Recipes from my Suffolk Kitchen

Saturday, 4 November 2017

When the USAAF came to Suffolk

All over Suffolk there are remains of wartime airfields. Some were RAF but after 1943 many were manned by young air-men from the States. On some airfields nothing much remains except perhaps a bit of runway used by a farmer for hard-standing or a few buildings perhaps used for storage or hidden among woodland.

Not far from where we live now was Horham Airfield known as Station 119 where the USAAF 95th Bomb Group were stationed between June 1943 and August 1945. 4 Squadrons and up to 2,000 men would have been living and working in this rural area close to the town of Eye. Now two bits of the old airbase have been turned into museums and last Sunday, on their last opening day of the year, we went to have a look.
















The Hospital Museum is a small privately run enterprise, while the Red Feather Club Museum on the right is a much bigger organisation.

This is what the hospital would have looked like in 1944


 An ambulance and old tools and equipment in the garage
 The emergency surgery room is a bit basic
Lots of old kitchen bits and bobs

Many airmen and their families had donated things to the museum. This case had papers and memorabilia from a James Irwin


Then we drove half a mile down the road to the buildings that housed the social club, bar and dance hall where the guys would have relaxed in their downtime
Not many photos from here as it was very busy. It was the final day of the season and they had their AGM happening later and many people were there in 1940's dress, the bar was doing a roaring trade.

The Huge model below shows the airfield and it's surroundings as they were. It was difficult to photograph, I needed to be 3 foot taller!

but you can see the hospital site in the foreground and the runways criss-crossing in the background. The accommodation areas  were spaced all around the edges of the airfield - one is on the bottom right corner and the Red Feather Club buildings are among those centre right. It's amazing how quickly these airfields were built, going from farmland to airfield in just a few months.


The rain absolutely chucked down when we left so we hurried home to light the wood-burner and warm up with a cuppa.
An interesting couple of hours on a grey Sunday afternoon.


Back Monday
Sue



21 comments:

  1. This is such an interesting post to me. My uncle was in the USAAF during WWII stationed at Tibenham base at Tivetshall SW of Norwich in 1943 and 1944. He was in the 445th bombing group. His plane was shot down over The English Channel in February of 1944. The plane and it's crew was never found and assumed to be in the channel. My family was told his name, along with others, was listed on a plaque near Tivetshall. No one in our family was ever able to travel overseas to see where my uncle had last been stationed. Could the airstrip at Tivetshall possibly be any of the ones you mentioned in your post?

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    1. The airfield in this photo was at Horham in North Suffolk and Tivetsall is further north in Norfolk. There were so many bases all over East Anglia. If you look at 8theast.org you might find out more about Tivetsall and see Rachels comment below. Most of the USAAF air bases have special days when visitors from the US come over to visit the sites

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    2. Thank you Sue and thanks as well for the 8theast contact. I doubt that anyone in my family will ever be able to visit the area but we have always hoped to find out a bit more about the plaque as we have never even seen a picture of it. There is not a lot to go on when a soldier is MIA but you have given me some good information. I am so glad I posted and Rachel responded as well. Thank you so much Sue and I hope you and Cole have a wonderful weekend.

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  2. I live next to Tibenham airfield and it is now used for recreational flying for the Tibenham Glider club and the light aircraft who tow them up to the skies. Some of the airfield was sold off to local farmers and has been restored back to farm land or used for storage of straw bales during harvest season. Some old buildings survive from the war, as Sue describes at her airfield visit. We have many visitors from the US who tour round the former airbases, of which there are many in this county, and Suffolk, and their is a plaque in my local church naming those lost from another nearby airfield. Next time I am in Tivetshall Bonnie I will have a look at the plaque.

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    1. Rachel thank you so much for responding to my post! I never dreamed I would find someone living so close to where my uncle had been stationed. It is so interesting to hear what has become of the airfield. I wish I knew more to tell you about the plaque. Somehow, someone in my family found out about it. It would be amazing if the one in your local church had his name on it. There has been a lot done to commemorate those that died in the war but not as much for those that were MIA.

      If it is okay I will send you an email with my uncle's name and information so that the next time you are there you could check the plaque if it was not a problem. I am also going to check with 8theast.org that Sue mentioned.

