Rare photos discovered of Old Buckenham airfield during the second world war

A GI refuelling the refueller A GI refuelling the refueller

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
6:30 AM

A rare snapshot into military life in Old Buckenham during the second world war has been uncovered after a set of lost films were found more than 4,000 miles away.

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The hidden history was brought to life by Stefan Tarzan, a cinematographer and photographer, who bought a box of photographic supplies and equipment at an auction in Montana.

Inside were three undeveloped films, which has led to the discovery of 90 new images depicting life at Old Buckenham airfield more than seven decades ago.

And now the airfield is appealing for people who remember the base to come forward and share their story.

Mr Tarzan, a who splits his time between Hollywood and Montana, attended an estate auction selling the contents of a lifelong antique dealer’s home in 2012.

Among the items was a collection of metal canisters with US Army Air Corps stencilled on and a plethora of 9x9 inch negatives, some of which were still on their original rolls.

He began to develop the images and started to research where they came from. Mr Tarzan believes the photographs were taken using a Fairchild camera, specially used for reconnaissance missions over Germany, mainly to judge damage inflicted by allied bombing.

With the help of Kolby Lanham who had recently discovered the remains of a B-24 Diana Mite in Germany, the pair were able to identify the aircraft in the photos, a majority of which were USAAF B-24 Liberator bombers.

A curator at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon was able to identify most of the RAF aircraft and trace back the service records and it soon became clear that all the images were taken at Old Buckenham during the second world war.

The discovery has doubled the airfield’s archives.

Mr Tarzan said: “It has been fascinating to research into the history of these aircraft and I’m very pleased that museums and Old Buckenham Airfield will be able to better tell the story of the aircraft and their crews.

“It’s nice to hear that flying still goes on at Old Buckenham and that there are commemorations of the 453rd Bomb Group there.”

The airfield is currently working on a 70th Anniversary DVD and Keith Sowter, a local aircraft and aviation history enthusiast, has compiled a record of the aircraft flown from Old Buckenham during the war.

Matt Wilkins, airfield manager, said: “We are enormously grateful to Stefan for getting in touch with this remarkable find.

“It could not come at a better time, 70 years after the airbase opened, when we are working on various projects like the commemorative DVD and Keith Sowter’s new book.

“The clarity of these images is extraordinary and it is remarkable to think that these 70 year old images have mostly never been seen before.

“We’re appealing to anyone who remembers the base when it was active to come forward with their stories so that we can continue to build up a large archive of reminiscences about this very important place.

“We aim to ensure that a suitable and lasting memorial through the DVD and exhibitions exists for the 453rd Bomb Group and the 366 servicemen who died serving from here.”

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