"Just-a-Snappin" Crash at Ludham Airfield - Research Project - PART THREE

By Linda and Brian Barden - 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum Volunteers

When we started this project, we never thought it would generate so much interest and enthusiasm.

From standing on a cold, wet and very windy Ludham airfield in the middle of winter, to the beautiful sunny day when Jim & Mary Blakely visited on 14 May 2019.

Before the visit to Ludham, they were given a tour of Thorpe Abbotts airfield by Ron Batley together with Bill Buck, and volunteers. Jim gave his own presentation to visitors and volunteers about his father and "Just-a-Snappin".

Thorpe Abbotts airfield walk with Ron Batley

[Thorpe Abbotts airfield walk with Ron Batley]

Jim Blakely giving his presentation at the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum

[Jim Blakely giving his presentation at the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum]

Usually during our winter research visits, we ended up at The King’s Arms pub in Ludham to warm up and talk about our findings, so it was especially nice to sit down with Jim & Mary in the pub to finally tell our stories and present Jim with copies of our research, including a number of photos we had taken during our visits.

On the airfield, Bill and Brian were able to show Jim the spot where the tree was by showing him the maps they had and the co-ordinates etc.

Brian Barden describing to Jim Blakely where the tree once stood

[Brian Barden describing to Jim Blakely where the tree once stood]

Bill presented Jim with a large mounted copy of the aerial photograph he had taken of the airfield. This was a very poignant moment.

Jim Blakely being presented with a coloured aerial photograph of Ludham airfield by Bill Buck at lunch at the King's Arms in Ludham

[Jim Blakely being presented with a coloured aerial photograph of Ludham airfield by Bill Buck at lunch at the King's Arms in Ludham]

Photograph of Ludham airfield with a circle showing the site of where the tree would have stood. Courtesy of Bill Buck

[Photograph of Ludham airfield with a circle showing the site of where the tree would have stood. Courtesy of Bill Buck]

Steve Snelling, an independent journalist, interviewed Jim on the airfield (the article has now been published in the weekend edition of the EDP in a supplement titled: “Act of Remembrance” – dated Saturday 11 April 2020 and Sunday 12 April 2020).

Steve Snelling interviewing Jim on Ludham airfield

[Steve Snelling interviewing Jim on Ludham airfield]

We were thrilled that Jim and Mary came over to visit and it made a very fitting end to our research – so thank you both so much.

We thought this was the end of the story, however, more things came to light and we are pleased to be able to share them with you.

Gordon Dickie, one of our volunteers, remembered that William McClellend, the Ball Turrett Gunner on "Just-a-Snappin" had paid a visit to the museum many years ago. Bill and Gordon kept in touch by letter after the visit and one day, a package arrived and inside was a commemorative plaque – see image below.

The plaque given to Gordon Dickie

[The plaque given to Gordon Dickie]

At the end of Part Two, we mentioned the Nissen huts opposite Malt House Farm.

A couple of months after everything had finished, Brian received a phone call from Bill Buck, informing us that he would be doing a Ludham airfield walk and would we like to attend. We, of course, jumped at the opportunity.

The day of the walk was warm and sunny, such a change from our normal visits to the airfield.

After the tour and on our way back to Ludham village, we walked past a small wood where the two Nissen huts stood. Brian said to Bill that if the huts had still been there, they would have helped us enormously in finding the location of the crash. Bill agreed. At this point we arrived at a very small gap in a hedge. Brian walked over and pulled the hedge back. He couldn’t believe what he saw – the two Nissen huts were still there, totally covered in ivy, all sorts of bushes and trees as you will see in the photographs below. Bill was just as amazed as Brian. Jovially, Brian said to Bill, “wouldn’t it be nice if there was some remains of "Just-a-Snappin" in the huts!”. Unfortunately, the huts were totally empty.

In the next few weeks, Bill gained permission from the landowner to take photographs of the huts, but he would not allow any other access to the land.

Who would have guessed that there was a Nissen hut lurking under this foliage

[Who would have guessed that there was a Nissen hut lurking under this foliage]

The end of the Nissen hut through the gap in the hedge

[The end of the Nissen hut through the gap in the hedge]

The other Nissen hut

[The other end of the Nissen hut]

And there’s more ……………….

Only a few weeks ago, we had an email from Bill saying he had spoken to a farmer who remembered when the airfield was split up into small holdings - he was the man who removed the tree that "Just-a-Snappin’"crashed into in the 1950s.

So, this is the end of our story as it is now, but you never know what else might turn up!

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