As most of our readers know, the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library commemorates the nearly 7,000 American airmen who lost their lives while flying missions from East Anglia in the crucial final years of World War II.
As we turn 50 years old, we look back at our accomplishments and look forward to many, many more years of service. The next couple of posts will highlight some of the ‘treasures’ of our Library; stay tuned! For now, a little history….
The Memorial Library grew from funds raised in 1945 by 2nd Air Division personnel, which were placed under the care of the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division USAAF. In 1963, eighteen years after those original funds were raised, the 2nd Air Division Memorial Room was opened to the public in the new Norwich Central Library.
The dedication of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Room took place on June 13, 1963. The Memorial Room contained the original Roll of Honor, as well as a collection of books on various aspects of American life. In addition, a Memorial Fountain, complete with stones from all 50 United States, was built outside the Memorial Room.
On August 1, 1994, a devastating fire broke out, destroying the entire Norwich Central Library. With few exceptions, only the records deposited with the Norfolk Record Office, located in the building’s basement, escaped the fire. All of the books and display items in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Room, including uniforms, photographs, and other memorabilia, were lost to the flames.
The Memorial Library moved to temporary quarters until its new home, in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library at The Forum, was opened on 1st November 2001. Many veterans of the 2nd Air Division came to Norwich, which was selected as the venue for their annual convention that year, to mark the occasion.
The Memorial Library fosters an enduring and developing connection to the United States with a lending collection of over 4,000 books covering all aspects of American life and culture and a specialist collection devoted to the history of the 2nd Air Division. Since doors opened in 1963, the Library has welcomed British and American dignitaries, military personnel and veterans, historians, filmmakers, expatriates, global travelers, schoolchildren, and scores of curious local people, every day. We maintain a lively schedule of events for children and adults, involving the public in the ongoing preservation of the legacy of the American presence in East Anglia.
Our home in Norwich continues to surprise visitors who stumble upon a little “slice of America” when they least expect it! We want to thank our patrons and friends near and far: we are proud to serve you.