Tag Archives: GIs

Pauline Byford’s Wartime Scrapbook

Pauline Byford was a typical Attleborough girl. Well, typical for the 1940s.

Pauline Byford in 1939 (photo posted with permission from Paul Farley)

Pauline Byford in 1939 (photo posted with permission from Paul Harley)

Daughter of Charles and Edith Byford, Pauline served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War when the area was swarming with dashing American GIs. Like many other girls, Pauline enthusiastically made friends with the Yankees.

Her scrapbook of stories and keepsakes, recently archived by Picture Norfolk, details some of her adventures…


courtesy of Paul Harley

…Thursday March 8th, 1945. Caught 2.20pm train. Two Lieutenants and two Sergeants got in, who were going on a 3-day pass to Stockton. We drank tawny wine and ate all our sandwiches. They came to Nottingham. Stayed at the Flying Horse. We ate, then went to the Palais. They enjoyed it. Jack and Leon, Lieutenants and Shorty and Davis, Sergeants from [RAF Knettishall] Heath. Done 16 missions… Tuesday March 20th, 1945. Hitch(hiked) home. Stamford to Newmarket with 2 Yanks. They gave us this gum…


courtesy of Paul Harley

Above is a packet of Raleigh cigarettes, a gift from an airman named Vince who, according to Pauline’s caption, was killed Saturday 8 April 1944, along with the rest of his crew. There were, in fact, three different airmen named Vincent killed that day during Mission #28 over Brunswick, Germany, when “the Group suffered its heaviest loss in a single raid to date. Of the 32 planes that were dispatched, 7 failed to return. Heavy flak and severe enemy fighter attacks took a heavy toll, but the bombing results were excellent” (The Liberator Men of Old Buc, 2nd Air Division Memorial Library collection). Seven entire crews from 4 different squadrons all perished.  

…In 1949 Pauline married Roland Harley, a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force, and the couple settled in Norwich.


You can view Picture Norfolk’s recent acquisitions by searching their catalogue, where you can find several more images of Pauline and her friends…and many, many more illustrating both the high and the lows of life in wartime Norfolk.

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‘The Friendly Invasion’, a film produced in partnership with the Memorial Library and The Garage as part of the Norfolk’s American Connections Project, is now live on YouTube. Please follow the link to view this work of local young people incorporating archival footage, photographs, interviews, and dramatic reconstruction. One of the featured interviewees is Mr. Charles Walker, President of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust and veteran pilot of the 445th Bomb Group (Tibenham). Watch, share, enjoy!

See the film on our YouTube page…‘The Friendly Invasion’

WACs and GIs at Ketteringham Hall

WACs and GIs at Ketteringham Hall, the HQ of the 2nd Air Division (MC371/814), Norfolk Record Office.

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Indoor Amusements for GIs

In these cold months, we struggle to stay entertained indoors. For American servicemen and women in Britain, this basic struggle was tangled up in all sorts of strange and wonderful cultural discoveries. The following is a passage from our copy of INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN, 1942, which is reproduced from the original publication distributed by the US War Department….

INDOOR AMUSEMENTS. The British have theaters and movies (which they call “cinemas”) as we do. but the great place of recreation is the “pub”. A pub, or public house is what we would call a bar or tavern. The usual drink is beer, which is not an imitation of German beer as our beer is, but ale. (But they usually call it beer or “bitter”). Not much whiskey is now being drunk. War-time taxes have shot the price of a bottle up to about $4.50. The British are beer drinkers – and can hold it. The beer is now below peacetime strength, but can still make a man’s tongue wag at both ends.

You will be welcome in the British pubs as long as you remember one thing. The pub is “the poor man’s club”, the neighborhood or village gathering place, where the men have come to see their friends, not strangers. If you want to join a darts game, let them ask you first (as they probably will). And if you are beaten it is the custom to stand aside and let someone else play.

The British make much of Sunday. All the shops are closed, most of the restaurants 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 Sunday afternoon in the country.

British churches, particularly the little village churches, are often very beautiful inside and out. Most of them are always open and if you feel like it, do not hesitate to walk in. But do not walk around if a service is going on.

You will naturally be interested in getting to know your opposite number, the British soldier, the “Tommy” you have heard and read about. You can understand that two actions on your part will slow up the friendship – swiping his girl, and not appreciating what his army has been up against. Yes, and rubbing it in that you are better paid than he is.

Children the world over are easy to get along with. British children are much like our own. The British have reserved much of the food that gets through solely for their children. To the British children you as an American will be “something special”, for they have been fed at their schools and impressed with the fact that the food that they ate was sent to them by Uncle Sam. You don’t have to tell the British about lend-lease food. They know about it and appreciate it.

An American  bomber crew member of the 389th Bombardment Group (based at Hethel) playing cards. Photo by Charles Nigrelli from the Picture Norfolk archive.

An American bomber crew member of the 389th Bombardment Group (based at Hethel) playing cards. Photo by Charles Nigrelli from the Picture Norfolk archive.

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