STUNNING PHOTOS: Exhibition commemorating Americans’ arrival at RAF Duxford during Second World War

Major Jesse Davis of the 78th Fighter Group is photographed here with a local Duxford girl. The US a

Major Jesse Davis of the 78th Fighter Group is photographed here with a local Duxford girl. The US and UK authorities recognised the importance of maintaining good feeling between American servicemen and women and their British hosts. Official guidance was issued on the history and cultural habits of both nations to encourage mutual respect and understanding. On a local level, efforts often focused on children, with bases holding Christmas parties and open days for nearby residents. Image credit The Roger Freeman Collection IWM - Credit: Archant

A PHOTOGRAPHIC exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Americans to the RAF Duxford fighter station during the Second World War opened last week.

Major Jesse Davis of the 78th Fighter Group is photographed here with a local Duxford girl. The US a

Major Jesse Davis of the 78th Fighter Group is photographed here with a local Duxford girl. The US and UK authorities recognised the importance of maintaining good feeling between American servicemen and women and their British hosts. Official guidance was issued on the history and cultural habits of both nations to encourage mutual respect and understanding. On a local level, efforts often focused on children, with bases holding Christmas parties and open days for nearby residents. Image credit The Roger Freeman Collection IWM - Credit: Archant

In April 1943, the 78th Fighter Group of the US Eighth Air Force moved into RAF Duxford and helped to change the course of the Second World War.

Technical Sergeant Francis Scott Kee (1914-1980) packs away parachutes at Duxford

Technical Sergeant Francis Scott Kee (1914-1980) packs away parachutes at Duxford - Credit: Archant

Somewhere in England: Portraits of the Americans in Britain 1942 to 1945 will mark the anniversary of the first 78th Fighter Group combat mission from the fighter station.

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war - Credit: Archant

The images have been selected from the Roger Freeman collection of more than 15,000 images of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War.

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war - Credit: Archant

Some of the images have not been seen in public before.

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war

Black and white photos on show at Duxford show Americans in UK during the last war - Credit: Archant


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RAF Duxford is open from 10am - 6pm. Admission is £17.50 for adults, £14 for concessions, £12.25 for disabled, senior and student tickets.

Under 16s get in for free.

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Some of the amazing individuals that we introduce in these evocative black and white images include:

Virginia Irwin (1908-1980)

Virginia Irwin was a features writer from a Missouri newspaper. In the photograph, she is shown interviewing Lieutenant Glennon T ‘Bubbles’ Moran of the 352nd Fighter Group at Bodney air base in Norfolk.

Virginia joined the St Louis Post-Dispatch in 1932. Her request to be sent abroad to cover the war was denied, but in 1943 she volunteered to work for the Red Cross in the UK, still sending stories back to her paper while she did so. The photo dates from this time.

Just before D-Day, Irwin’s paper changed its mind. Conveniently close to the action, she was accredited as an official war correspondent and followed the US Army through 1944 and 1945 as it pushed east towards Germany. The scoop of her career came when she and another journalist drove through Russian lines to Berlin, arriving on 27 April 1945. It was four days before Hitler’s suicide and the city was in chaos.

The army took a dim view of the unauthorised expedition. Her accreditation was revoked and her stories were kept back until Germany’s official surrender, then they became headline news. Irwin was awarded a year’s salary as a bonus, but on returning home was assigned back to the features department. She never succeeded in breaking into the all-male newsroom.

Sergeant Charles R Lahey (1923-1944)

In his photograph, Sergeant Charles R Lahey of the Medical Corps carries a laundry bundle out from the officers’ quarters at Molesworth air base, 1942.

Being in the Medical Corps could have landed Lahey all kinds of jobs around base. The official press caption with the photo reported that he’d said, “Love to my parents and to all my friends back home. We’ll keep em’ flying.” Lahey’s father was an insurance salesman in Chicago and his mother was of German descent.

Lahey died on Christmas Day in 1944. His body was recovered after a severe snowstorm at Molesworth. He is one of many men and women who died whilst serving in the armed forces from a cause that was not directly related to combat action. Many of the graves in the Cambridge American Cemetery have similar stories behind them, although Lahey’s body was repatriated to the USA after the war.

Lieutenant Colonel David C Schilling (1918-1956)

Lieutenant Colonel David C Schilling, 56th Fighter Group, holds an adapted hand gun in his portrait photograph.

Schilling flew P-47 Thunderbolts and was one of the leading aces of the war. He was Commanding Officer of the 56th Fighter Group between August 1944 and January 1945.

After the war he was a pioneer of long-distance jet flight, making the first non-stop fighter jet crossing of the Atlantic. He died in a car crash driving his sports car in a narrow lane between RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall (still RAF bases in the UK today). Kansas’ Schilling Air Force Base is named after him.

These are just a few of the fascinating individual stories that are told through the timeless photographs in this exhibition. Somewhere in England runs until December 2013 and is included in general admission to IWM Duxford.

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