‘It was in the email’, said and exasperated Richard! as Jack Tim Bernie and I checked in to Mildenhall entrance, photographs taken, ID processed.
Jordie (UK MOD) was our man on site and very clear. Richard padded out and did interpretation. The 1930 military barracks buildings were classic functional brick, no frills. At first they reminded me of Auschwitz 1 – not surprisingly as these were Polish Barracks. Jordie explained they were all the same inside, so when you moved from one RAF base to another you could turn right and know you would end up at the mess.
US arrived 1950’s. Cold war time. Lets face it they maintain the place better than we did.
Camaraderie. Officers Mess, Sergent’s Mess. Once a year, one visits the other for a drink share. Neither wants to mix with the other. Hierarchy exists and does not disturb, to the contrary, it is upheld. Not so on the US base: they have Community Hall and Bob Hope Hall, in both all mixed in.
Bernie, Tim Richard, Jack
Madam – would you mind taking off your hat? Its a hats off area. In case they blow off and catch in the engines. They are expensive equipment.
We were at the Osprey area.
The CV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel efficiency and speed characteristics of a turboprop aircraft. Its mission is to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions for special operations forces.
We saw a Touch And Go, take off, circle and land, we went into the tin can, sat in the cock pit, marveled at the technology, remembering the Apollo cockpit, tight. Fuel? £2000 for 30 minutes (Rachel drives a Fiat 500)
The Dome – used for teaching navigation before sat nav. Even in Falklands they flew by the stars. Now sat nav and the Dome is Jakes bar.
The car park is 2 weeks new. As with all building on RAF site, the archeologists are called in. Here they found Iceni arrow heads.
The Camaraderie theme returns as we enter the Sergent mess.
‘Cor blimey, this was teh place I was taught how to dance’ said the now 95 year old Bernie. He’d been here as a Cadet, and even seen Mussolini and Goring when they to visit the base. What? He was an apprentice carpenter, which after the war he took up again, being a carpenter all his working life. (No i’m fine I don’t need help, i think it’s best to do as much as i can myself, he repeated) .
The Library were keen to go beyond the traditional US air history. Jack was busy networking.
Finally the 239 HQ building, the one that Richard would have been stationed in for these Heliogoland raids. It was the stair case that was so provokative. Classic 1930, mix of wood and steel, functional yet also aesthetic (yes, I am fresh from Paris where this would have been ordinary, but here, among the stark minimal barrack brick, it was creative, artistic.)
We had tea in the generous space of the Church, where I was introduced to the stained glass windows by one of the 4 padres, with such sparkling pure teeth which he flashed often in easy smiles. He was straight out of one of those 1950s Colgate ads.
Onwards and upwards, in two days time, the ceremony. An acknowledgement for those who died in Heliogoland Blight.
Report in The American