Work starts on memorial to fallen US airmen at former WWII airfield
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
A senior US air force officer has helped mark the start of work on a memorial to American servicemen who flew from a wartime airbase in Suffolk.
Colonel Will Marshall, commanding officer of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, joined fundraisers from the Friends of Lavenham Airfield (FOLA) for a ceremony to lay the first brick of the memorial to the men of the 487th Bomb Group at Lavenham air base.
The memorial will lie adjacent to the restored control tower of the former base in Old Bury Road at Alpheton, near Lavenham.
A wall will carry plaques recording the names of the 233 personnel who were killed and every unit that served as part of the 487th Bomb Group.
Col Marshall said: "This site is one of many in East Anglia where heroes took to the skies to defeat tyranny, and many who didn't return.
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"It is great to see our communities work together to continue to honour their bravery and sacrifice.
"The 48th FW was honoured to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony here at Lavenham for a new memorial which will preserve history and connect future generations to those brave airmen who secured our freedom."
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John Cashmore of the Friends of Lavenham Airfield said: "Today is a very special day.
"It has taken us five years to get where we are today and to now see building work start is very gratifying."
The former airfield is now owned by local farmer John Pawsey and his wife Alice.
She said: "Over the years we have had many veterans and their families come here. We owe those men so much and it is only right there is a proper memorial in place that will allow people who do come here to pay their respects."
FOLA is raising £6,800 for the memorial, which will be a 20sq ft design that is a half-size replica of the airfield's identification code 'LV'.
These letters were laid in the ground at the airfield and were a unique reference point for Lavenham from the air.
It is being built by Maple Building Services of Long Melford and FOLA aim to have it in place in time for the 75th anniversary of VE Day in May 2020.
The base opened in 1944 from where the 487th flew 185 missions, losing 57 aircraft and dropping 14,641 tons of bombs.
The 487th left Lavenham in July 1945 and the airfield closed in 1948.
Only the restored control tower remains, which is now offices, plus a few out-buildings and partial sections of runway.
A fundraising talk by Tower of London Beefeater Kevin Kitcher in aid of FOLA takes place at Lavenham village hall on February 26 at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £5 and are available from Lavenham Village Hall on 01787 248599, or from Lavenham Hub in Lady Street on 01787 249939.