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Rare wartime images to go on display at Sudbury Heritage Centre

PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 May 2017

Ground crew pictured with a wheel indicates the scale of the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers which flew missions into Occupied Europe.
Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUST

Ground crew pictured with a wheel indicates the scale of the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers which flew missions into Occupied Europe. Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUST

Archant

Rare photographs giving a new insight into life on an American airbase in Suffolk during the Second World War are to go on show.

One of the bomb dumps on the Sudbury airfield which were restocked every night by train and truck
Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUSTOne of the bomb dumps on the Sudbury airfield which were restocked every night by train and truck Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUST

The display at Sudbury Heritage Centre will feature wartime images alongside operational scenes, all from the private collection of the late Roley Andrews.

As a schoolboy, local man Mr Andrews befriended flyers from the 486th Bombardment Group which was stationed at Sudbury airfield. He went on to collect photos and reports from official US military sources.

The airfield site, which is now deserted, lies just to the east of the town but for some 18 months in 1944-45 it was ‘home’ to some 3,000 young American GIs of the 486th Bomb Group.

B17 and B24 heavy bombers took off from there on missions over occupied Europe.

This mass farewell on the Sudbury airfield gives some idea of the strength of the 486th  presence which was more than 3,000 men at any one time. The event is not dated but the flag is flying at half mast.
Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUSTThis mass farewell on the Sudbury airfield gives some idea of the strength of the 486th presence which was more than 3,000 men at any one time. The event is not dated but the flag is flying at half mast. Picture: SUDBURY MUSEUM TRUST

The exhibition, which opens on Monday, May 22, will be the first time most of the images have been seen by the public.

The display is timed to follow a weekend commemoration in Lavenham where the group’s sister unit - the 487th Bombardment Group - was stationed. The event will mark the 75th anniversary of the first US Army Air Force units’ arrival in East Anglia to join in the war effort. Lavenham and Sudbury stations were built later and began bombing strategic targets in occupied Europe in 1944.

There are now so few survivors from these two heavy bomber groups that the veterans’ organisations of both in the US have joined forces.

Some of the last remaining survivors, but mostly family members, are expected at the Lavenham commemoration weekend, which will be packed with events. Starting on Friday, May 19 with an exhibition in the parish church, it will also include an Apache helicopter fly past following a special service of commemoration.

The Sudbury Heritage Centre’s existing commemoration of the 486th Bomb Group includes a narrative history and tribute, suspended models of their bombers and a display of memorabilia. More detail can be found here at the website of Sudbury Museum Trust which runs the Heritage Centre. The photos are on show on weekdays from 10am-4pm with an extra opening from 10am-1pm on the Saturday. Entry is free.

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