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Airfield to open Second World War buildings to visitors

PUBLISHED: 14:33 30 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:32 30 November 2019

Old Buckenham Airfield photographed during the Second World War when it was the base of the US 453rd Bombardment Group. Picture: Archant Library

Old Buckenham Airfield photographed during the Second World War when it was the base of the US 453rd Bombardment Group. Picture: Archant Library

Archant

Hidden Second World War buildings previously closed to the public will be opened after plans were approved for Old Buckenham Airfield.

Old Buckenham draws visitors from both the UK and US and airfield is planning guided tours of areas previously off limits. Picture: Sonya DuncanOld Buckenham draws visitors from both the UK and US and airfield is planning guided tours of areas previously off limits. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The former wartime base, home of the 453rd Bombardment Group Museum and 8th Air Force Heritage Gallery, is to give visitors access to previously unseen areas and create a new Memorial Park.

The park will include a lawn in the shape of a B-24 Liberator aircraft's tail and a representation of the wartime runway layout of RAF Old Buckenham.

The plans have been approved by Breckland Council. In its submission the airfield said will run supervised tours for visitors including US veteran airman with memories of serving at the airfield during the Second World War with the 453rd Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force.

Jimmy Stewart, Operations Officer with the 453rd Bombardment Group, pictured with colleagues at Old Buckenham Airfield. Picture: Archant LibraryJimmy Stewart, Operations Officer with the 453rd Bombardment Group, pictured with colleagues at Old Buckenham Airfield. Picture: Archant Library

They said: "Currently visitors, many of whom have travelled from the US and are frequently related to those who fought and died serving from Old Buckenham, can only access and see areas in the south of the airfield.

"The aim of the Memorial Park is to open up the considerable space and wartime buildings in the north of the airfield.

"Necessarily the number of visitors will be considerably limited and supervised tours for a maximum of 12 people are planned. The tours will encompass a route taking in several wartime buildings and preserved blast shelters.

Old Buckenham will be hosting events marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day and 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2020. Picture: Sonya DuncanOld Buckenham will be hosting events marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day and 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2020. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The 453rd flew 259 missions in B-24 Liberators. They dropped 15,804 tonnes of bombs and in the process lost 58 aircraft. In total 366 servicemen lost their lives serving from Old Buckenham.

Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart famously was the first Operations Officer of Old Buckenham, while fellow actor Walther Matthau also served at the airfield with the Mighty Eighth.

The plans also include the permanent placement of a decommissioned Rockwell Twin Aero Commander for emergency response training and two static caravans for use by staff during events.

Aerial photograph of Old Buckenham Airfield taken in 1944. The runway lay-out is to be recreated in a new Memorial Park. Picrture: Archant LibraryAerial photograph of Old Buckenham Airfield taken in 1944. The runway lay-out is to be recreated in a new Memorial Park. Picrture: Archant Library

The former airbase recently released its 2020 calendar including a weekend commemoration of the 75th anniversary of VE Day on May 9 and 10.

Marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain the airfield will hold a special air display of vintage aircraft on October 10.

Matt Wilkins, aerodrome manager and air show organiser, said: "Old Buckenham has made its way to the top of the rarefied world of air displays just in time to be able to celebrate some of the most important Second World War anniversaries in 2020.



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