Norwich illustrator Mike Bailey’s tribute to brave B-24 aircrew


B-24 - Credit: Archant

Two Norwich men have helped to produce what may well be the most comprehensive and in-depth look at an extraordinary few years in the history of the USA and Great Britain – when the Yanks turned Norfolk and East Anglia into Little America.

Norwich aviation artist Mike Bailey

Norwich aviation artist Mike Bailey - Credit: Archant © 2010

This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill book you can slip in your pocket, Second in Line, Second to None, published by Schiffer first in America and now in England, is a huge book with a big story to tell.

It gives the detailed, day-to-day account of the 2nd Air Division which started operations out of this part of the country in late 1942. Thousands of airmen arrived and many never returned home as they lost their lives in dangerous and daring missions deep over enemy territory.

Those who lived through those difficult times have never forgotten the Americans. Some became GI brides while others formed friendships which have passed from one generation to the next. And of course we have the Memorial Library at The Forum in Norwich.

This book – which has just arrived in Norwich – has been compiled and put together by Ron Mackay, an accomplished Scottish writer who has produced 25 books about the war, with author and illustrator Mike Bailey and Steve Adams who has worked with Ron before and is an expert on the 44th Bomb group based at Shipham.

The most famous American based at Old Buckenham Airfield was James Stewart, pictured on the old cont

The most famous American based at Old Buckenham Airfield was James Stewart, pictured on the old control tower railings. - Credit: Archant

Both Mike and Steve, who live in the city, can be proud of their contribution to this photographic history of the 2nd Air Division which pieces together, in such detail, the story of just what happened when the Americans arrived in East Anglia to join the fight for freedom.

The book illustrates the importance of the 2nd Air Division's presence within the 8th Air Force structure and the part it played in hammering the life out of the industrial and military infrastructures sustaining Hitler's Third Reich.

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Mike, who produced the wonderful book Liberators over Norwich, a few years ago, used to 'haunt' the air base at Horsham St Faith when he was a boy and became the unofficial mascot of the base back in 1944.

'Me and my pal managed to get on the airbase. We thought we would be told to clear off but the airmen were so kind to us. We would climb all over the Liberators. Watching what was going in. It was another world for us boys growing up in Norwich,' said Mike.

They would sit on haystacks chatting to the airmen with strange accents, counting the number of bombers taking off and then count them landing. All too often many were lost. The horror of war was there for the boys to see. So many lives were lost.

'After all this years I still think about the station and the people I met most days. The noise and the smell. I remember it all so well,' said Mike, who went on to become a talented author, historian, artist and an expert on that slice of our history.

'This new book took several years to complete. It gives a real insight into the operations of the 2nd Air Division,' added Mike, who painted the cover of the 300-plus page book which is packed with photographs of the Americans in East Anglia, many published for the first time.