American air force veterans make an emotional return to Attlebridge

A total 333 members of the United States Army Air Force's 466th Bomb Group based at Attlebridge during the second world war gave their lives for our freedom.

Three who survived made an emotional return to the former Attlebridge air field yesterday.

Earl Wassom, travelled from his home in Kentuky, Melvin Demmin, came from Illinois, and Bill Campbell, from Massachusetts, to relive their experiences at the air base, between Dereham and Norwich, and to pay respect to their former colleagues who lost their lives.

It was a particularly emotional day for Mr Wassom, 88, who was returning to Attlebridge for the fourth time and has written three books covering his time there.

Mr Wassom was having, what is expected to be his final meeting with Eddie Brightly, 81, who he first met when Mr Brightly was a 12-year-old boy living near the Attlebridge base.

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Mr Wassom said: 'I remember this young kid sticking his hand out and introducing himself. We would see him around a lot.

'One day I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he asked for a bicycle. It was very hard to get hold of a bicycle back them but I managed to get him one from an old junk store in Norwich for Christmas 1944.

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'I got in touch with Eddie 1998, more than 50 years since we had last met. I spoke to him over the phone and said who I was. He instantly said, 'you're the man who bought me the bike.''

He added: 'Sadly I think this will be my final trip here.'

Mr Brightly, who still lives in the area, said: 'We write to each other every Christmas and I've met Earl in person a couple of times over the last few years but I think, sadly, this will be the last time I see him.

'But it's been fantastic to reminisce. I've been in hospital recently and wasn't sure if I'd be out in time to see him.'

The tour included a trip to the runways of Attlebridge, now on a Bernard Matthews turkey farm, a visit to All Saints Church, Weston Longville to see a roll of honour to the 333 466th Bomb Groups squadron members who lost their lives, a wreath laying ceremony at the squadron's memorial and a visit to the former control tower.

The three veterans were part of a group of nine Americans taking part in the tour on Monday, their country's national memorial day.

They included relatives of veterans who were based at Attlebridge.

It was organised by Eagle Tours with support from Paul Hindle, from Costessey.

He said: 'It has been a privilege to be involved in this and an absolute honour to meet these three men.'

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