'Moving' and 'poignant' memorial weekend honours Suffolk USAAF heroes

Serving USAAF aviators salute the LV shaped Lavenham Airfield memorial plaque

Serving USAAF personnel salute the Lavenham Airfield memorial plaque - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A "moving" and "poignant" commemoration of two Second World War Bomb Groups in Lavenham and Sudbury has been held.

Family members of the 486th and 487th Bomb Groups attended the event, with serving USAAF aviators also helping dedicate the memorial.

"There were some truly moving moments", said John Pawsey, organiser of the weekend. "Around 100 people attended, with 35 directly connected to the people who flew from the airfields."

Flying from Station 174 at Sudbury and 137 at Lavenham, the 486th and 487th were part of the United States 8th Air Force.

Family members of unit veterans visit the Lavenham memorial plaque. The plague is shaped as an 'LV'

Family members of unit veterans visit the Lavenham memorial plaque. The LV shape is a replica of the Station Identifier and the panel has been positioned so it would have been visible to returning aircrews - Credit: Bryan Panton

A total of 440 airmen from the two units were killed in action.

"A serving member of the USAAF read out the names of the fallen and everyone just stopped still", said John. 

"As she did, her words began to falter. She told me: 'I've done tours of Afghanistan where I had no idea if I was going to come back alive. When I was reading out the names and ranks of all those people, it absolutely got to me.'

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"That was very poignant." 

Friday saw a memorial service at Lavenham, alongside wreath laying at St Gregory's Church in Sudbury. In the evening, there was a Gala Concert featuring the Military Wives Choir.

Crowds and veterans gathered in the rain for the USAAF memorial unveiling in Alpheton. Picture: Sar

USAAF personnel carry the US, UK and USAAF flags as part of the memorial service - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

On Saturday, Donald F Kilburg Jr, the son of a 487th Bomb Group veteran from Lavenham, told the story of Mission 760, the largest bombing raid of the war.

"Dom absolutely held the audience", said John. "It was fascinating."

However, John highlighted Sunday's act of remembrance as "perhaps the most emotional moment".

Crowds and veterans gathered in the rain for the USAAF memorial unveiling in Alpheton.

Crowds and veterans gathered in the rain for the USAAF memorial unveiling in Alpheton. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Families, serving USAAF personnel and locals congregated by the Lavenham memorial plaque to lay a wreath and remember the fallen.

"The reading of the names is always emotional but to do it on the site where it all occurred was truly special.

5 USAAF servicemen hold the USA, UK and USAAF flags in front of a crowd of onlookers

Around 100 people attended the memorial, with 35 directly connected to veterans who flew from the airfields - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"To know there is now a place where people can come, read the names and think about the sacrifices these people made on our airfields is incredibly emotional.

"I am so proud."

Looking ahead, John hopes to hold annual memorial events on the site and plans to one day build a museum which can "house memorabilia and photographs".

"I am so grateful to everyone who attended and to those who donated money to help maintain the memorial", he said.

"It is truly humbling to see what people do to remember those brave people who flew from Lavenham and Sudbury."

Six USAAF personnel stand in a line bowing their heads in remembrance

The memorial service saw serving USAAF personnel read the names of the 440 fallen airmen who served at Lavenham and Sudbury - Credit: Sara Lucy Brown

A USAAF airman plays the trumpet

John Pawsey, organiser of the event, said "there were some truly moving moments". Pictured: a USAAF airman plays the trumpet at the memorial - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown