History

This section introduces different aspects of the history represented at the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts. Here are some other sources of information;

  • Interesting and inspiring account of how the museum came to be created,written by Sam Hurry. Please click here.
  • www.100thbg.com - website of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation
  • Century Bombers - The Story of the Bloody Hundredth by Richard Le Strange*
  • 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum Guide Book*

* Available through the Museum Shop
In the Links section of this website you will find other websites listed that offer
information about World War II and American air bases in East Anglia.
We are always interested to hear from anyone who has memories from the time
or items they would like to donate to the museum collection. Just call us on
+44 (0) 1379 740708 or email us - we would love to hear from you.
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War over Europe and the ‘Bloody Hundredth’

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor America entered the Second World War and hundreds of thousands of young Americans joined up to help in the fight against Hitler. Many came to Norfolk and from November 1943 to October 1945, RAF Thorpe Abbotts became home to the 100th Bomb Group.

The 100th Bomb Group was engaged in bombing strategic targets such as airfields, bridges, enemy ground defenses, oil installations and submarine and transport facilities. After May 1945 and the end of the war, the Group flew six ‘Chowhound’ missions dropping food parcels to hungry Dutch citizens.

The Group’s B-17 Flying Fortresses were heavy bombers which specialised in daylight raids deep into German territory, at tremendous risk. The planes quickly acquired mythic status. They were capable of great destruction, could defend themselves and were able to return home safely even after sustaining extensive
battle damage.

On their first mission alone the 100th Bomb Group lost three planes and thirty men. Though they didn’t have the highest overall loss rate, the group experienced heavy losses during several of its missions including one to Berlin on 6 March 1944 when fifteen aircraft were lost.

This and other grave losses explain the group’s nickname – ‘the Bloody Hundredth’.
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Life at Thorpe Abbotts

Thorpe Abbotts had a photography unit that recorded daily life at the airfield as well as bombing missions. Through these photographs and accounts from the time that have been, and continue to be recorded we can build up a detailed picture of airbase life.

The airbase had its own bakery, tennis courts and clay pigeon or ‘skeet’ shooting range. To maintain and equip the B-17s, to plan the bombing raids and to house and look after the airmen took an army of people. The 100th was supported by;

838th Air Engineering Squadron
662nd Air Material Squadron
412th Air Service Group
American Red Cross
869th Chemical Company
216th Finance Section
2110 Fire Fighting Platoon
1285th Military Police
1776 Ordnance Company
592nd Postal Unit
83rd Service Group
456th Sub-Depot
ll4lst Quartermaster Company
18th Weather Detachment
Royal Air Force Detachment

The Ground Echelon of the 100th Bomb Group, as they were known collectively, was cited frequently for its excellent maintenance and preparation.
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Americans in Norfolk

The extract below, from an article that appeared in December 2008's Century Bulletin captures something of the differences between the Americans and their British hosts. It was written by ex LAC (Leading Aircraftman) Robbins RAF who was stationed at Thorpe Abbots when the Amerians arrived.

The benefits of the arrival of the Americans so far as we were concerned were mixed:

1. Our miniature NAAFI was replaced by the PX that offered a range of goods that we were not accustomed to see in wartime Britain.
2. Our cheap cigarette ration was replaced by the American ration of 200 Camels or Lucky Strikes for 3p for twenty - not much direct use to a non-smoker but of considerable value for bartering purposes and wonderful when one went home.
3. Liberty buses to Norwich in the evenings instead of using the bike to go into Diss.
4. A transfer to American rations for food - rich, exotic and often strange to us.
5. USO concerts instead of a complete lack of entertainment.

Against the benefits could be set some quite material disadvantages:

1. We were grossly underpaid compared with the people we worked with.
2. The strange eating habits, as they were fascinated by our normal use of both knife and fork at a meal, as we were by their habit of mixing everything up and chopping with the knife and then just using a fork.
3. The objection of the American dining hall staff to us using two plates when one was big enough. Who wants pork chop, apple sauce, potato, sweet corn, peas, gravy, pineapple chunks, cream and strawberry jam all on one plate?
4. Eternal copy with every meal and not a drop of tea.
5. The lack of any beer or female company in the area as the Americans could afford both.
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The Creation of the Museum

In 1977 a group of local people got together to restore the control tower that now houses most of the museum displays. Surrounded by brambles and accessible only by one of the old air strips, RAF Thorpe Abbotts had been abandoned for over thirty years. Black and white photos from the ‘70s show how adults and children alike worked on clearing the site and repairing the battered buildings. Over time new buildings including two Nissen huts, were added.From the start strong links were made with American veterans. Visits by them and their relatives to Norfolk, and by the Friends of the Museum to America became central to the life of the museum. And each year the Friends continue to make improvements. The quality of their work is reflected in the fact that the museum has been recognised by the Museum Libraries and Archives Council as an Accredited Museum and has also achieved Visit Britain’s accreditation of ‘Quality Assured Visitor Attraction’. Remarkably, over thirty years on, many of the original volunteers are still involved with the museum. Click here to find out how you can get involved.
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