Category Archives: Local Interest

Hello, Norwich. Hello, Norfolk. We’re here because of you, and it wouldn’t be right to let slip through our net those heart-warming tales and informative yarns (and suchlike) that make us, you. You, us. Sometimes, America be blessed, we just like to get local.

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

Local war-era memories

By Danielle Prostrollo

Recently, Mancroft And More magazine ran an article about the Second Air Division Memorial Library.  We were certainly privileged to have such a lovely article in the magazine and we are honored that Freddie has shared these war-era memories in response to that article.  Armed with permission to reprint the article, we wanted to share Freddie’s memories with our 2nd Air Division community.  I hope you enjoy the piece as much as we have!

A Chance Encounter
(The article on the Memorial Library in the September issue prompted this personal reminiscence:)

On a recent trip to Norwich, my wife and I visited the church of St Peter Mancroft. As we quietly wandered around inside, I was reminded of another visit to the church back in the early 1960s with another lady by my side. This elderly lady had travelled alone from Oakland, California to participate in a service of commemoration at St Peter Mancroft  honouring all the American servicemen, namely members of the United States 8th Air Force, who had died whilst flying bombing missions from East Anglian air bases in World War 2.

By meeting this lady,  I was now to be connected to those past events, as I shall explain.

On a warm summer’s evening, after sightseeing in London, we dashed for a train before it left Liverpool Street station. Thankfully, we were just in time. After pausing for breath in a crowded corridor, we then went in search of somewhere to sit down. No easy task, but we persevered and eventually found a compartment with two spare spaces, which we managed to squeeze into.

After settling down, I casually glanced at my fellow passengers, my eyes finally settling on a small lady tucked in a corner, knitting. Suddenly conscious she was being watched, she looked up and saw me thoughtfully watching her. She nodded and smiled, but there was no further contact between us until the journey to Norwich was practically over and our compartment had almost cleared.

We learned that her name was Kendall, that she came from California and that she had come to England to attend  a memorial service for American servicemen at St Peter Mancroft church. “It’s in the city of Norwich”, she added sweetly, in case we didn’t know.

Mrs Kendall went on to tell us that her son, Augusto, had been a ball-turret air gunner ion B24s, Liberator bombers. Augusto had died after returning from a mission over Germany. There was a long moment’s silence between us after that. But by now, our train was slowing down and cases were being lifted from luggage racks before we pulled into Norwich Thorpe railway station.

Outside the station, the sky was darkening and we asked Mrs Kendall where she was staying before saying our goodbyes. To our dismay, she said she hadn’t booked into any hotel and wasn’t sure where to go.

We promptly decided to help out, to find some reasonably priced accommodation. We eventually found a hotel nearby and helped her upstairs with her bags. She thankfully settled on the bed, but looked so forlorn that we decided to take her home with us. Naturally uncertain whether this was the right thing to do, she finally accepted our offer when I told her I was also an airman in the RAF, stationed close to Norwich.

“Ma” Kendall, as she insisted we call her, soon settled down in our house in Mill Hill Rd. When the day of the memorial service arrived, I escorted her to St Peter Mancroft church. A much bigger event than I’d realised. There were ranks of smartly dressed American airmen flanking both sides of the pathway leading into the church. Bells rang, a bugle sounded. banners waved. A moving service followed, all this including the voice of President John F Kennedy relayed from America.

Once the service was over, we mingled with others inspecting the books of remembrance.  We found the name of Ma Kendall’s son and she was deeply moved.

A few days later, before leaving us to return to America, our guest revealed that she had a nephew serving at Mildenhall in the United States Air Force. She added that he did not know she was over in England and “wouldn’t he be surprised”.

So we decided to surprise him and our meeting with this young captain and his charming wife was a wonderful experience. A party was going on at the Mildenhall base and we were all invited to join in the fun. Alas, all too soon the party was over and we had to say our farewells. A few days later, another farewell. Ma Kendall finally left us and we, including “Mimi” our cat, who often sat on her lap, were sorry to see her go.

Written by Freddie Jones
As appearing in Mancroft and More December 2016 – February 2017
stpetermancroft.org.uk

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Filed under Local Interest, Memorial Library, Uncategorized

Faces of Cambridge

Faces of Cambridge

Cambridge American Cemetery have launched a fantastic initiative to feature as many portraits as possible of those buried or inscribed on the Wall of the Missing for Memorial Day 2017. The pictures will be displayed at each headstone and on the wall. And the team based at Madingley are hoping that you can help them.

ABMC staff carry out a great deal of research into the servicemen, women and civilians who are commemorated at the Cambridge American Cemetery. They are endeavouring to put a face to each name. However, such investigations take a long time and so they are asking for help to complete the picture.

