Friday May 8th 2020 is a very special day. It marks the day 75 years ago when our country celebrated victory in Europe.
We at Station 146, Seething had planned a community event to be held at the Control Tower together with the dedication of our newly enlarged chapel. (The chapel will be dedicated when we are able to open the Control Tower). Due to Covid-19 we are unable to hold this event but felt we would like to mark this day with memories.
We would like to share a VE Day 1945 recollection with you and we hope that you enjoy reading this. If you are a relative of a veteran of anybody who served at Station 146, Seething, Norfolk, England and would like to share any memories please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can add these to this page.
VE DAY 1945
In May 1945 I was a 10 year old schoolgirl living in Seething close to the Seething Airfield, wartime home for the USAAF 448th Bomb Group.
My Dad was away in Europe serving with the RAF, while I lived with my Mother and younger brother Reggie.
My lasting memory of that time was when the sky seemed to explode with a mass of colour and after years of blackout and darkness when the only lights were either searchlights, the flashes from the guns during attacks and the glow of fires burning in Norwich after a German bombing raid.
The fantastic display of brightly coloured flares and rockets made such an impression on us all, the younger children had no memories of every seeing fireworks before, so it had a huge impact.
When my mother explained that this was because the 448th Bomb Group were celebrating that they were going back home to America now the war in Europe was over, I shed tears as I didn’t want them to leave, even though it meant my Dad would be coming home.
“Just to explain my reactions for those of you not around at that time. I was born July 1934 and the month I started school aged 5 years of age WW2 started. We lived in a new rental house in a rural area, there was no electricity or mains water here in our road, just a well for eight houses. Around 400 people lived in our village then, some away serving in the Forces. We had blackout, food rationing, gas masks, enemy aircraft and 3000 young Americans moved in just down the road, it made such an impact in our lives. They took part in concerts in our local chapel and the village school gave parties for local children (and dances for the young ladies, trucks picking them up from villages in the area). They gave out sweets (candies), gum and cartoon pages from American newspapers. On one occasion an airman who had recently arrived over here offered an orange to a local child and was horrified when he bit into the skin and he realised he had never seen one before. They rode their bikes around looking for the nearest pubs and loved to talk with the children, many made friends with local families, went to local dances, and our lives changed. The huge B24 aircraft and other aircraft meant the skies were always busy, while jeeps and trucks were on the roads. Hardly any local people had cars and there was strict fuel rationing, so we played on the roads. We found it all exciting not really understanding the loss of lives, and the real reality of war, 499 men were lost from the 448th alone.“
(I now know that the plan was for many of the 448th servicemen to be assigned to the Pacific Theatre of Operations after a 30 day furlough)
VE DAY 1945
448TH BOMB GROUP – A FEW RECORDS AND MEMORIES
At the base on May 7th information was received that the following afternoon would yield the official announcement of the conclusion of war and that at the base throughout the 7th at meetings of each unit a one minutes period of silent prayer was offered in thanksgiving for victory and in tribute to those who perished while making the victory possible.
And that night a regal display of fireworks at the site of the Control Tower put the climatic touches to the celebrations.
The Officers in one living site decided the flares did not make enough noise so they supplemented them with pistols and carbines! F/O Barilia landed in hospital with a ‘slug’ through his hand. This unauthorised use of firearms resulted in all officers getting up the next morning (VE DAY) at 0500 hours for a march around the perimeter (around three miles).
At three o’clock all the radios were turned to Churchill’s broadcast and in the evening to the King’s. In the evening there was an officer’s dance, already planned with trucks picking up guests from local villages so that then became a spontaneous part of the celebrations.
WALDO H BALZER – Assistant to Chaplain Runyan
In a letter home to his fiancee back home; “yes my love now it’s official and even those people back home who have celebrated this occasion three or fours times before can now celebrate with the full assurance that the show in the ETO is finally over, this afternoon we had a special formation at our base at which time a proclamation by our Colonel was read. It consisted of tributes, reminders of the task ahead, a call to unity and assistance in preparing for the defeat of the Japanese War Lords.”
PILOT ALBERT SAUNDERS AND CREW
“We were scheduled for our 19th mission when the Germans surrendered and the joy and relief we felt would be hard to describe. Maybe the best way is to relate to a conversation I had with someone who should have known better. He asked me if I wasn’t sorry not to fly two more missions, thereby earning my Captaincy and a Distinguished Flying Cross. It wasn’t difficult to say that the chances of being killed on one of those missions far outweighed the questionable value of those two trinkets!”
