Some days, especially calm sunny blue-sky days in high summer, the sensation of euphoria is almost too strong. Today was one of those days.
As I glanced across the sky with its tiny white cloudlets accentuating the pastel blue all I could hear was the tweeting of birds and the buzzing of insects. I stopped pedalling and for some reason my imagination fed me the input of an RAF Spitfire roaring across the heavens in pursuit of two Messerschmitts in the summer of 1942. Perhaps it was a sort of reverse Adlestrop moment but it was more likely the fact that our neighbour Alec had been telling us at length about the village in wartime the previous evening.
Our little local airfield was built in 1943 for the United States Army Air Forces and from December that year became home to 4 squadrons of B-24 Liberator Bombers.
Alec was at school then and remembers the village and its 5 pubs being alive with crowds of American forces fresh from California and sometimes overstaying their welcome in Fenn Street and being herded up by MP's in jeeps. He would go up to the airfield after school and they would let him sit in the Pilot's seat or play with the guns. He and his friends got to know them well but regularly they would notice an absentee and ask "where's Danny today?". "Aw he's been posted back to the States", they would reply but Alec and his friends knew different. They had seen Liberators limping home the previous night, shot to pieces and throwing flares and ordnance to get their bombs and bodies back to base. They'd seen the horrendous state of the rear gun turret strafed by burning phosphor and knew what odds Danny and his fellow rear-gunners had stacked against them.
366 US servicemen at our airfield gave their lives in the campaign to fight a German nation that had sleep-walked into allowing a small ruling elite to unleash pure evil on anyone who didn't look like or agree with them. Ring any bells today? In that case the side of good prevailed and we have our very way of life to thank those 366 young men and women for. It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.
Easier said than done.