Mission of remembrance accomplished
In a higgledy-piggledy room that is a shrine to an enduring aeronautical passion Mike Bailey follows a familiar flightpath back to the roots of a grand obsession and a Norfolk transformed into an alluring Little America of shimmering dreams.
In the summer of 1944 an airfield on Norwich's northern fringes had been taken over by several thousand friendly invaders whose accents, behaviour and customs contrive to give even the humblest buck private the fleeting appearance of a movie star. These are the men of the 458th Bomb Group whose Liberator air crews had been flying and dying on missions out of Horsham St Faith, near Norwich, since taking over the revamped and upgraded aerodrome in the March.
Now the aviation artist has completed a lifetime's odyssey by playing a big part in a new book, Liberators Over Norwich, which is a monumental history of the 458th Bomb Group crammed with anecdotes and photographs that represents the fulfilment of a long-cherished ambition for the retired print worker who has devoted more than 40 years to chronicling the services of the 2nd US Air Division in books and paintings.
But the project might never have got off the ground but for a chance encounter in a Kansas City bookshop.
With his mission accomplished, he allows himself a self-conscious smile of satisfaction at a weight being lifted from his shoulders.
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'I feel as though I can breathe one heck of a sigh of relief,' he says before quietly adding: 'You could say it's the end of a long, long journey.'
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Liberators Over Norwich: The 458th Bomb Group (H), 8th USAAF at Horsham St Faith 1944-1945, by Ron Mackay, Mike Bailey and Darin Scorza, is published by Schiffer Military History, priced �55.
For the full story of these brave air crews and more pictures get the EDP Sunday supplement, part of Saturday's bumper EDP.