The aircraft that the men of the 2nd Air Division flew and maintained were more than the sum of their parts. They had their own personalities and peculiarities – be it how they handled, whether they were prone to niggles and problems or perhaps more superstitiously, whether they brought their crews back in one piece. These characteristics were often summed up in the names that the men gave their planes. This is the story of one such aircraft, an air-frame that truly lived up to its name. This is the bewitching story of ‘Witchcraft’.
If every object has a story, then that told by a 24-foot banner, embroidered with the phrase that translates so simply as Honour to our Liberators, is an epic. In 1944, it soared above the village of Aubers in northern France to celebrate the defeat of the Nazi occupation. Now, it is a treasured artefact in the collection of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich. Its meaning and symbolism –the stories and lives woven into its fabric – are multitudinous; the past is a cross weave, and there are myriad ways to unpick and trace the threads. The story of an American airman who was saved from German capture by the French Resistance is just one thread in that banner of the liberation…
In the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library archives, there are numerous poems both by and about the United States military personnel who served in East Anglia during the Second World War. When they are compared with one another, the poems draw attention to the differences between how the American servicemen understood themselves and how they were perceived by the British.
In Norwich, the history that surrounds you seems as apparent as it is ancient: the Norman castle, the thirty-two medieval churches, and the winding cobblestone streets. In a city like this, the trading estate on Barker Street might very well be the last place you would consider “historic”. Today, it is just a complex of car dealers and nondescript commercial warehouses. But in one abrupt instant seventy-two years ago, this unsuspecting location became etched into the story of the United States airmen stationed in East Anglia in the Second World War.