Apr 242020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Simon Last.

In January 1942 the whole of the country was fully involved with World War 2 and in Parham in Suffolk Percy Kindred and his brother Herman were the farmers at Crabbe’s and Park Farms in the village.

However, things were soon to change forever as construction began on an airfield which called for half a million tons of concrete, three diagonal runways and a giant local workforce the like of which had never been seen before. Rubble for hardcore was imported from bomb sites in London and Birmingham and 4,500,000 bricks were laid.

No part of the airfield fell within the boundary of Framlingham parish, the site being some three miles to the east between the villages of Great Glemham and Parham, with all the technical sites, administrative buildings and living sites around Silverlace Green in Parham.

The airfield was to be used by the United States Army Eighth Air Force and was built as a standard heavy bomber airfield to Class A specification. The three intersecting runways were of 2,030, 1.440- and 1,430-yards length. There was an encircling concrete perimeter track and fifty aircraft hardstands, along with two T-2 hangars, technical sites and Nissen hut accommodations for some 3,000 persons, dispersed in the surrounding countryside - ( in 1944 Glen Miller and his Band performed in one of these T-2 hangars to an audience of 6,000)

The airfield was opened in 1943 and was given USAAF designation Station 153 (FM). The 95th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Framlingham on 12th May 1943 from Rapid City AAF South Dakota.

The group flew the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign and entered combat on 13th May 1943 by attacking an airfield at Saint-Omer. After suffering disastrous losses in its daylight air attacks on the Continent, the 95th was transferred to nearby RAF Horham on 15th June to regroup.

The 390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Framlingham on 4th July 1943 from Great Falls Army Air Base Montana.

The 390th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 20th April 1945. In over 300 missions, they dropped 19,000 tons of bombs. They lost 181 aircraft and seven hundred and fourteen airmen were killed. The group dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the week prior to V-E Day.

After the war, Parham airfield became a clearing station for the rehabilitation of Polish nationals before being abandoned and closed in late 1948. The land was returned to agriculture and the runways were broken up and ground into aggregate. Buildings were allowed to dilapidate and were used for farm storage. Among them was the Control Tower which was shot up and abandoned after the Americans held a riotous farewell party there in August 1945.

Today the runways and hardstands of Parham airfield have long since been removed for hardcore. The perimeter track has been reduced to one lane farm access roads but remains fundamentally complete. The technical site is in use as an industrial estate, with many of the World War II Nissen huts in use.

In 1976, a project was undertaken to restore the derelict control tower. The Tower was finally dedicated as the 390th Bombardment Group Memorial Air Museum of the USAAF on 13th May 1981 and, since then, has remained in active contact with, and received steadfast support from, US veterans, their relatives, supporters and Friends. There is a website at www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk  for more information.

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