Return to Thorpe Abbotts

My Father served in the 100th Bomb Group during the Second World War and was stationed at an airfield in Thorpe Abbotts, England.   After he completed 35 missions, the Army shipped him to a hospital where he learned how to talk again.   Then he started his life over.

He never wanted to return to Thorpe Abbotts and I can’t say I blame him. But I had always wanted to visit the place that must have changed him so much.  I finally got to visit Thorpe Abbotts on my last trip to England.  And I felt closer to him than I have ever been.  Strange that it took a visit to such a far away place to feel this way.  I made the  journey for me, but I had returned for him.

 I caught a train from London at Liverpool Street Station on the Norfolk line and traveled to Diss, the station closest to Thorpe Abbotts.  A few years ago, I found a stub a train ticket stub for a London to Diss journey in my Father’s old wallet among some family papers.  He had taken the same route from Liverpool Street Station when he returned to Thorpe Abbotts after a leave in London in March of 1944.  

Thorpe Abbotts is a country village surrounded by millions of acres of farmland near the east coast of England.  A perfect place for an airbase and there were many  of them up and down the English coast.  Before World War Two, Thorpe Abbots had a population of about 40.  When the airbase opened,  the Americans station there increased the population  to 3,500.

Now it is a quiet village again and the rich and valuable farmland  has been given back to the farmers to grow crops.  

Here are some pictures:

11.ViewfromControlTower6

09.UniformsandJackets10.ViewfromControlTower1944

07.TakeOffProcedure

06.OldRunway05.ModelofBase203.InsideControlTower02.FlakJacket

01.FieldsAroungTA

08.ThorpeAbbottsRoad

The tall structure on the left side of the road is All Saint’s Church.  Some members of the 100th Bomb Group were married there.  Many more had funeral services there.

If you are in the area, try to visit Thorpe Abbotts and the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum,  started in 1977 by the locals.

 

The Things They Carry with Them and the Things They Bring Back

They bring back more than mementos that end up fading in scrapbooks.  And they always leave behind something they can never get back.  It’s easy to miss this among the flag waving, parades, speeches and ceremonies.    Those of us who have not shared these  experiences simply cannot comprehend what they have given.  But we don’t need to understand to show out gratitude.

 

 

 

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I found the religious card and passes in a wallet that my Father carried while serving in the Army Air Corps in England during World War Two.  The other pictures are of relatives and are from various wars and service branches.

Other Memorial Day Posts

2011 2010 2008

Memorial

My father graduated from high school in the middle of the Depression.  When  war seemed likely, he enlisted and was finally assigned to Diss England as a member of the 351 bomb squadron, 100th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force.  He said later that this was the first steady job he ever had.

My father’s sentiments on his wartime experiences are best exemplified by the following episode:  In 1992, the movie Memphis Belle came out.  Memphis Belle was about the Eighth Air Force and I thought that my father might want to see it.   I asked him if he was going  and he  sneered and muttered something under his breath.  This was my father’s way of saying no.

I asked him why.  “God dammit!” he exploded, “How the hell could they make a movie about that?  If it was realistic,  all they could show would be a crew of young guys crapping in their pants for two hours!”

In later years, I related this story to  a retired air force corporal who flew fighter planes in China and Burma during the Second World War, and in Korea and Vietnam,  “Your father was right,” he told me.

My father (left) with his brother and sister before he left for boot camp.

Kearney, Nebraska

His lucky flying charm

At Thorpe Abbots

A B17  and autographs of the crew

His reward for surviving

His last reunion