      Thank you so much Rachel. Have a wonderful weekend.

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    2. Hello Bonnie. Yes do email me. You should be able to email me from my blog. Any problems with that leave me a comment. Rachelx

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  3. Fab post! Loving the kitchen bits and bobs.

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  4. I enjoyed reading about this historical place. I lived for 22 years in a small eastern Washington town, Moses Lake, that was once home to a United States Air Force Base http://www.historylink.org/File/10147
    I had always heard that the runway was one of the longest west of the Mississippi. I'm a but of history buff but not so for military history. At the same time, I find some of it quite fascinating. Pat

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  5. Looks a very interesting trip out. Love to come home to a warm house, hope you enjoyed your evening as well.

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  6. I was going to ask you the next time you did a post on your library books, books from the charity shop or any post like this about WWII, about your interest in WWII.
    Do you just have a general interest in it or is there some specific reason for your interest?
    I have always been interested in recent history, not history centuries ago and with researching and writing up my family history I found out so much more about WWII that I didn't know about. For instance, did you know that thousands of servicemen were left behind at Dunkirk to fight off the invading Germans so that so many more could be rescued? It was never mentioned at the time because 'they' wanted to keep the public's morale up. An uncle of mine was one of the ones left behind and I have written about him with as much detail as I have.
    My maternal grandfather was also stationed in Norfolk, maintaining the 'planes on one of the bases there.
    Interesting subject.

    Joan (Devon)

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    1. I'm not really sure how my interest and collection of WWII home front books came about. Being born in 1955 the war hadn't been over long and was still talked about, boys at primary school still played wars! My grandfather was involved in clearing the airfields which were everywhere in Suffolk after the war and bits and pieces would appear - we had an Monopoly game that had come from a airbase, shell cases, a set of pool balls.
      I read a few biographies about wartime experiences on the Home Front and got interested in reading about rationing etc and "suddenly" found I had a couple of dozen books on the subject.

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  7. An interesting post. We have an old airstrip nearby too, and I have no idea what will happen to the former RAF base at Brawdy now.

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  8. I bet this is a fascinating place to visit. I bet the seeing those all dressed up really helped with the atmosphere.
    Lisa x

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  9. My Mum lived in a village near Ridgewell airfield during the War. The Americans used to drive a truck round all the local villages picking up girls to take to the base for the weekly dances. My Mum always said this was what started her love of dancing. I think it was the highlight of the week for most of the girls!
    Pat (in West Suffolk)

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  10. Loved this post. An outing like this would be just up my street. xx

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  11. Love this post Sue....and the photos.
    Hugs-x-

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  12. How very interesting! My mum is old enough to remember when the Americans came over during the war. I love history so it sounds like a really fun time out.

    Sounds like your weather is like ours - rainy. Have a great weekend!

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  13. I remember seeing dog-fights in the skies over Lincolnshire during the war and felt guilty because I found them exciting. I knew that adults found them upsetting but it was years before I got the full picture. I, too, have a tendency to read books about the War......probably because it was part of my young life.

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  14. Nice post of this air field and hospital! That would have been a nice place to go through. I've heard that RAF Bentwaters has a museum...is there one there? I know most people are living in the houses on base now. I just talked to a man at a veterans memorial dedication today in my home town. He was with the USAF and was stationed at RAF Alconbury, a few years after I left. We had a nice chat. It was quite cold today and was glad I took my gloves with me. It's supposed to be quite cold theses next few days in our part of Oregon. Have a weekend!

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    1. Yes there is a museum at Bentwaters, it's called Bentwaters Cold War Museum. The site there is now used for industry, and part for TV and film making. The houses which were base houses and set up for US service people ( they had US electrics) were all changed to UK standards and most were sold but one part is or was used to house people who work at RAF Wattisham which is an Army/RAF helicopter base in mid suffolk.
      There is loads of info about it on Wikipedia

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    2. Thank you, Sue, for the information. I'd love to come over and see the museum one of these years. It's a bucket list thing but will see if it ever comes to be! Now that I have blogger buddies in UK I'd visit them too! :-}

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