The story of how East Anglia was "invaded" - by strange sounding Yanks
PUBLISHED: 12:26 12 June 2012 | UPDATED: 15:47 12 June 2012
It's a story with all the ingredients of a best seller. Norwich author Martin Bowman paints a vivid picture of what life was like when thousands of young Americans arrived in East Anglia to join the fight for freedom.
It is a book packed with memories from a cast of characters no movie director could ever hope to assemble.
They tell of:
➔ Laughter, friendship, death and fear.
➔ Exhilaration, stupidity, superstitions, discipline and indiscipline.
➔ Lust and love, respect and disrespect and outrage.
Memories of The Air War in East Anglia by Norwich author and military historian Martin Bowman paints a vivid portrait of what life was like in those extraordinary times when we were fighting for our lives.
A time when East Anglia was turned into Little America – home to one of the most intensive military operations ever staged.
It chronicles the lives of the men and women living through tough times, of the young airmen and others struggling to free Europe from the Nazi jackboot.
Peppered with fascinating pictures, taken at the time and since, this is a compelling look at a short period in our history when two nations were suddenly thrown together in a mutual cause. The cultural clash and the bonds which were formed last to this day.
Turn the pages, be transported back to war torn East Anglia, and read the personal thoughts of the GI’s who found themselves in a very different world.
“When American servicemen began arriving in East Anglia it created a culture shock, the like of which war-weary Britons had never seen before or since,” said author Martin.
“They found Britain, with its black-outs, poor food, lack of central heating and other privations and shortages brought about by almost three years of war, hard to take,” he added
Here are some of the memories from a chapter in the book called Norwich At War:
“When war was declared I was 15 years old and lived at 31 Belvoir Street, Norwich.
“My aunt was responsible for my upbringing after I’d lost my mother when I was four. One minute I was a schoolgirl, the next a wage earner. I had worked at the railway station for about a year when the city was bombed very heavily by the Germans in a series of quite devastating raids.
“When we could no longer hear the bombers overhead we ventured out into the street. Shocked, shaken and in tears, we saw an unbelievable scene of destruction.
“During the next seven or eight days after those two raids, our family would leave our home after tea, walk out of the city carrying blankets, pillows, sandwiches, hot tea in flasks and our torches to the Mile Cross bridge, and sleep under the bridge each night.
“When the Yanks first appeared in the city they were very noticeable in their different style uniforms, and different language, which was English and yet it wasn’t.
“For example, we’d never heard of a drawing pin described as a thumb-tack, a torch as a flashlight nor petrol as gasoline.
“I first met husband-to-be Sergeant Herman Canfield in May 1944 at a friend’s home near Wendling.
“He was a clerk in the Group Operations office. We got engaged in August 1944 and we were married at St Phillips’s Church in Heigham Road on December 2 1944.”
Staff Sergeant Dale R VanBlair.
“Two days after our first mission we made the first of many trips into Norwich (pronounced Nor’ich) a city of probably 100,000 people.
“As one who always had a keen interest in history I found the city with its narrow, winding streets, cathedral, castle and open-air market to be a fascinating place.
“I bought my first fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from a street vendor and was surprised to find that the chips were not like our potato chips, but rather were French fries.”
“First Lieutenant Max Sokari invited Irving Goldman to meet him at the Bell Hotel in downtown Norwich one evening, saying we were to meet some noted English philosophers.
“Like idiots, we went. I had never been in a Norwich hotel before and after seeing inside this one I was happy that I had no need to stay there.
“It was, according to Sokari, the obvious spot to arrange a tryst, but it required the application of some sneaky tactics to thwart the noisy interference of the proprietors, who were self-appointed guardians of British Victorian morals.”
“Tommy Volkman and I went to the Samson & Hercules, a dance hall.
“By custom it had become the entertainment haven for officers; the enlisted men mostly habituated another dance hall.
“True to his word he soon ushered up two girls and made wholly proper introductions to a blonde, Elaine Burt, and a brown head, Beryl Burt.
“Left with Beryl, I soon got the idea that it would be quite proper for me to ask her to dance whether or not she wanted to.
“She later asked her mother if she could bring me to their home at Earlham Road to meet her. For a time her mother said no. She didn’t want any rich ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ Yanks in her house.
“I was brought in unannounced and she recovered nicely after being startled. I was different.”
Bob and Beryl were married on May 25, 1945.
Memories of The Air War in East Anglia by Martin Bowman is published by Halsgrove at £14.99.
WIN a copy of the book
I have four copies of the book to give away.
Answer this question. What was the name of the American movie star stationed in Norfolk during the war who played bandleader Glenn Miller in a film about his life?
Send your entries to me, Derek James, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The first four names out of the hat with the correct answer get a book.
They should arrive by Monday June 18.
Please include your name and address. Usual Archant rules apply.