JOE NATHAN – Navigator on the crew
Extracts from his diary; “On May 7th we flew the ground crews on a sightseeing tour of Germany to observe the results of our bombing. We went to Mannheim, Aschaffenburg, Wiesbaden, Binger, Frankfurt, Hanan, Koblenz, Bonn, Cologne, Dusseldorf and back. May 8th we flew the same route and while flying over Dusseldorf we heard Churchill proclaim victory and a Scottish bugler play the ceasefire. We had a victory dance, I won’t say it was the wildest in the history of the base but it was certainly anything but tame. I had looked forward to that night for a long time and started out to drink a scotch for each of my eighteen missions – needless to say I didn’t get far. I was drunk on about eight and met a girl on my ninth so I started to drink less and dance more – I had a wonderful time – I was drunk – I was happy – I had a girl – the war was over. Everything was swell until I was kissing Edith goodbye by her bus, then some drunks started singing Auld Lang Syne and other songs and I joined in. As soon as I started to sing I remembered all the guys that weren’t there to drink with us that night. I could see them all; and their wives and mother’s listening to the news of the end. I’d always been tough concerning their deaths before, war is tough and some men die, it could be me tomorrow. But then I thought of them with the war over for us for a while, and they seemed really dead for the first time”
WHAT CAME NEXT
‘The changes on the base after VE Day were that a food shortage immediately appeared with a 10% cut in rations. The quantity and variety of food was considerably lessened, the reduction seemed greater in view of the fact that more men were eating “at home” since they were not allowed out on a pass. Censorship ended on mail, this meant for the first time the men could write home at last to tell of the journey over and where they are and for enlisted men they could now seal their envelopes up and letters would remain private. But then Reveille and retreat formations were installed. Reveille at 0645 with fifteen minutes of callisthenics and retreat was at 1700 hours with a thirty minute period of close order drill. The work preparing to leave for home was intensive with aircraft to be modified and repaired, new type of communications and navigation to be installed plus crews trained for their use. Night flying, navigation flights, ditching and safety lectures, calibration flights, fuel consumption flights and many other duties were accomplished this month. The journey home by air and sea were fast approaching, a vast clean-up of the sites, ready to hand back to the RAF. Packing up all equipment just a few of the tasks to enable to move the thousands of men back to the USA. After the long journey home they had the prospect of a furlough back home, preparing for the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
In 1945 many local girls married men based at Seething, these are just a few of them.
March 20th 1945 – Seething Parish Church Joan Moore to Reo Hunt
April 14th 1945 – Loddon Parish Church – Sheila Francis to William Vickery. William had to leave for USA in July and Sheila travelled over on the “QUEEN MARY” with over War Brides in March 1946
April 30th – Chedgrave Parish Church – Phyllis Howard to M/Sgt Robert Evans, the reception was held at the bride’s home Langley Grange.
June 16th 1945 – Loddon Parish Church – Eda Wright to Charles (Ernest) Poteet, now living in Huntington, Indiana.
A HAPPY ENDING
Pilot Edward Wall was planning to marry Betty after his last mission in January 1945, but sadly he was shot down on January 13th 1945 on a mission to Worms Germany. Betty had no idea if he was alive or dead. Debriefing information said the ‘plane went down on fire and no chutes, he was missing in action for over four months. Happily Edward returned to the base on May 5th, they were married on May 20th after obtaining a special license. Luckily Betty still had her wedding dress which she had borrowed from a friend. Edward shipped home in August 1945 but Betty had to wait until March 1946 to travel to America by troopship to join him.
Sadly in June 1945 one of the B24s with 20 crew and passengers crashed on the way back home via Prestwick, three men survived. Amongst those that died on board was Lt Col Heber Thompson. He was the popular C.O of 713 Squadron.
The 58th Station Complement Squadron and the rest of the ground personal left for the USA on July 11th, on board the “QUEEN MARY”.
Just a brief effort to commemorate that time as we are all in lockdown now so none of the official celebrations will occur.
TAKE CARE, KEEP SAFE Patricia Everson – The 448th Bomb Group Collection
Contact details for Station 146 Tower Association www.station146seething.uk – email email@example.com