A Brief Look at the Memorabilia Collection

One of the projects that’s been completed this year is the reorganization of our physical archive, which involved the detailed sorting and cataloging of many, many different objects. Our memorabilia collection is nicely sorted now–here’s a brief peek at some of the items (click on any of the images to enlarge):

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Leather flying helmet, oxygen mask and googles with coloured polaroid lenses.

John J. Horan, pilot, 466th Bomb Group (Attlebridge)

John J. Horan flew 32 combat missions over Europe between 23 December 1944 – 16 April 1945.

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Escape and Evasion maps

Silk maps were one of the most ingenious ideas of the Second World War. During WWII thousands of maps were produced on silk, thin cloth and tissue paper. Using this kind of material instead of regular paper avoided the possibility of wear and tear.

A serviceman captured or shot down in enemy territory could use the map to help avoid capture or to find his way to safety. Silk maps were issued specifically to airmen so they could sew them into their clothes or wear them around the neck. They could also be concealed in a cigarette packet or within the hollowed out heel of a boot.

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“Button” or “Orifice” escape compass

Donated by Fred Dale (44th Bomb Group)

Designed to be hidden on the body if captured.

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Stars and Stripes

This was the daily newspaper of the American Armed Forces. This edition was produced for the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and is dated February 6th, 1945.

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Seething Airfield Site Plan

This map shows the layout of the Seething airfield, home to the 448th Bomb Group, one of the fourteen 2nd Air Division units based in Norfolk and north-east Suffolk during World War II.

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U.S. Armed Forces Guide to London

Signed by the Lord Mayor of London and the Chairman of the London County Council, here’s a sample quote from the cover:

“We want you to know that we are delighted to see you, that we have very warm feelings in our hearts for you, and are ready and anxious to do all we can to make your stay in our country enjoyable.”

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This is one of the items in the collection that I personally found most interesting. As many of you might know, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (President John F. Kennedy’s older brother) died on 12 August 1944, flying an experimental drone aircraft. This is wreckage from his plane that exploded over Blythburg, Suffolk.

Joseph (typically called Joe) was regarded as an experienced Patrol Plane Commander. Along with a fellow officer who was an expert in radio control projects, they were assigned to take a ‘drone’ Liberator bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of high explosives into the air and to stay with it until two ‘mother’ planes had achieved complete radio control over the drone.

The plan was that they were were then to bail out over England. The “drone,” now under the control of the mother planes, was to proceed on the mission which was to culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching site in Normandy.

Unfortunately things did not proceed quite as smoothly. The airplane was in flight with routine checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at 6.20pm on August 12th, 1944, two explosions blasted the drone, resulting in the death of its two pilots. No final conclusions as to the cause of the explosions has ever been reached. Joe’s father (Jospeh P. Kennedy Sr.) had plans for his oldest son to become President, but after Joe’s death, these high expectations then fell upon the younger brother John, who (as we well know) was elected President of the United States in 1961.

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“Prepare for Combat” booklet

Turner Air Base, Albany, Georgia

Classes began at this air base in August 1941. Two types of training we offered: navigation training and advance pilot training. With the outbreak of World War II, Turner Field was placed on a wartime footing. Most of the site has since been taken over as a brewery.

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Meeting the locals

Lt. Grimes out for a ride around the area near his base at Seething, home to the 448th Bomb Group, stops to have a chat with youngsters close to Mundham “Garden House” pub.

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Polaroid Flying Goggle Instruction Booklet

You wouldn’t want to fly without your goggles!

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You can see more photos and other scanned images at our Digital Archive.

Speaking of archives, don’t forget about our upcoming Digital Archive workshop! It’s taking place Saturday, July 23rd, 10.30am – 12.00, presented by The Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Second Air Division Memorial Library. This will be a hands-on mini workshop introducing the Second Air Division Digital Archive. Booking is essential as places are limited. You can book online or via phone: (01603) 774740.

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Filed under Archive Items, Memorial Library, World War 2

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