During WW2, the 8th US Army Air Force set up almost 70 airfields in the east of England. Each base had up to 4,000 personnel, but until recently, the story of those airbases and how they affected the lives of those living near them was being forgotten.
The Eighth in the East is a project that aims to change all that. I sat down with the programme’s Community Archaeologist, Martin Cuthbert, to find out how.
We’re a very small team working with local communities to bring the history of the 8th US Army Air Force and its time in the East of England back to life.
We provide free archaeological training, so that they can do things like survey airfield sites, or record oral histories of people who remember the American presence in the region. We run programmes in schools, help museums develop their resources, and put the word out to encourage new volunteers to contribute to the story.
Firstly, we’re a social enterprise, whereas these projects are traditionally done by statutory and large-scale organisations. Secondly, our real focus is the community aspect of this history. This means we work with people of all ages and backgrounds, enabling them to learn about their local history and build a strong bond with their locality.
There’s so much going on! Over the next few weeks we are running several archaeological building recording training days with the aim of recording all of the surviving buildings on the airfields of Norfolk and Suffolk in 2015.
At the end of October we are working with the pupils of a Norfolk Junior School to search for evidence of occupation on an airfield site and in the spring of 2015 we also are going to be joining forces with DigVentures in the excavation and recording of Horham Airfield, Suffolk for a Dirty Weekend.
Anyone can join in by coming to one of our free archaeology training days and surveying events. Even if you’re not up to getting muddy in a field, you can help us record oral histories of eye-witnesses, take part in our community events and of course contribute and join the conversation on social media.
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