals…

motor ration fuel book

… and along with ration books for food (seem below), we also have a ration book for motor fuel.
national ID card back national ID card

National Identity cards were mandatory to carry.

playing cards

Playing cards are used for fun.ration book inside ration book instructions ration book

And finally here is our fine selection of ration books. School children who come visit the library are always fascinated by the idea that people couldn’t just walk into a Tesco and get whatever they wanted!

Below are a series of photos from the collection, some of which are available to view on our Digital Archive.

crash site photo

This photo is of a crash site of a B24 Liberator in Langley woods near Lodden, about 4 miles from Seething base. A P47 Fighter aircrast was practicing making passes at the B24 but got too close and his propeller hit the Liberator. Both aircraft crashed, resulting in the deaths of 8 young men on March 13th 1945.

nose art

Showing typical nose art on aircraft, this Liberator was later declared ‘war weary’ and assigned to 2nd A.D. Scouting Force. Note bombs painted on aircraft to show each mission flown.

Christmas upload


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Christmas 1944 in a local farmhouse near the Seething bae. Mr. & Mrs Shulver from Thwaite St Mary lived in their farmhouse close to the hospital site and invited all those there to Christmas lunch.

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A children’s Chirstmas party held in December 1944 on the 448th Base.

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A baseball game on Station 146 Seething. The airmen used to play football, softball, and baseball on base.

All in all, it’s items like these in our memorabilia collection that truly allow the library to function as “living history.”




Filed under Archive Items, Memorial Library

A Brief Look at the Memorabilia Collection

One of the projects that’s been completed this year is the reorganization of our physical archive, which involved the detailed sorting and cataloging of many, many different objects. Our memorabilia collection is nicely sorted now–here’s a brief peek at some of the items (click on any of the images to enlarge):

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Leather flying helmet, oxygen mask and googles with coloured polaroid lenses.

John J. Horan, pilot, 466th Bomb Group (Attlebridge)

John J. Horan flew 32 combat missions over Europe between 23 December 1944 – 16 April 1945.

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Escape and Evasion maps

Silk maps were one of the most ingenious ideas of the Second World War. During WWII thousands of maps were produced on silk, thin cloth and tissue paper. Using this kind of material instead of regular paper avoided the possibility of wear and tear.

A serviceman captured or shot down in enemy territory could use the map to help avoid capture or to find his way to safety. Silk maps were issued specifically to airmen so they could sew them into their clothes or wear them around the neck. They could also be concealed in a cigarette packet or within the hollowed out heel of a boot.

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“Button” or “Orifice” escape compass

Donated by Fred Dale (44th Bomb Group)

Designed to be hidden on the body if captured.

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Stars and Stripes

This was the daily newspaper of the American Armed Forces. This edition was produced for the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and is dated February 6th, 1945.

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Seething Airfield Site Plan

This map shows the layout of the Seething airfield, home to the 448th Bomb Group, one of the fourteen 2nd Air Division units based in Norfolk and north-east Suffolk during World War II.

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U.S. Armed Forces Guide to London

Signed by the Lord Mayor of London and the Chairman of the London County Council, here’s a sample quote from the cover:

“We want you to know that we are delighted to see you, that we have very warm feelings in our hearts for you, and are ready and anxious to do all we can to make your stay in our country enjoyable.”

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This is one of the items in the collection that I personally found most interesting. As many of you might know, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (President John F. Kennedy’s older brother) died on 12 August 1944, flying an experimental drone aircraft. This is wreckage from his plane that exploded over Blythburg, Suffolk.

Joseph (typically called Joe) was regarded as an experienced Patrol Plane Commander. Along with a fellow officer who was an expert in radio control projects, they were assigned to take a ‘drone’ Liberator bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of high explosives into the air and to stay with it until two ‘mother’ planes had achieved complete radio control over the drone.

The plan was that they were were then to bail out over England. The “drone,” now under the control of the mother planes, was to proceed on the mission which was to culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching site in Normandy.

Unfortunately things did not proceed quite as smoothly. The airplane was in flight with routine checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at 6.20pm on August 12th, 1944, two explosions blasted the drone, resulting in the death of its two pilots. No final conclusions as to the cause of the explosions has ever been reached. Joe’s father (Jospeh P. Kennedy Sr.) had plans for his oldest son to become President, but after Joe’s death, these high expectations then fell upon the younger brother John, who (as we well know) was elected President of the United States in 1961.

