Eye ready to pay tribute at “significant” and “poignant” memorial dedication

The American Airmen who served at Eye Airfield will be honoured with a memorial. ANL-150325-114655001
The American Airmen who served at Eye Airfield will be honoured with a memorial. ANL-150325-114655001

A community’s two-year effort to place a memorial in commemoration of the American airmen who served in Eye during the Second World War will come to a head on Sunday.

In May 2014 a group of residents first came together to discuss the possibility of creating a permanent memorial to the 490th Bombardment Group, which flew 158 missions from June 1944 to July 1945.

American airmen and ground crew of the 490th Bomb Group at Eye Airfield in the spring of 1945 ANL-140918-110857001

American airmen and ground crew of the 490th Bomb Group at Eye Airfield in the spring of 1945 ANL-140918-110857001

And after an extensive fundraising and community effort, the new memorial will be dedicated on Sunday.

About 25 Americans will be in attendance, including 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.

The event will also feature a fly-past tribute of a flying fortress from Duxford and P51-Mustangs from Hardwick, subject to weather conditions.

The day’s events will begin at 11.45am at Eye Town Hall in Broad Street, which will be open from 11am, running until 12.30pm where festivities will continue at the memorial site.

It has been two years of work and now it is here

Clive Stephens

Committee member Clive Stephens said the event would be a “significant occasion” for the town.

He also praised the community’s involvement and the “generous” local businesses who have contributed.

“I just feel it is a bit of a sweet sorrow in a way,” he told the Diss Express.

“I have seen the memorial stone and having been the one who did the wording for it, seeing it being put in by Perfitts, it is all pretty poignant.

The site of the new Eye Airfield Memorial for the 490th Bomb Group, pictured in April. It will be dedicated at a ceremony on May 29. ANL-160523-154520001

The site of the new Eye Airfield Memorial for the 490th Bomb Group, pictured in April. It will be dedicated at a ceremony on May 29. ANL-160523-154520001

“It has been two years of work and now it is here.

“One or two of us on the committee next week will probably feel a little bit lost, as we have achieved what we wanted to achieve.

“I would loved to be proved wrong but I think this will be the last American veteran of the 490th to come back who was stationed here.”

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

n Clive Stephens will be holding a free presentation, The Friendly Invasion, on Saturday at Brome Village Hall, doors opening at 7pm.