US servicemen from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall help volunteers by washing planes at aviation museum in Flixton

Seventy years ago thousands of Americans travelled to East Anglia to help in a time of need.

And the spirit of the so-called friendly invasion was recaptured on Saturday as more than 50 servicemen and women came to the aid of a committed group of volunteers.

But on this occasion they were armed with buckets, sponges and hoses as they helped wash down the planes at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum.

They travelled from RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath to help the volunteers at the museum in Flixton, near Bungay, by cleaning the aeroplanes that sit outside.

The museum, a tribute to East Anglia's aviation heritage, has more than 60 aircraft, but the 14 outside need to be washed each year.


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It is a big task that is completed by the committed volunteers, but when Dan Janssen, of the Air Force Sergeants Association, met Pam Veale, museum treasurer and education officer, and asked if there was anything he could do to help, she took him up on the offer.

Senior Master Sgt Daniel Janssen, who is based at Lakenheath, said: 'She emailed saying they needed help to wash the aircraft and I said 'certainly, we can come and do it'.

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'The excitement for folks to come out to do this was overwhelming. I had to turn people down. I asked for 20 people and we have 50.'

Servicemen and women and their children travelled to Flixton to spend the day washing the planes, with many of those involved part of the maintenance team that spend their normal days working on aircraft.

They busily washed and scrubbed the planes in sunshine and showers throughout the day, enthusiastically returning for refills of buckets of water.

Sgt Janssen said that only a handful of people on the base knew about the museum, but since meeting Mrs Veale at The Eighth in the East meeting at Horham, near Eye, he was trying to change that.

He added: 'This is our heritage as well as yours.

'We want to build a partnership and the Air Force Sergeants Association is always looking for ways we can do that.'

Mrs Veale said their help was wonderful and the both groups hoped to be able make it an annual event.

She said: 'We haven't got the l uxury of having all of the planes indoors and over the year the green builds up and they need washing – we just haven't got the manpower anymore.

'When I mentioned it I was thinking perhaps half a dozen people, and then Dan said maybe 20, I thought 'wow', but then he said it could be up to 50 and it was wonderful.'

Among the planes they washed were four US aircraft, including the North American F-100D Super Sabre, built in 1956.

Mrs Vale said that through The Eighth in the East funding project, which aims to keep alive the memory of the 8th United States Air Army Force in the region, the museum is hoping for funding to improve its 446 Bomb Group museum.

This museum is dedicated to the US Air Force personnel who served at Flixton during the second world war.

For more details visit www.aviationmuseum.net

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