490th Bomb Group will be remembered

The American Airmen who served at Eye Airfield will be honoured with a memorial, set to be dedicated next year. ANL-150325-114655001
The American Airmen who served at Eye Airfield will be honoured with a memorial, set to be dedicated next year. ANL-150325-114655001

A near two-year campaign to immortalise the American airmen who served in Eye during the Second World War has hit a significant milestone after planning permission was granted by the district council.

A group of residents first came together in the town in May 2014 to discuss the possibility of creating a permanent memorial at Eye Airfield to the men who served in the 490th Bombardment Group. They flew 158 missions from June 1944 to July 1945.

And Mid Suffolk District Council gave the plans, for land at the airfield off Progress Way, the green light earlier this month.

It will see the creation of a memorial garden, war memorial, information board, two benches and a pair of flag poles, and it is hoped the new memorial will be dedicated at a ceremony on May 29.

Although a final itinerary for the day is yet to be confirmed, it is set to include a presentation at Eye Town Hall, before a guard of honour from airmen from RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath.

Si Spiegal, 93, a veteran who was a 20-year-old pilot in Eye during the Second World War and now resides in New York City, is due to be in attendance.

They were young men and they did not die easy. They died falling in flames, falling from their aircraft

Jackie Aling

Jackie Aling, a member of the project, told the Diss Express: “We were astonished at the amount of support from both Mid Suffolk District and Eye Town Council.

“I think that all of us that started out are so pleased and relieved as well that we have managed to get to this point.

“On a personal basis it has been a long and tiring journey, however, it has been worthwhile.

“They were young men and they did not die easy. They died falling in flames, falling from their aircraft.

“It means quite a lot to me. When you see Eye Airfield, and when you see what is happening there in the future, the industrialisation of it, it could be completely forgotten it once was an airfield.”

The project has been funded by about £20,000 through the group’s fundraising, as well as benefitting from nearly £40,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It has also seen a roll of honour put up at the town hall, while the history of the 490th group is set to be shared with the wider community through a collaboration with Hartismere School.

A heritage footpath is also set to be included at the airfield.

For more information on the group visit their website at www.490th.co.uk