Suffolk

Eighth in the East Facebook appeal uncovers USAF photos

Photographs of Christmas celebrations attended by United States Air Force (USAF) troops based in the East of England more than 70 years ago have emerged following an appeal on Facebook.

Image copyright Eighth in the East

The photographs of festivities during World War Two have been uncovered as part of a project to explore the arrival of the 8th American Air Force across the region. One event - the 353rd Fighter Group's party - was attended by hundreds of children and soldiers in Metfield, Suffolk on 25 December 1943.

David Cain, who is leading the three-year long, Heritage Lottery-funded project named the Eighth in the East, said: "People often talk about the special relationship between the Americans and the British. These Christmas parties are a really strong part of that."

Image copyright Eighth in the east

Parties were held across the East of England during the war years, including at RAF Debach on 22 December 1944.

"We were aware that they did a lot of Christmas events for local schoolchildren and we thought it would be interesting to see if there were people who could remember the parties," said Mr Cain.

Image copyright Eighth in the East

"We've had some great comments from people - saying 'that's my father' and pointing out people they recognise.

"It's been fantastic."

Image copyright Eighth in the East

Some of the photographs, which emerged after the group asked for contributions via its Facebook page, showed local children at a party thrown by 379th Bomb Group at their club at RAF Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire.

Image copyright Eighth in the East

About 28,000 US personnel occupied 70 airfields over the three years. The study is looking at airfields spread across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

The Eighth In The East project was established to collect the stories of Americans who served and local people who lived near the bases between 1942 to 1945.

Image copyright Eighth in the East

Presents were handed out during an event at RAF Ridgewell, near Halstead, in Essex, in December 1944. The first planes of the newly-formed 8th AAF arrived in East Anglia in May 1942, just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

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