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“Prepare for Combat” booklet

Turner Air Base, Albany, Georgia

Classes began at this air base in August 1941. Two types of training we offered: navigation training and advance pilot training. With the outbreak of World War II, Turner Field was placed on a wartime footing. Most of the site has since been taken over as a brewery.

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Meeting the locals

Lt. Grimes out for a ride around the area near his base at Seething, home to the 448th Bomb Group, stops to have a chat with youngsters close to Mundham “Garden House” pub.

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Polaroid Flying Goggle Instruction Booklet

You wouldn’t want to fly without your goggles!

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You can see more photos and other scanned images at our Digital Archive.

Speaking of archives, don’t forget about our upcoming Digital Archive workshop! It’s taking place Saturday, July 23rd, 10.30am – 12.00, presented by The Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Second Air Division Memorial Library. This will be a hands-on mini workshop introducing the Second Air Division Digital Archive. Booking is essential as places are limited. You can book online or via phone: (01603) 774740.

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Filed under Archive Items, Memorial Library, World War 2

April Events, Archive Items, IRS History and More

TS Elliot suggested in his magnum opus, The Waste Land, that April is the cruelest month, and we are all aware (especially in the United Kingdom!) how April showers bring May flowers, but what other significance does this month have for Americans?

Like in the month of March, there are not many national holidays in April, but there is one day in the month that all residents of the United States observe with either joy or apprehension: tax day, which falls on April 15th each year.

In addition to suggested reads by staff members and upcoming events in both April and May at the Memorial Library, today’s blog post will be looking at the IRS, tax day, and the history behind this momentous observance. We’ll also be discussing a select item from our recently re-organized archives, in the first installment of an ongoing series: Interesting Items from the 2nd Air Division Archives.

Interesting Items from the 2nd Air Division Archives

a short guide to great britain

This is an example of a pamphlet sent to American GIs produced by the US War Department in 1943.  The purpose of the document is to make Americans familiar with the differences in culture and custom between these two allied nations.  In the introduction to this pamphlet, similar to the one above archived by the University of Texas, it states:

“You are going to Great Britain as part of an Allied Offensive—to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground.  For the time being, you will be Britain’s guest.  The purpose of this guide is to start getting you acquainted with the British, their country and their ways… So it is only common sense to understand that the first and major duty Hitler has given his propaganda chiefs is to separate Britain and America and spread distrust between them.  If he can do that his chance of winning might return.”

The text then goes into more detail regarding specific aspects of British life in subsequent chapters, focusing on topics like sport, pub culture and what to discuss (and not discuss!) with an Englishmen.  In one chapter entitled The People, Their Customs and Manners, the booklet advises,

“The British have seen a good many Americans, and they like Americans.  They will like your frankness as long as it is friendly.  They are not given to back-slapping and they are shy about showing their affections.  But once they get to like you, they make the best friends in the world.” 

This document also warns of some important differences in urban life in the UK with the following suggestion:

“The British make much of Sunday.  All the shops are closed, and in the small towns there is not much to do.  You had better follow the example of the British and try to spend the day in the country.” 

This item is charming, somewhat naïve, and occasionally will bring a chuckle or at least a smile to the lips of the reader on both sides of the pond!

A Foray into American Culture

History of Federal Income Tax Day and the Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, is the bureau of United States Federal Government that is responsible for the collection of taxes, under the direction of the Department of the Treasury.  The first income tax was assessed in 1862, in order to raise funds for the Civil War.  This tax was proposed as an emergency measure, copied from the British system of income taxation.  During the Reconstruction, the funds were used to support the building of infrastructure projects such as railroads.  Ten years later, once the government coffers were replenished, the tax was allowed to expire. After the Supreme Court decision Pollack v Farmer’s Loan and Trust Co, which declared this type of collection unconstitutional, it looked as if citizens would never again be required to pay income tax.  However, several subsequent American Presidents (including Theodore Roosevelt) nonetheless tried to re-establish this means of bolstering government funds. Finally, in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution overturned earlier legislation and income tax was re-established.  Today the IRS collects 2.4 trillion dollars annually and processes over 234 million returns.

Suggested Reads by Staff

Linda’s Recommendation:

Hollywood by Bukowski

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

Many are familiar with the poetry of Charles Bukowski, but fewer may be aware of his autobiographical prose.  In Hollywood, the author recounts his involvement in the making of Barfly, a biopic of Bukowski and his rise to fame.  Although the names have been changed to protect the guilty, references are clear especially for those who have seen the 1987 film.  Irreverently written in the style that has come to define him, the book is a hilarious account of the egos, pitfalls and foibles inherent to the American film industry.

