Triple treat at Thorpe Abbotts
It is a special year for the 100th Bomb Group Museum, celebrating not one but three anniversaries
THINGS COME in threes, the saying has it, and for the 100th Bomb Group museum near Diss that is a truism this year. The Thorpe Abbotts museum, which commemorates the American fliers who operated from the airfield there in the second world war, celebrates it’s 40th anniversary this year. Additionally it is 75 years since the first B-17 bombers arrived at the base and it is also the 25th birthday of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing, based at RAF Mildenhall.
Celebrations for the anniversaries will be respectfully low-key; the volunteers at the immaculate collection of Nissen huts and the control tower will be marking the occasion in an appropriate way, with plans to invite a small group of re-enactors to join them for Remembering the
Past on Sunday, September 3, the date that war was declared with Germany by Neville Chamberlain in 1939. They hope to see some of the families of veterans stationed at the base, though as the crews themselves are now in their 80s and 90s, they are not expecting many of them this time.
They will also be inviting the 100th ARW to come along an put on a display in the summer as well, and they are hoping to use the anniversary celebrations to record more memories of the former airbase from local people to add to the stock they have.
The museum produced a DVD several years ago featuring locals recalling the days when the now quiet fields around the villages were throbbing with the sound of the heavy bombers and the busy activities of thousands of US airmen and they think people have more to tell them.
“We want to get people to talk about their experiences, people in the locality who were youngsters in the war,” said curator Ronald Batley. “We’d love then to share their memories of the war.”
Volunteer Carol Batley added that they were also interested in hearing about life in the camps after the war; once the crews had left the hundreds of huts were used for temporary housing for up to 50 families many years. “We learned to ride our bikes on the concrete runways of the airfield,” recalled Carol, who lived in one of the huts in the early 60s. “Everything ran with condensation. The walls were just concrete panels and in winter everything was frozen!
“But we did have baths, running water and electricity at a time when a lot of homes in villages were without baths and had to go to the pump or a well for water – there was no electricity for many until the 1950s. We think lots of people will have memories and photos of life in the huts and hope they can share them with us.”
The group also hope the anniversaries will generate interest from younger people wanting to learn more about the men and women who helped defeat Hitler. “We don’t get so many youngsters through,” said volunteer John Deller. “If it hadn’t been for these people we wouldn’t be here talking about it.”
Picture:Courtesyofthe100thBombGrouparchive 100th Bomb Carol Group Batley, volunteers Ronald (from Batley and left) J Max Whee Squadron Gale Leaders ‘Buck’ John Cleven ‘Bucky’ Egan, lef of the 100th Bomb Gr