10 ways to … celebrate Norfolk and Suffolk links with America at Thanksgiving

Thomas Paine. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Thomas Paine. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A look at our transatlantic links as America celebrates Thanksgiving

1 Eat turkey

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States and Canada, celebrated on Thursday, November 23 this year (it's always on a Thursday.) The traditional thanksgiving meal includes roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce and cornbread, with pumpkin pie for pudding. The first Thanksgiving meal was shared between early settlers and native Americans in 1621, to give thanks for a good harvest.

2 Eat peanut butter, chew gum, drink cola

The Friendly Invasion of 1942 saw 350,000 US servicemen arrive in East Anglia to help fight the Second World War (bringing virtually unknown treats such as peanut butter, chewing gum and cola.)

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3 Research and eat

The Second Air Division Memorial Library at Norwich Forum is a collection of more than 30,000 pictures, memoirs and documents telling the story of the Second Air Division of the US in East Anglia during the Second World War and beyond

Its Celebrating Thanksgiving event, at 3pm on Monday, November 20, includes a short talk on the history and significance of Thanksgiving, followed by traditional American light refreshments. Free, but booking essential www.2ndair.org.uk or 01603 774747.

4 Look up

US pilots flew from airfields across Norfolk and Suffolk during the Second World War. One of them is now Norwich International Airport. At Mildenhall and Lakenheath the runways still reverberate to American aircraft and the villages around are full of Stars and Stripes flags and cars such as Chevrolets and Chryslers. The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, at Flixton, near Bungay, is open Tuesdasy, Wednesdays and Sundays through the winter.


5 Discover presidential links

Many thousands of American airmen who flew from Norfolk and Suffolk, including Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the older brother of John F Kennedy. Tall, handsome, photogenic and charismatic he was being groomed for a political career and should have been heading home after many successful missions when he volunteered for one last flight from Fersfield, near Diss. His mission was a secret trial to turn aircraft into huge flying bombs after the crew had parachuted to safety. As Lt Joseph Kennedy flew over Blythburgh in August 1944 his plane exploded and he was killed. On board an aircraft photographing the trial was the son of the then US president, Franklin Roosevelt.

And 19th century US president Abraham Lincoln traced his family back to Hingham, near Attleborough, where the village sign proudly shows parishioners about to set sail for the New World.

6 Discover revolutionary links

The name, The United States of America, was coined by Thetford man Thomas Paine.

He emigrated to America in his 30s where he wrote the best-selling pamphlet Common Sense, advocating complete American independence from Britain. With American independence gained Thomas returned to Thetford where he wrote his most famous work, The Rights of Man, in support of the French Revolution. His books were banned, his effigy burned and he fled the country, but today he is celebrated around the world. See his statue outside King's House, Thetford and visit Thetford's Ancient House Museum and its library to see permanent displays about the revolutionary philosopher.

7 Watch Pocahontas

The Disney film is based on the story of a native American princess, born at the end of the 16th century, in present-day Virginia. She is credited with saving the life of King's Lynn sea captain John Smith, and married Heacham man John Rolfe. The ceremony was performed by the Rev Richard Bucke of Wymondham. Pocahontas spent time at her husband's family home in Heacham but died before they could return to Virginia.

Another American film link is through Hollywood leading man Cary Grant, born Archie Leach, who aged just 13, ran away to become a stilt walker and acrobat in Ipswich. When his troupe visited the USA in 1920, Archie decided to stay in the States, change his name, and try acting.

8 Visit California

The seaside village near Great Yarmouth owes its name to the discovery of 16th century gold coins on the beach in 1848, at a time when the California gold rush had captured the attention of the world.

9 Visit other transatlantic twins

Captain George Vancouver, was born and brought up in King's Lynn and served under Captain Cook. In the 1790s he surveyed the Pacific coast of America all the way from California to Vancouver Island and the Canadian city of Vancouver is named after him. Sudbury man John Winthrop founded the city of Boston and town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the 17th century. Massachusetts also has a Sudbury, Framingham and Haverhill.

10 Shop!

Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving when Americans begin their Christmas preparations. It became a day of big discounts. We now get the consumer frenzy without the feast.