US airman's emotional Suffolk return

A FORMER American airman has made an emotional return to a Suffolk village - almost 70 years after he was stationed in the county.

Dave Gooderham

A FORMER American airman has made an emotional return to a Suffolk village - almost 70 years after he was stationed in the county.

Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Stanek , 88, returned to Lavenham at the weekend to show his son and grandson the village where he and thousands of Americans were based during the Second World War.

A member of the 487th Bomb Group, Lieu Col Stanek, who had flown to the county from his home in America, was given a poignant tour around the village and made an honorary citizen.

The trip continued his family's links with Lavenham after his grandson, Capt Michael Albert, from RAF Mildenhall, attended the unveiling ceremony of the new village sign two years ago.

Parish councillor Andrea Norman, who arranged Lieu Col Stanek's stay, said: “When Capt Albert came to the unveiling, he always said he wanted to bring his grandfather to Lavenham where his squadron came from.

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“It was really exciting to have a war veteran visit the village. The people of Lavenham are very proud of our war history and it is nice to continue the links. I think Lieu Col Stanek was proud to see that he and his colleagues are still well remembered.”

As part of the visit, Lieu Col Stanek, who flew 223 missions from Lavenham and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and five air medals, was shown the village sign - which depicts the 487th Bomb Group - and taken to the village's airfield.

He also went to the Swan Hotel, home of a collection of war memorabilia, where he met Eileen Huffey, who used to organise events for the Americans when they were stationed in the village.

Lieu Col Stanek was also presented with a mug commemorating the granting of Lavenham's market charter and a scroll making him an honorary citizen of the village.

Lyn Gurling, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council, said: “It is a great honour for the village to have a former airman return and it is marvellous to have someone like this coming back. We extended a very warm welcome and we all had a wonderful day.”