With Hadleigh Reminiscence Group's
1940's exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day it seemed
appropriate to travel down the railway walk and to pay a visit to
Raydon was one of 32 airfields in
Suffolk during the Second World War. Most of the airfields
were built in 1942/43 and it proved to be a massive
undertaking. Around 60,000 men were involved in building the
airfields at an estimated cost of £900,000 per
airfield, Hardcore from the rubble of flattened
East End houses and factories was used to construct the
American engineers from 833rd and
862nd Battalions arrived at Raydon in the summer of 1942 to oversee
the creation of a bomber airfield. However, it was decided to
base a fighter squadron at Raydon to provide cover for the
bombers. Men from the 357th Fighter Group arrived in
December 1943 but were transferred to Leiston within a month.
On 12th April 1944 the 353rd Fighter Group arrived from
Metford. It was led by Colonel Glenn Duncan who flew a P-47D
named "Dove of Peace".
The personnel lived south of the
airfield close to Great Wenham in accommodation with names such as Dodge
City, Alcatraz and Greenwich Village.
In early June 1944 they attacked the
V1 rocket sites in northern France and then flew in support of the
invasion of mainland Europe. The bloodiest fighting occurred
on 12th June when eight pilots died on a single mission in the Paris
Colonel Duncan was shot down over
Holland. He evaded capture and returned Raydon on April 22nd
1945. He was replaced by Lt Col Ben Rimmerman.
The 353rd received a Distinguished
Unit Citation for its contribution to the Market Garden operation to
capture bridges in Holland.
During this period the pilots
exchanged their P-47s for P-51s. Together with other units
from the Might Eight's Groups they fought 400 enemy aircraft in
massive air battles above Germany in November 1944.
As the war drew to a close the
extreme fuel shortages in Germany meant that very few Nazi fighters
got airborne. The 353rd was credited with the destruction of
125 fighters on the ground and 3 in the air.
All told the 353rd destroyed over 300
enemy aircraft in the air and 400 on the ground.
The vestry doors at St Mary's Church
in Raydon are a fitting memorial to men who lost their
At Raydon Church it is also possible to purchase an
excellent book "Raydon Airfield - Fighter Station to
Farmland" by Graham Cross (£3.50). "Suffolk
Airfields in the Second World War" by Graham Smith (Countryside
Books) presents the countywide picture.
For more information about Raydon
airfield, the crews and the local area, check out the following