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Written Records

October 2001

As many of the members of our family are American I can think of no other way to begin this month's newsletter than to reprint the comments that I made for an article in a local newspaper concerning the tragic events of 11th September. I must also extend my thanks to my dear wife who helped me in this task - she is a much better wordsmith than I.

FELTWELL FRIENDS OFFER SUPPORT

The chairman of Feltwell Parish Council sent out a civic message of condolence to American servicemen and their families.

Feltwell has one of the largest populations of Americans in West Norfolk.

Chairman Mr. Paul Garland said: "I am sure I speak on behalf of our whole community, among whom we have many, many Americans, when I say that this attack has shaken us to the core.

"We are a village who, almost to a man, have friends either in the American military or living in the States and our thoughts and sympathy lie with them all at this tragic time.

"We are only too aware of the servicemen and women and their families who at this moment are on high alert and must themselves be in a state of shock even greater than ours.

"To these, our neighbours, we offer our support."

We are, of course, still awaiting the response of the Alliance that our leaders are trying to build but in the meantime we must continue with our lives in as normal a fashion as possible. So, on with the news.....

Saturday 1st Sept. saw the first of several PCC fund raising activities for the St Mary's Tower Fund Appeal. The annual Italian Supper was held with almost 50 people enjoying a reasonably nice evening on the green in front of the church. On a personal note I lost my title as Frog Racing Champion that I had held for three years. Still, next year beckons. The 8th Sept saw us attending a 60s/70s Disco in Porter's Barn. Those of you who remember earlier dances in the barn would, like I was, have been astounded at the changes that Edwin and Judith have made to the building. Their Millennium Project was to renovate the barn and to this end they gave it a completely new roof, demolished the old sheds and replaced them with a kitchen/bar area and made it draft-proof by adding fully glazed doors and windows. A marvellous 'performance space' has been created and Judith intends that it be made available for Charity Events. Many 'votes of approval' were given for their efforts. The weekend of the 22nd was given over to the Flower Festival and on the evening Chris Cock, supplier of many of the pictures on the websites, gave a slide show of old Feltwell Photographs. St Mary's was packed with well over 100 people attending. Chris showed some new finds that will, I hope, eventually appear on the site, and there are some real treasures amongst them I'll tell you!

Following last months attempt to identify 'active' Feltwellians I am pleased to say that we have only lost contact with a few people and that membership stands at approx. 125. New members this month are researching the Spencer and King families.

On the website front I've finally completed converting all the photographs on Site 1 and freed up a lot of space for new ones which I'll get around to adding over half-term I hope. I'm now converting those on Site 2 in order to make room for some very interesting documents that have come to light over the last few months. I intend to add at least 1 road to site 3 this weekend and upload everything on Sunday, but my parents are coming down so it might not get done until midweek.

I would like to finish with these lovely recollections from new Feltwellian Vic Redmond. (Hope you don't mind Vic)

"I have found my R.A.F. Feltwell Golf Club Membership card (Handicap of 24) surprised me that no end, it has all the names of the people who started the club, from the C.O. Sqn Ldr McCulloge and all the personnel who were responsible for such things as the greens etc, do you think they would be interested in this, I could always send it to you if you think it would be of interest. By the way is it still run by the base or is it civilian?

One thing I do remember is the first day I arrived at the base 1970 (I had just finished my studies in communications at R.A.F. Cosford) I was given a travel warrant for a railway journey to Feltwell and remember being on the train, I think from Peterborough and asking the conductor where do I get off, he didn't know and started to ask the other passengers, I was given advice as to Lakenheath. I think Feltwell halt. Thetford and a few others, in the end I decided for Thetford and got a taxi to the base, I remember it cost £5.00. a lot in those days and being Scottish remember being told that only Sgts and above could reclaim travelling costs, when I got there I went to the main Guardroom to be met by an American Officer who was sitting in a booth which was way up high and I was straining to look up at him (I thought then that I was on the wrong base) It was late at night (about 20.30) and he should me the way to the 'Combined Mess' and I duly trudged with my kitbags to this strange place. When I got there all I found was a 'Bar', no NAAFI just this bar with all ranks drinking in the same place (this was unheard off and probably still is).

I was then told that nobody knew I was coming and was then taken to my accommodation, this consisted of a single room, another unheard off thing in the R.A.F. (My Room was the last in the Billet, right opposite the old officers mess which used to be the R.A.F. Officers mess )and was asked if I ever drunk. When I said Yes, I was told 'You'll be alright here then' and was invited to join everyone at the bar.

It transpired that this was the 'Only' Combined Mess in the forces where every body, no matter what rank, ate, drank and were sociable at the same mess. There were I recall only three Officers, Four Flight Sgts. Four Senior Aircraftmen and Four Leading Aircraftmen.

We all used the same mess room for meals (I have to repeat that it was the first and last place then and from talking to other ex R.A.F. was never heard off anywhere else where this took place) although from the work we were doing it didn't really surprise me after a while.

One thing does stick in my mind however was that there was no barman at the combined mess. Any person who was not on duty could volunteer to do the bar, it was usually done by someone who had had a 'Good Time the Night Before' and wanted a sober night, I remember that the base was patrolled by the US Military Police, and as the US Airmen had there own bar they patrolled the base at night, one night not long after I had arrived a US Military Policeman in Immaculate dress including white 'Putty Boots' and Night stick came waltzing in to the bar and demanded to know why it was still open at 1 pm in the morning, He was immediately assailed by a torrent of abuse from a Cpl who has at least twenty two years in the R.A.F. who informed him that in 'This Air force' when somebody walks in to the bar wearing a 'Hat' then tradition stated that he must buy a round. Nobody knew whether this was true or not but he was so embarrassed by the onslaught that he did indeed buy the round for everyone. It did not happen again!

One other thing was that the base had a speed limit, which was completely ignored by the R.A.F. on site. Every shift was pursued by an American car with sirens blazing but without success as the communications site at the end of the old part of the base (the Brandon end) always had the R.A.F. Policeman in charge open the gate at the right time and then shut it before the US Police could get in, this turned into something akin to the 'Dukes of Hazard' every time we went to work, on one occasion we actually got stopped, however the Military Police actually arrested the passenger (Right hand drive!) and as he was berating him the driver just drove off and (I) just told him I didn't know Who's car it was !.

Sorry to carry on so much but so much happened at Feltwell When I was there that since I came across the site everything seems to come back to me as if it were yesterday, Please ignore a sad old person reliving the old days (Iím not fifty till next year)

By the way there must be a few 'Civvies' who I remember because I was once woken up at the ungodly hour of 7 am after 'an night in the Combined Mess' to play a round off Golf in a competition between R.A.F. and the very nice 'Locals' from Feltwell."