By RICHARD WOOD
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Primed and ready for action the young men in these photographs had travelled to north Suffolk from America to put their lives on the line to help defend our freedom.
Together they formed a fearsome fighting machine with their record number of aerial victories ensuring Cave Tonitrum – which translates as Beware the Thunderbolt – became a familiar motto around Halesworth.
The 56th Fighter Group ‘Zemke’s Wolfpack’ was based at the Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Station 365 from July 8, 1943, to April 18, 1944, and it was during this time that its P47 Thunderbolts set a record that was never equalled by any other fighter group in the US 8th Army Air Force.
These photos, which form part of an extensive library at The Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Museum, give a small insight into what life was like for the group both at that station and at Boxted, near Sudbury, which is where they moved to in April 1944.
The museum, which pays tribute to all those who served on the airfield between 1942 and 1946, has a collection of about 4,000 photographs that were given by veterans of the 56th Fighter Group, including more than 100 like this which have kindly been restored and enhanced by American Kent Ramsey.
The colour ones relate to the 56th’s time in Boxted, with the black and white mostly from Halesworth.
Museum committee member Buzz Took said that the huge collection of images had been sent to them by the 56th veterans group.
“Due to the age of the veterans they decided they could not carry on,” said Mr Took.
“They wanted to send them to a museum and at a meeting unanimously voted to send them to us, which was a real feather in our cap.”
Thousands of photographs were sent to Mr Took, who described the delivery as “like Christmas”.
Since then he has spent years sorting through the images as he has tried to put names to faces.
“I spent every night sorting different things out. It was a bit of an obsession I suppose,” he said.
The Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Museum is open every Sunday from 2pm between Easter and the end of October.
For more of the photographs click on the gallery at the top right of the screen.