To support this wonderful project the ABMC are asking anyone who has photographs of someone who is buried there, or who has their name inscribed on the Wall of the Missing,  to share with them electronic versions of any images they hold. They would also appreciate the following information with any images you send them, because there are people with similar names:

  •  Full name
  •  Date of Death
  •  Short biopic (if you have time)
  •  Image – best resolution possible

This as an ongoing project and certainly not one that will be finished by 2017. Your help can make Faces of Cambridge happen.

Please send any images and information to harrisons@abmc.gov . And to find out more about the Cambridge American Cemetery please visit their website.

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Filed under American History, Local Interest, World War 2

Airfield in Focus: Rackheath (467th Bomb Group)

In this series of posts, we will be featuring a different 2nd Air Division airfield and bomb group from World War II. In this post, the airfield in focus is Rackheath, home of the 467th Bomb Group.

Rackheath Airfield is situated 5 miles NE of Norwich. It was the most easterly and therefore the nearest to Germany of all British wartime airfields

In February/March 1944, the 467th Bomb Group moved in with 58 B-24 Liberators. They were commanded by Colonel Albert J Shower, who was the only group commander to stay with the same group from beginning to the end of the war. He achieved the rank of Colonel at age thirty-one, one of the youngest Colonels in the Air Corps.

They flew their first mission against Bourges airfield in France, on April 10th 1944. They were a top-notch group, leading the 8th Air Force in bombing accuracy, and set a 2nd Air Division record by completing their first 100 missions in only 140 days. Witchcraft, a B-24 Liberator of the Group (and a model of which can be seen in the library entrance), held the record for the most combat missions for this type of bomber in the 8th Air Force (flying 130 missions).

Crew of a B-24 Liberator bomber

By the end of combat, the 467th Bomb Group had logged the following numbers:

  • Flown 212 missions
  • 5,105 aircraft attacked targets in Germany or German-held territory
  • Dropped 13,353 tons of bombs
  • Flown 35,537 hours of operational flying time.
  • Lost 49 aircraft, of which 29 were missing in action
  • Used 160 combat B-24 planes.

Rackheath Airfield & 467th Bomb Group Facts:

  • The aircraft stationed here were given the nickname ‘The Rackheath Aggies.’ It’s rumoured that the name came from local village resident Mrs Aggie Curtis, who had a reputation for being a lively resident. It is also rumored that the name came from a Texas football team.
  • By the end of the war over 5,000 men and women had been stationed at Rackheath.
  • Group commander Colonel Albert J Shower’s nickname was ‘Black Al’ and was described as a “strict disciplinarian” who believed in shiny shoes and strict dress code.
  • The famous Witchcraft was one of the last aircraft to leave Rackeath. She went on a tour of America to promote the sale of war bonds, but it is reported that (like the majority of wartime aircraft) she was scrapped and sold for next to nothing, the buyers making more money from the petrol they siphoned from her tanks than what they paid for the entire aircraft.

[Source: David H. Kibble-White’s readable and informative book The Rackheath Aggies]

Flag Ceremony Rackheath 12th April 1944. Source: The 467th Archive

After the War

After completing their final mission on April 25th 1945, the 467th BG returned to the USA in July 1945, and Rackheath returned to more peaceful uses with the help of the St Ives Sand & Gravel Company. The technical site was later adapted for light industry, which still flourishes as the Rackheath Industrial Estate, with many new buildings added in recent years. The control tower has been restored, and is used as office premises. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to the 467th Bomb Group near the village sign on Salhouse Road, next toto Holy Trinity Church.

All sites are now private property and permission must be obtained prior to visiting. Please contact Memorial Library staff.

A B-24 Liberator of the 467th Bomb Group flies over Berlin during a mission. Source: The American Air Museum

Further Information

Books

Bodle, Peter. The 467th Bomb Group in Norfolk : a pictorial history of the USAAF’s 467th Bombardment Group at Rackheath, during WWII. Stoke Ferry : Liberator Publishing, 2010

Healy, Allen. The 467th Bombardment Group, September 1943 – June 1945. Healy, Allan 5th ed.. 467th Book Group, 2008

Kibble-White, David H. The Rackheath Aggies. Banham, Norwich, Norfolk: Erskine Press, 2001.

Watts, Perry. The famous B-24 “Witchcraft”: the enchanted Liberator : a unique U.S. bomber’s experience during WWII. Atglen : Schiffer Publishing, 2015

Websites

467th Bomb Group (Official Website)

Norfolk’s American Connections

The 467th Archive

American Air Museum in Britain

The Mighty Eighth American Air Force

East Anglia Film Archive

Be sure to also check out our post on Attlebridge Airfield (466th Bomb Group).

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Filed under Books, Local Interest, Online Resources, World War 2