My specialist areas are aviation in WW2 and the invasion of Normandy.
During World War two, 1942 onwards saw the arrival of thousands on American service personnel, huge areas of concrete were laid and the Fields of Little America were born. American airbases sprang up over the East Anglian countryside and the local population's lives were changed for ever.
By 1943 there was over 100,000 US airmen based in Britain, mainly in East Anglia where the B24 Liberators of the 2and Air Division assembled at airfields such as Tibenham, Hardwick, Old Buckenham, Hethel, Seething, Shipdham and many more.
More to the south the bases like Thorpe Abbots, Bassingbourn, Great Ashfield, Nuthampstead rumbled to the sounds of the B17 Flying Fortress, while towards the coast the fighter bases housing the P51 Mustangs, P47 Thunderbolts and the twin engined P38 Lightnings were alive to the sound of Merlins, Allison and Cyclone Engines.
Bar ceiling Eagle pub Cambridge
As well as London both Norwich and Cambridge featured heavily with the jitterbugging, gum chewing Americans quest for R&R and many friendships were formed with the locals, who took them to their hearts and in some cases beds! many long lasting friendships were formed and many marriages.
Traces still remain, as the bar ceilings in the Eagle pub in Cambridge or the wall in the Swan at Lavenham still bear testament.
Norwich with its Historic Castle and huge Cathedral, makes a ideal base to explore the area, and a visit to the Second Air Division Memorial Library www.2ndair.org.uk is a must, along with the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, where a flying example of a B17 Fortress can be seen.
Close by is the American cemetery at Madingley with nearly 4000 graves it’s a moving experience.
At the end of the war both the RAF and the USAAF closed many of the war-time sites, some were sold off and the land cleared and returned to agriculture, but lots of examples still exist today in the form of Flying Clubs, Museums etc.and in the case of Lakenheath and Mildenhall still active USAF bases. Tibenham home of the Norfolk Gliding club http://www.norfolkglidingclub.com probably boasts the most complete runways, whilst the museum at Thorpe Abbots has a beautifully restored control tower http://www.100bgmus.org.uk, the former chapel at Hethel has now become a small museum, lots of old buildings remain on various sites, huts that once housed aircrews now host chickens and pigs as residents.
Norfolk with its beautiful coastline, stunning and quaint villages, historic architecture, makes a ideal venue not only for a military battlefield tour, but also for a great visit or vacation.
Aircrew personal diary entry
Tours can be tailored to visit sites having a special significance to tour members, following in footsteps of their family and friends.
Archives are available at several local museums, the memorial library in Norwich, and several other sources.