Boxted: History enthusiasts to celebrate airfield’s 70th anniversary

Richard Turner, chairman of Boxted Airfield Historical Group

Richard Turner, chairman of Boxted Airfield Historical Group - Credit: Archant

HISTORY enthusiasts are getting set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of north Essex’s most important wartime airfields.

Boxted Airfield Historical Group is holding a day-long event next month to commemorate the landmark and expects veterans and their families from the UK, Canada and US to attend the festivities.

Construction of the airfield north of Colchester was completed in 1943 ahead of the arrival of the US Air Force’s 386th Bomb Group in May of the same year. The group’s role was to fly Marauder fighter planes across the Channel into Holland and Belgium to destroy strategic enemy targets such as airfields, convoys, tanks and trains. The airfield was renowned for having the more ‘acers’ - pilots that had shot down more than five enemy planes - than anywhere in the country.

And, according to chairman of the historical group, Richard Turner, the arrival of 3,000 American servicemen in a small Essex village made quite an impact.

He said: “People in the UK were on rationing back in 1943 and then suddenly there were all these people here with money and lots of items the locals hadn’t been able to get hold of, such as sweets, fruit and stockings.

“The airmen struck up friendships with people in the village and started exchanging the things they had for eggs and cakes made by the housewives.”

Although Mr Turner was born shortly after the end of the Second World War he has collected anecdotes and oral evidence from people who lived in the area at the time.

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He added: “It was a exciting time to be a kid. Some of the local boys got to know the pilots and were lifted across the fence to sit in the planes.”

Over the years, the airfield has been used for a variety of purposes, such as an RAF base and business park, but details of it origins have been preserved in a small museum, housed in two Nissan huts on-site, which opened three years ago. Today the historical group has over 120 members who organise talks and outings.

The anniversary celebrations are due to take place at Langham Community Centre on Sunday June 2 from 10am to 4pm.

Archive film, and photographs will be on show together with a display of military vehicles while music will be provided by “Swing Machine” Big Band. The event is all-ticket, which can be purchased for £5 each from Mr Turner on 01206 865 275.

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