Writer Charles Bukowski, Actor Mickey Rourke and Director Barbet Schroeder on the set of the film.

Writer Charles Bukowski, Actor Mickey Rourke and Director Barbet Schroeder on the set of the film.

Linda McCarthy is an American Scholar at the Second Air Division Memorial Library.  She is currently in her third year of her PhD in Media Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Tom’s Recommendation:

a higher call

A Higher Call by Adam Makos

This is an account of a remarkable event that took place in the skies above Germany in 1943. An American B-17 bomber flown by Charlie Brown, riddled with bullets and flak, is approached by a German fighter plane. The German pilot, Franz Stigler, takes one look at the damage done to Ye Olde Pub and her crew and decides that he will not open fire.

After trying and failing to signal to Brown to land the plane in occupied territory, Stigler then escorts the damaged bomber to the coast and departs with a salute. Brown would put the bomber down at Seething, a Second Air Division airfield.

Brown was told to keep the story secret, and Stigler for obvious reasons did not tell his superiors of his actions. Incredibly, decades after the war, Charlie managed to get in contact with the man who had spared Ye Olde Pub and her crew. He and Franz became best of friends, dying a few months apart of old age.

Researched by Makos with extensive interviews of Brown and Stigler, this astonishing account demonstrates that even in total war, acts of compassion can still be shared by enemies.


A painting by John Shaw depicting the event.

Tom Fullam is Library and Information Assistant at the Second Air Division Memorial Library.

Julie’s Recommendation:

the pale king

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The perfect book for tax season, The Pale King is the last novel that American author David Foster Wallace was working on at the time of his death. An unfinished, work-in-progress that was posthumously arranged for publication by his editor, The Pale King is more of a series of anecdotes and linked stories, rather than a straightforward novel with a plot. Similar themes emerge throughout, though: many chapters focus on a group of employees working for the IRS headquarters in Illinois. Characters include a psychic who can only sense random and useless details about people, a ghost who sits with potential IRS employees when they’re taking their final exams, and a sweaty, nervous, just-hired IRS employee who has the same name as the author. Unconventional and melancholy, this unfinished novel challenges us to rethink the roles that boredom, attention and community play in our everyday lives.

Julie Pachico is an American Scholar at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and is in the final year of her PhD in Creative-Critical Writing.

Upcoming Events

Great American Poems


April is National Poetry Month and in order to celebrate we are hosting an evening of Great American Poems here at the Memorial Library, on Monday, April 25th, 6.30-7.30pm. It will be a fun, informal, poetry-filled evening of readings and presentations by local poets and scholars from the University of East Anglia. If you’d like, you can even bring and share your own favorite American poem (which is entirely optional but highly recommended!). This event is a lovely opportunity to meet fellow poetry lovers from the Norwich area, and a chance to hear poems you may otherwise have never encountered. Admission is free, but space is limited so be sure to book your place by either commenting here or contacting us via phone, email, or dropping by in person. We look forward to seeing you there!

The American Air Museum re-opens to the public at Duxford


In March, The American Air Museum reopened after a £3m refurbishment.  The museum features one of the most extensive collections of US Military Aircraft and artefacts outside of North America.  In addition to these, many interactive displays have been added with which visitors can hear directly from those men and women whose lives were shaped by their experiences of war, from the ‘War to End All Wars’ to the present day.  Entry to the American Air Museum is included in general admission to IWM Duxford.  Find out more here.

Somewhere in England- Theatre production – OPEN FOR BOOKING


Somewhere in England, an exciting new play commissioned to share the story of the 8th USAAF and their time in England, is now open for booking!  The region’s leading touring theatre group Eastern Angles are presenting this fascinating and moving new theatre production, in partnership with The Eighth in the East.  The play will tour right across the region and includes two site specific performance weekends at historic airfield sites, Thorpe Abbots and Debach.  The play focuses upon that which is distinctly American: nylons, Hershey bars and jitterbugging to Swing Bands in the local village hall all feature.  However, there was another side to this shared history of the ‘Friendly Invasion’ – a tale of segregation and of rural communities turned upside down. Kids being forced to grow up before their time, friendships forged and then blown apart and outsiders learning to live amongst the locals.  You can find out more over at the Somewhere in England page, which has all the booking information for you.

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Filed under American Culture, American History, Archive Items, Books, Current Events, Memorial Library