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Thorpe Abbott's 100th Bomb Group Museum recreates dramatic war scene as part of new exhibition

A dramatic scene from a war hospital room has been recreated as part of a new exhibition.

Volunteers at The 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, in Dickleburgh, created the installation to show how the Thorpe Abbotts airbase hospital would have treated wounded airmen.

The museum, which last year won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, reopened in March with a series of new displays.

Ron Batley, curator and one of the founding members of the 100th Bomb Group museum in Thorpe Abbotts. Pictures: Mark Bullimore Photography
Ron Batley, curator and one of the founding members of the 100th Bomb Group museum in Thorpe Abbotts. Pictures: Mark Bullimore Photography

Thorpe Abbotts Airfield became home to hundreds of young American men from 1943 to 1945, with the ‘friendly invasion’ radically changing the physical landscape of East Anglia, as well as shaking up some of its more sleepy villages.

The museum is a moving testament to the Americans, who, in the pursuit of peace, came to Thorpe Abbotts to fight alongside the allies during the Second World War.

Unlike the British, who undertook bombing missions during the cover of darkness, the American bomber groups engaged in daylight attacks deep into German territory, which put them at greater risk.

Ron Batley demonstrates the Ball Turret
Ron Batley demonstrates the Ball Turret

The 100th Bomb Group gained the nickname ‘the Bloody Hundredth’ due to the heavy losses they experienced during the war.

On their first mission alone, the 100th Bomb Group lost three planes and 30 men.

Nearly all airfields had a sick quarters for treating minor injuries and illness. More complex and severe cases would be treated at nearby general hospitals.

The replica hospital room was recreated by using photographs from the museum collection to make it as accurate as possible.

The dummy patient in the display is being treated at the hospital room for typical injuries sustained by bomber crews, such as flak wounds and frostbite.

On returning to Thorpe Abbots, they would have been assessed by medical staff before being transferred to the nearest general hospital at Redgrave Hall.

Alongside the hospital display, the exhibition features a replica ball turret that was once fitted to the B17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ that still flies from the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, before a genuine turret was installed.

Volunteers have created a framework to hold the replica ball turret and the display is interactive, with volunteers able to demonstrate how it would have been used.

Ball turrets were affixed to the underside of an aircraft, making it a perilous position for a gunner to operate from.

Museum trustee Sophie Jemma said: “Our volunteers have been working hard over the winter, and we are now looking forward to welcoming new visitors this year, and old friends alike, to see our fresh displays.

“It is our pleasure to open our doors again for a full season as an award-winning museum.

“We hope that our visitors enjoy learning about the history of the 100th Bomb Group.”

The 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum is dedicated to preserving the stories and memories of the American involvement in the Second World War.

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