Film spotlight on the brave US air crews ‘over here’

A Hethel air crew from mid-1943

A Hethel air crew from mid-1943 - Credit: Archant

One remarked: 'In England the war stops for tea!' While another said: 'The English know how to make tea, and we know how to make coffee.'

B-24 Liberators from the 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham over Wicklewood in October 1942.

B-24 Liberators from the 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham over Wicklewood in October 1942. - Credit: Archant

Words from 'foreign' visitors who became friends when they arrived in our county more than 70 years ago. Many friendships have now been passed from one generation to the next and their legacy will never be forgotten.

That is thanks to wonderful places such as the 389th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Hethel which offers an extraordinary insight into the world of the GI in Norfolk during the Second World War.

Most were innocent wide-eyed young men who had never left home before who were shocked to arrive in a war-torn county where parts of Norwich had been blown to pieces and where life was tough. Many people had lost their homes and belongings and lived from day-to-day on meagre rations.

This airmen, straight out of training, came from a land of plenty and many wrote home saying how shocked they were at the living conditions.

Lord Dannatt unveils a plaque in memory of 2nd Lt L. Pete Hughes and Hethel's new Nissen Hut for fur

Lord Dannatt unveils a plaque in memory of 2nd Lt L. Pete Hughes and Hethel's new Nissen Hut for further exhibits in April 2014. Now a further one is nearing completion. - Credit: Archant


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But these Yanks, many of whom later died on dangerous missions deep over enemy territory, knew how to enjoy themselves and embraced our way of life. Some fell in love which resulted in GI brides heading off for a new life in the USA.

If you want to know more about the Yanks in this country then there is a great nostalgic double bill telling the story of the Friendly Invasion at the Regal Experience's charity film show at Wymondham Ex-Services Club this Sunday at 2.30pm.

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The show is in aid of the Hethel Museum which continues to grow and go from strength to strength.

Over Here was written and produced by the late Roger Freeman, author and leading historian on the life and times of the United States 8th Air Force, and is a film well worth watching.

It has historic footage of many of the bases which operated across Norfolk and the rest of East Anglia, including Hethel, Shipdham and Thorpe Abbotts.

The Hethel film features the 389th's first Assembly Ship (plane) which guided aircraft into formation and was called the Green Dragon after the historic Wymnondham pub which the Americans loved.

With fascinating rare coloured footage, the other film American Invasion covers many aspects of the Yanks at work and play – visiting the pubs, jitterbugging at dances, sight-seeing and having a good time. Many knew they could soon be killed... and hundreds of young lives were indeed lost.

Around Norfolk the Yanks discovered the delights of the English bicycle and many found their way to the Dodger's cycle shop in Chapel Street, Norwich, where they bought or hired for one shilling an hour a variety of machines – and then fell off! Dear old George, Percy and Fred 'Dodger' Kerrison and other members of the family. Great character... always dodging about.

In the films being shown on Sunday veterans and locals recall their memories of a special wartime relationship which will never be forgotten, thanks to museums such as the one at Hethel which continues to grow. Another Nissen hut will be officially opened there next year.

Tickets, costing £4 for the Sunday show starting at 2.30pm at the Ex-Services Club in Wymondham, will be available on the door. There will also be a raffle and a bar. For more information on the show or the museum call Fred Squires on 01953 798774 or email hethel389@hotmail.com

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