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American airmen with British civilians after VE Day

US official photograph showing American airmen having a drink with Brits outside the Waggon and Horses pub in Great Yeldham, near their base at Ridgewell, Essex, on 17 May 1945. They are gathered around a now defunct local pastime: ‘Bet! V.E. before July’ (FRE 13699)

The American airmen did not simply pack up their bags and board troop ships as the final notes of the VE Day big band faded away. Instead, the Roger Freeman Collection of photographs shows how they spent the time between the end of war and their return home, up in the air and on the ground.

One of the quirks of researching the impact of American airmen on Britain during the Second World War is that very often airfields across East Anglia remained in American hands until the winter of 1945. By November of that year, the bright days of May had faded somewhat and although the August news relieved airmen of possible duty in the Pacific it must have been a homesick bunch of GIs that kicked about East Anglia, as the trees lost their leaves, waiting for orders to go home.

The Roger Freeman Collection gives a good picture of life at war but I’ve taken the chance of the approaching VE Day Anniversary Air Show coming up at IWM Duxford to find out what it reveals about what life was like for Americans in England after the Nazi surrender.

One of the stories told by Bomb Group veterans is that they used the days after VE Day to give lifts to ground crew, who had spent their days making the bombers airworthy and armed, to show them the effect of Allied bombing raids on Nazi industrial sites.

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Research Officer at the American Air Museum (AAM), Lucy May Maxwell, candidly discusses her experience of working on the team that created the American Air Museum’s new interactive archive of images and information. The American Air Museum is located within IWM Duxford.

The new American Air Museum Website launched at the beginning of October when the AAM team opened up our online archive to the public and invited them to ‘help us make these records better’. And so far they have done just that. Each day new people are registering on the site and editing the information on there about the American airmen who served in or flew from Britain during the Second World War.

A wide range of people have contributed, including veterans themselves, the families of American servicemen who survived the war and of those who did not, volunteers at other airfield museums and people with a personal interest in the topic.

Media Page on the AAM website. You can see how people are using the new website by browsing the Media section of the archive. New uploads, designated by the prefix ‘UPL’, and any IWM images, which have the prefix ‘FRE’, that have recently been edited, will appear at the top of the unrefined listing. © IWM 2014

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