In June 1943 the sleepy Norfolk village of Thorpe Abbotts became home to the 100th Bomb Group of the Eighth Airforce. Although the ‘friendly invasion’ of the American airmen was relatively short lived the impact on the local community was considerable; airbase personnel outnumbered local villagers. Once the Airforce had returned home the memory of those remarkable months lingered in the village residents.
Following the closure of the airfield in 1956, the tower and other buildings fell into disrepair until in 1977 local man Mike Harvey and several local volunteers started making enquiries about the possibility of restoring the old control tower as a living memorial to American personnel who served at the base during World War Two.
The Landowner Sir Rupert Mann, whose family had owned the land during the war, was approached and following a satisfactory survey of the building, a 999-year lease was negotiated for a small area in the North-East corner of the old airfield which included the tower.
When volunteers began restoring the dilapidated 100th Bomb Group control tower they were faced with a massive task, including clearing the debris from several years of pigs living in the tower during the 1950s-1960s. Photographs show the tower filled with straw – the pigs’ bedding.
Four years later the fruits of their labours were rewarded when on 25th May 1981 Major Horace Varian (former Group Adjutant) unveiled a plaque on completion of the tower restoration in the presence of many veterans from the USA as well as many local people.
Today the museum is a moving testament to the Americans, who in the pursuit of peace, came to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk to fight alongside the allies during World War Two.