Bomb Group Memorial event marks loss of crew with flypast
PUBLISHED: 11:15 10 September 2018
A flypast by the country's last operational Second World War heavy bomber marked the loss of hundreds of American aircrew from a mid Norfolk airfield.
It was an emotional end to a commemorative service held at the 392nd Bomb Group Memorial at Beeston, near Dereham.
A 30 strong group of relatives of those who had served with the US 8th Air Force’s Bombardment Group had travelled to Norfolk for the memorial service.
As the final notes of the Last Post were played by Dereham Band’s bugler, John Moulton, of Mileham, the engines of the country’s last surviving Avro Lancaster could be heard.
It was flown at low level over the 200-strong gathering, making three circuits around the village and former airfield.
Established in 1945, the memorial commemorates the 747 aircrew killed in action. When the 392nd Bomb Group left Beeston after the war, it had lost 832 men in 21 months.
A total of 285 missions were flown from Beeston, officially known as RAF Wendling, from August 15, 1943. It lost 184 of the Bomb Group’s B24 Liberators.
One American visitor, Ron Pierre, of LaGrange, Ohio, spoke movingly of finding the crash site of his uncle’s Liberator just three days ago near Norwich.
Waist gunner S/Sgt Martin Egler was on his 22nd and last mission, returning from Germany on March 22, 1945. The youngest of three sons, who all served with the USAF, he was just 22 when his Liberator crashed at White House Farm, Horstead.
Mr Pierre said that by chance, he had just found the location of his plane, named “I Walk Alone.” Now he could tell his six children and 24 grandchildren and write the last chapter of his uncle’s career.
The service was conducted by the Rev Canon Heather Butcher and eight wreaths were laid on the memorial.
Pipe major Roger Bayes, of the Norwich Pipe Band, led members of the Royal British Legion, who paraded eight standards from branches including King’s Lynn, Haddiscoe, Costessey, Wymondham and Coltishall.
Earlier, a service was held at St Mary’s Church, Beeston, which saw the packed congregation singing the national anthem and the Star-Spangled Banner, the USA’s national anthem.