The USAAF Festival, to commemorate American Air Force servicemen, will begin tomorrow

Military history will be brought to life this week in a festival to honour American serviceman based in the region 70 years ago.

The USAAF Festival, which will begin tomorrow (Thursday) and run until Sunday, was the brainchild of local American Air Force historian Clive Stevens who lives on the edge of the former American heavy bomber airfield at Eye, Suffolk.

Working with world war two historians, current serving American Air Force airmen and local people with a passion for wartime military history, Mr Stevens has arranged a number of events in Suffolk and Norfolk to remind people of the first airmen of the US Army Air Corps who arrived in 1942.

Mr Stevens, 37, said: 'My quest is to enure the memory of 26,000 young Americans who flew from England during the second world war and lost their lives isn't forgotten. Of course many who flew from here are dead and many are too elderly and infirm to travel and my worry was, with the Olympics and all the rain, the anniversary was going to be swept under the carpet.

'We've pitched it so you don't have to be an anorak to come along and it's largely about the social impact because that's what so many local people remember.'

The festival will begin tomorrow evening with aviation historian and author Ian McLachlan who will present an illustrated talk on USAAF aviation archaeology, while Friday will see Mr Stevens give a presentation on the 'friendly invasion' and recount the story of the American Eighth Air Force in the region during world war two.

Both of these will take place at the Cornwallis Country Hotel in Brome, near Eye, at 7.45pm and will be open to the public.

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Following this, on Saturday, the focus will turn to the unveiling of a new airfield memorial dedicated to the servicemen from the 388th Heavy Bombardment Group of the United States Eighth Army Air Force who lost their lives in the second world war.

A memorial dedication ceremony, organised by the 388th Bomber Group Memorial Committee, and intended to mark both the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the first American airmen to be based in the country, and the wartime personnel based at Knettishall airfield, will begin at 11am at the memorial, at Coney Weston, near Hopton, followed by a flying display.

That evening there will be a 1940s Big Band Hangar Dance at the former USAAF airfield at Hardwick, near Harleston, in aid of cancer research, featuring the Jonathan Wyatt Big Band and where five military aircraft will form the backdrop.

Tickets are �12 and available by emailing

The festival will conclude on Sunday with a museum open day and world war two aircraft exhibition at Airfield Farm, Topcroft, from 11am, where, depending on the weather, there could be vintage wartime flying demonstrations.

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