Updated: May 5
Ideas Can Come From The Strangest Places!
Its always nice to go out for dinner, round to a good friend's house, for an evening of good food, conversations and a few laughs, and thats just what Juliette from the Out There Paranormal Group did, but little did she realise, that this would lead to a really great idea, and the birth of a fantastic long term project for our team.
The meal, I'm reliably informed was fabulous, and as often is the case, the conversation got round to spooky stuff. The people hosting the meal, were really interested in Juliette's activities with the paranormal group she is a member of.
They told her that they knew about a local airfield used during WW2, which was now just a few remains dotted about in some fields. Would she like to go with them, take a little bit of kit and show them what goes on when she is out investigating? Not wanting to miss any chance to investigate, Juliette agreed, and they all popped round to her house, to pick up a few bits of kit and then headed out to the airfield site.
On arrival, Juliette just knew that we had to return with Out There, and conduct a full investigation. There was just so much energy there, a sense of spirit just waiting for someone to give them a chance to tell their stories. Juliette ran a quick series of calling out sessions, supported by her PSB10 spirit box, and looked for hits on the K2 meter she had brought along too, she was not disappointed.
The next morning, Juliette messaged me. She was so excited about the previous night, but did not have a clue where she had been! We started to look at old airfields near to where she lives, and narrowed the choice down to a couple of possible places, after describing what she had seen at the site , we decided, by process of elimination, it sounded just like an old base called Deopham Green
As you may have gathered from a previous post on the blog, I love a bit of research, and a bit of Googling took me to Station 142, and the 452nd heavy bombardment group. A few hours of intense research later and a plan begins to form in my mind. so I contacted Juliette and ran it past her.
A little background information first perhaps, so you can all get some idea of what I am rattling on about! In World War 2, East Anglia was invaded, a "Friendly Invasion" as it so happens, as Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex became home to some 350,000 American service personal, stationed in airbases across the entire region, The area gained itself the nickname "Little America" as rural life was rudely awakened by the influx of the USAAF.
There was trepidation at first, but the Americans soon won the hearts of the local populations and to this day, they are still fondly remembered.
In my home county of Norfolk, there were 17 USAAF bases, built into the rural landscape close to the small villages, and larger towns, even on the outskirts of Norwich itself. Places like: Attlebridge, Bodney, Deopham Green, East Wretham, Hardwick, Hethel, Horsham St Faith, North Pickenham, Old Buckenham, Rackheath, Seething, Shipdham, Snetterton Heath, Thorpe Abbotts, Tibenham, Watton and Wendling.
All home to the men, and women of the 8th Army Air Force, each base housing some 3,000 or so personnel, pilots, ground crew, support groups; everyone doing their bit to keep the aircraft flying,. Their mission; to take the war to Hitler's Third Reich, in daring and dangerous daylight bombing raids, hitting the very infrastructure that kept the Nazi war machine running.
The skies over Norfolk would be filled with the sight of the heavy bombers taking flight; squadrons of B-24 Liberators, and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, loaded with a deadly cargo of bombs, heading towards such targets as Kassel, Bremen or the ball bearing works at Schweinfurt, accompanied by their little friends, the fighter support in the shape of the P-47 Thnuderbolts, and P-51 Mustangs; there to take on the Luftwaffe's experienced Jagdgeschwader pilots and try to stop them shooting down the bombers.
Sadly though, not all of these planes returned back home. The 8th AAF lost some 26,000 men; killed in action. Approximately 135,000 Eighth AAF personnel flew combat missions and that means that an Eighth air crew member had roughly a one-in-five chance of dying. Factor in another 29,500 air crewmen who were shot down, ending up as POWs and internees and suddenly, the scale of the Eighth’s sacrifice becomes all too terribly clear.
The bases were huge, thrown down in the middle of nowhere, taking over large tracts of farmland. The larger bomber bases, with their concrete runways, the fighter bases more likely to have grass fields, all the buildings needed to house the personnel, and the planes all leave a lasting image; or so you would think, but sadly these bases are slowly fading away, back into the rural landscapes from which they sprung. The buildings are now gone, the runways are dug up, with little more than just a few memorials to recall what was once there and the sacrifices made by the brave people who served there.
We Have This Great Idea
Ok, I do hope my disappearing off on a tangent, was actually useful! Lets get back to Juliette, and her late night adventure at Deopham Green, and our rather fantastic idea.
I remembered a book I had seen a while ago, called "Ghost Stations" about haunted airfields sites, and the ghosts, spirits or whatever you want to call them that frequent them. My brain started whirring, and after the experience that Juliette had on her impromptu investigation with her friends , I came up with a plan and between us, we started to fine tune it.
The idea being.... what if we were to investigate a few of these old USAAF bases, to just find out want remains on the site; be it the structures of the base itself, or echoes of the people that served there. We could tell the whole story of the base, talk about the Bomb group, or Fighter group that was stationed there and tell some of the stories around the missions that they had flown over the Third Reich.
Other groups have done the odd investigation at an old airfield, mostly ones that had a ghostly tale attached, but not really touched on the historical side of the site itself, expect for a cursory bit to cover the basics. We have a perennial favourite near to us at Rougham, where many groups hire the control tower museum. However, no one seems to tell the story of the base, or talk about the missions. It has sadly turned into another “pay for scares” venue, and the WW2 history is largely ignored.
With 17 sites to choose from, this was going to be an interesting venture. However, quite a few of them are inaccessible and many of the ones with museums, do not welcome paranormal groups, as they feel it will offend surviving veterans, or their families. I can fully understand why they would feel this way and there are any number of insensitive groups, who would simply go just for a spot of "ghost hunting" and pay no respect to whatever, or whoever remains there.
So I began to dig. With so much material available to research, I was not going to be stuck without anything to share and once you start looking, the astonishing stories begin to mount up. Even the more mundane tales of base life, have an interesting feel to them. With so much material to draw on, I could sense what a brilliant project this could turn out to be.
To me, every ghost, or spirit has a story to tell and every investigation venue has a wealth of history to share. Its so very important that we try to tell the stories and share the history, to make people so much more aware, that there is much more to what we do, then just going out in the dark, and hunting for ghosts....
Instead, we want to preserve the memory of these places, remind people of the sacrifices made by the young men, who flew out of them, never to return, to make sure their stories are told, even though the places they flew from are now slowly fading away.
So what can you expect?
Well, we have our first three venues already sorted. Lockdown has put a stop on things for the moment, but that gives me the time to research the stories and prepare the ground for the investigations.
Each investigation site we visit, will have a full video of the investigation itself; possibly even two. We will tell the stories behind the bases and the group serving there. The stories will come in the form of sections in the videos, podcasts and more posts on here. If the first three venues prove to be popular, then we will extend out to include some more bases and look at the R.A.F bases in our area too.
Its a sizeable project. But we are really looking forward to sharing our findings with you.
We had our first investigation venue already sorted, Juliette had already said we need to go to Deopham Green, so we packed up our kit, and we headed for, our first exciting adventure, and that as they say, is a whole new blogpost, or video, or podcast, or even all three
keep watching, there's a whole lot more to come.
The truth, is Out There!