Race to save ‘lost’ WW2 art

Wall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: Supplied Wall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: Supplied

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
4:58 PM

A new project is collecting hundreds of examples of wall art drawn by US airmen while they were serving on bases in the region during the Second World War.

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Wall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: SuppliedWall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: Supplied

The scheme aims to preserve the cartoons, murals and graffiti, which were produced by bomber crews stationed here.

The Eighth in the East project has received a £575,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the work.

It is due to run for three years and is dedicated to exploring the legacy left in the region by the US Eighth Army Air Force (8th AAF). It involves researching former bases across Norfolk, as well as Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Northamptonshire could also be included in the study, if more funds are found.

Wall painting at Shipdham. Photo: 2nd Air Division Memorial LibraryWall painting at Shipdham. Photo: 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

The works – some of which are likely to have been created by men killed in the war – cover a range of designs. Some are glamour “pin-ups”, while others depict combat scenes, mission records and maps.

Much of the wall art was painted on bricks or corrugated iron, posing problems for the researchers about how they can best be preserved.

Some of the work is now feared lost and the team are keen to find and document the remaining pieces before they too vanish.

Between 1942 and 1945, around 28,000 US personnel operated from 70 airfields in the region.

Wall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: SuppliedWall paintings at Shipdham. Photo: Supplied

The first planes of the newly-formed 8th AAF arrived in East Anglia in May 1942, just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

Film stars James Stewart and Walter Matthau both flew from Old Buckenham air base.

The 8th AAF flew mostly daylight missions, and over the three years 26,000 personnel died.

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