At the beginning of the 1949 film ' Twelve o'clock high' , a former officer of the USAAF returns to his old airfield where he served during world war II. The memories come flooding back as he sees the old runway and remembers his previous life. As he is thinking back, the camera pans up and passes over the clouds, and a formation of B17s come into shot, the deep bass sounds of their Wright Cyclone radial engines acting like a soundtrack- the viewer is back with him in 1942.
I always think of that film when i visit Thorpe Abbotts and see the 100th Bomb Group museum. If a place could store memories, the museum would be a vast bank vault full of peoples thoughts, stories and recollections. This tower and airfield must have seen the full swath of human emotions from love to despair and yet, in 2007, it is a place of peace and tranquility. A place to remember.
The museum still gets one or two veterans who flew from Thorpe Abbots but old age often means it is sons, daughters, nephews etc who make the journey to see where their relatives flew from. For some visiting veterans it must have been a very strange experience indeed. Many took off from the airfield one day in 1943, ‘44 or ‘45, were shot down and made a prisoner. At the end of the war, the stalag prisoners went straight home. The next time they saw the airfield - fifty years or more had passed.