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New museum to bomber crews set to open at Old Buckenham Airfield

PUBLISHED: 09:39 07 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:27 07 November 2015

The new 453rd Bomb Group Museum will be officially opened on Remembrance Day at Old Buckenham Airfield. Curator of the new museum is James Clarey.

The new 453rd Bomb Group Museum will be officially opened on Remembrance Day at Old Buckenham Airfield. Curator of the new museum is James Clarey.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

At first glance it looks like a normal Nissen hut nestled on a south Norfolk airfield.

453rd Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force

Personnel of the 453rd arrived at Old Buckenham the week before Christmas 1943.

The first B-24 Liberator is believed to have arrived at the airfield on January 2 1944.

The group began operations on February 5 1944.

The 453rd flew 259 missions, dropping 15,804 tonnes of bombs and in the process lost 58 aircraft.

Most importantly 366 servicemen lost their lives serving from Old Buckenham.

The group carried out its last mission on April 11 1945, receiving orders to stand down the following day.

Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was the first operations officer of Old Buckenham and Walther Matthau also served at the airfield.

Last year the airfield’s memorial to the 366 was moved to a new memorial garden, with a figure 8 path to mark the 8th Air Force.

However, housed inside is a new museum to the 453rd Bombardment Group who served at Old Buckenham Airfield from 1943 until 1945.

The museum, which will be ceremoniously opened on Remembrance Sunday, features the largest collection of 453rd memorabilia in existence.

The remarkable collection - never before seen in public - is a fitting tribute to the sacrifices and efforts of the brave US airmen who served from the base.

Project manager and airfield manager, Matt Wilkins, said: “The one question that’s always asked is why isn’t there a museum on site, it’s long overdue.”

Jimmy Stewart, Operations Officer with the 453rd Bombardment Group, pictured with colleagues at Old Buckenham Airfield,Jimmy Stewart, Operations Officer with the 453rd Bombardment Group, pictured with colleagues at Old Buckenham Airfield,

The museum, housed in a newly built Nissen hut, features a remarkable array of objects including items that once belonged to the men who called the base home.

Highlights include a reproduction of a dispatchers hut, original flying jackets adorned by crew, a sentry box and an original airfield plaque carved from an ammo box.

Curator James Clarey said: “The museum tells the story of the ground crews and the air crews who worked, lived and died here.

“The further we get from original events, the more things get forgotten and memories fade. The idea of this museum is to bring them back to life again.”

Curator James Clarey inside the new 453rd Bomb Group Museum at Old Buckenham AirfieldCurator James Clarey inside the new 453rd Bomb Group Museum at Old Buckenham Airfield

At any one time the museum will house a third of the total collection which has come together from two individual collections belonging to ex-RAF serviceman Mr Clarey and Pat Ramm, who died last year.

Mr Ramm acted as liaison between the 453rd Bombardment Group Memorial Association in America and Britain.

Mr Wilkins said: “It’s an unrivalled collection and it tells its own story. The best part is there are veterans and their families who are planning to come here from America.”

On Sunday, November 8 the airfield will host a traditional Service of Remembrance at 10.55am before Mr Ramm’s wife Agnes formally opens the museum.

The museum will be open to visitors to the airfield on Sunday for one day only before it permanently opens to the public in March next year.

Are you organising a memorial to bomber crews who served in your area? Email kate.royall@archant.co.uk

*See Monday’s Eastern Daily Press for a special 12-page Remembrance Sunday picture special.

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