Video/Gallery: Campaign begins to move Second World War memorial to Mendlesham church
16:30 26 January 2014
Sarah Lucy brown
A call has gone out to raise £35,000 to move a war memorial dedicated to the sacrifice paid by the American airmen who served during the Second World War at a Suffolk airfield.
The current home of the USAAF 34th Bomb Group Memorial is by the busy A140 next to the former RAF Mendlesham airfield.
In 2010 the bronze which fronted the brick memorial was stolen from the site near Stowmarket. Now Mendlesham Parish Council, along with a committee tasked with maintaining the memorial’s upkeep, has started an appeal to relocate it to the village’s parish church, St Mary’s.
Councillor David Nunn, 59, said: “Unfortunately we are losing people from the time of the Second World War and unless we move the memorial and make an effort it could be easier to forget. If it is put in the churchyard people can ask questions and it is easier to remember.
“We are desperately hoping that we are going to raise enough money to move our war memorial. It’s not practical to have a memorial on such a busy road. We started the project two years ago and the decision was made that it needed to be moved.”
Villagers were asked where they would like to see the memorial and, following discussions with Wetheringsett Parish Council, the church was chosen as the new location.
As the previous bronze plaque was never recovered a new design using green slate has been produced.
Mr Nunn, a former director of the Suffolk Show, said he had set a target of moving the memorial in time for this year’s Remembrance Sunday service. Veterans from the USA have travelled to visit the memorial on an annual basis but recently, as the number of former servicemen has dwindled, the trips have decreased. Despite this family members, who sometimes struggle to find the memoial because of its location, continue to travel to Mendlesham.
Almost 200 airmen who were based at the airfield, where some 3,000 personnel were located, died between 1944-45.
Gerald Stedman, 79, is a trustee of the committee and donated the land for the memorial when it was moved in the 1980s. The first memorial to the men was unveiled around 1949.
Mr Stedman said: “It would be a very satisfactory situation to have the memorial moved by the time of Remembrance Sunday.”
Roy Colchester, 85, a former Mendlesham parish councillor, took an interest in the planes at the airfield when he was a child. He said: “We would not have won the war without the Americans that’s for sure, it really turned the tide when they came in. We farmed not very far from the airfield during the war and I used to cycle past the airfield and used to spend probably far more time there than I should have done.”
The committee has been in contact with military officers at RAF Lakenheath, a current USA base, about the possibility of servicemen and women attending an event to mark the memorial’s re-location.
To donate to the appeal email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01449 766139 or write to: Mendlesham Parish Council 34th Bomb Group Memorial Honeysuckle Hockey Hill Wetheringsett Stowmarket Suffolk IP14 5PL