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Memories of the USAAF Great Eighth
Memories from the USAAF Mighty Eighth
For anybody interested in the history with the Second World War, especially the war in the air, I can heartily advise a special publication coming from Flypast magazine, which considerations itself with aviation heritage. The Grand Eighth is a seriously illustrated 98-page listing of every single British airbase used by the united states Army Air Pressure after the arrival from the first flying Yanks in 12 May 1942. It’s a fascinating reminder of just how many USAAF personnel have been stationed here – the listing runs alphabetically from Alconbury to Wyton. Both happen to be within Cambridgeshire, but the bases were all over the south of England and the Midlands there were even a handful of in Northern Ireland in europe. The US Eighth Air flow Force was the key command group, nevertheless the Ninth was also stone island with goggles crucial with the Twelfth taking part in only a small element in the UK.

On the deal with is Lt Al Keeler using a 95th Bomb Group Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (and a quite desirable A2 flying jumper) at Horham airbase in Suffolk in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Keeler via Warren Thompson).
My own connection and curiosity with this period comes from our mother, Louisa Fitzpatrick, who was inside the Women’s Auxiliary Atmosphere Force (WAAF) during WW2. My personal childhood was filled with stone island with goggles stories of the periods she had as a younger twentysomething stationed on airfields within Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Born within 1921, she is now 95 and her huge pile of wartime photos have handed to me.

These closed postcards were directed by my mom to her then-boyfriend, John Davies, who had been captured at Dunkirk and was a captive of war right up until 1945. On his give back they married but the privations he had suffered like a PoW had weakened him and he passed on too young during the early 1950s. My mum married my father throughout 1954. Theses postcards keep on the back the stamps of the German camping Harry was in at that time he received these people via the good places of work of the Red Mix.

Personal ephemera like this makes history come alive for me personally. It is amazing to mirror that we can still speak to men and women who lived through those extraordinary times, although I guess that in about 20 years there will be virtually no one existing who saw service during WW2.
Apart from the photos of my new mother, my favourite from the time period is this poignant line-up of the crew of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. If 10 men can endure shoulder to neck and still not be so long as one wing, it gives some idea of the tremendous size of these bombers. Over a sartorial note, it is intriguing to see that the outfits were not, in fact, very uniform. I wonder if any of these guys are still with us.
   
In the Gemstone Jubilee year of the woman’s coronation, it is interesting to make note of that HM The California king was busy on official duties a long time before she was crowned. Thanks to Flypast’s Mighty Eighth journal, I now know that the particular 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth frequented the 306th Bomb Team at Thurleigh, near Bedford within July 1944 to name a B-17 G Flying Castle Rose of You are able to. A carefully engulfed bottle of Champagne was smashed towards a panel connected to the chin turret guns. (Image courtesy of 306th Bomb Party Museum). On a raid to be able to Berlin on February 3, 1945, Rose of You are able to was hit by flak and didn’t allow it to be back to base. The idea crashed into the Language Channel, killing most 10 crew. Half the U.S. Army Air Force’s cutbacks in World War II ended up suffered by the Great Eighth, which endured over 47,000 casualties, including more than 26,000 useless, before it travelled its last wartime mission on 25 April 1945.

One more curiosity in my mother’s box of war time memories is this selection from RAF Sutton Fill in south-east Lincolnshire for Christmas dinner 1944. This is the last Christmas of World War II.

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