Heritage trail highlights East Anglia’s airfields’ wartime links

Gunners of the 95th Bomb Group on the wing of B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed "Sandy's Refueling Boy

Gunners of the 95th Bomb Group on the wing of B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed "Sandy's Refueling Boys", August 1944. - Credit: Archant

The B-17 Flying Fortress was a common sight above the skies of East Anglia during the Second World War.

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Thousands of airmen from the three airfields that made up the 13th Combat Bombardment Wing of the United Army Air Force risked their lives as they took the fight to Hitler's Germany.

And to commemorate and celebrate those men, the museums dedicated to the bomb groups that served at the airfields – 95th, 100th and 390th – will rekindle their link to create a heritage trail.

The Red Feather Club museum, in Horham, near Diss, the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in Thorpe Abbotts, also near Diss, and Parham Airfield Museum, near Woodbridge, will all open on the last Sunday of the month from April to October.

James Mutton, chairman of the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association, said: 'It is an exciting new venture and is rekindling our historic links.

A bomber crew of the 95th Bomb Group outside a Nissen hut briefing room at Horham, August 1944.

A bomber crew of the 95th Bomb Group outside a Nissen hut briefing room at Horham, August 1944. - Credit: Archant

'We've always gotten on well with our sister bomb group museums but now we're really starting to work together. We hope people will take the opportunity to visit three really outstanding museums – each of which offers visitors something different.'

Over the weekend of September 9 to 11, there will be a host of free events at the museums with camping at the Red Feather Club. Details are to be finalised.

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The 13th Combat Bombardment Wing was created in the United States on October 1942 and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, which had dozens of airfields throughout East Anglia, during May and June 1943.

Men from the three airfields were the first US airmen to bomb Berlin, which was supposedly an impregnable fortress, during daytime.

The wing returned back to the US in August 1945 and was inactivated in October of that year.

Representatives from the museums will be promoting the heritage trail in Eye town centre on Saturday, April 9 and Diss marketplace on Saturday, April 16. There will be US military vehicles and re-enactors at both events, running from 10am to 2pm.

The museums will be open from 10am to 4pm and entry is free.

A website for the 13th Combat Wing can soon be found at wingwww.13thcombatwing.co.uk

• Thorpe Abbotts Airfield

The 100th Bomb Group of United States Army Air Force was based at the airfield.

Airmen flew B-17 Flying Fortresses between 1943 and 1945.

The bomb group specialised in daylight raids deep into German territory.

They also engaged in bombing strategic targets such as airfields and bridges.

On its first mission, the 100th lost three planes and thirty men.

The group experienced heavy losses during several of its missions – in Berlin on March 1944 they lost 15 aircraft

The group was nicknamed the Bloody Hundredth.

The 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum is in Dickleburgh.

For more information, visit www.100bgmus.org.uk

• Parham Airfield

The airfield was handed over to the United States 8th Army Air Force in early 1943.

It was redesignated Framlingham Station 153.

The first Bomb Group assigned to the airfield was the 95th.

They suffered heavy losses in daylight air attacks on the continent and were replaced by the 390th.

The 390th flew the B-17s.

They flew more than 300 missions and dropped 19,000 tons of bombs.

740 airmen were killed or classed as missing in action from the airfield.

754 were taken as prisoners of war.

181 aircraft were lost.

Visit www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk

• Horham Airfield

The 95th Bomb Group was based at Horham from

1943 until the end of the war.

It was famously the first US group to bomb Berlin in daylight during the war.

The group was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations – awarded to United States Armed Forces units who show extraordinary heroism in action – the most of any bomb group.

The last B-17 Flying Fortress shot down in Europe was from Horham.

The 95th flew more than 300 missions

For more information, visit www.95thbg-horham.com

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