Wendling Memorial of the 392nd Bomb Group

Lt. Col Joseph Bush
Lt. Col Joseph Bush

On April 25th, 1945 the 392nd flew its last mission to Hallein, Austria.

COLONEL BUSH BEGINS THE PROCESS

Lt. Col. Joseph Bush, 392nd BG Ground Executive Officer, was the instigator and guiding hand in creating this most appropriate memorial.

On the 8th of May (V-Day), Colonel Bush had initiated the final correspondence to higher headquarters for approval to go ahead with the 392nd's own financed plan to erect the War Memorial.

The memorial plot, located at the junction of Beeston-Wendling roads was donated by Mr. Garner of Longham Hall. Estimated cost of the memorial was 425 pounds sterling (four dollars to a pound in those days).

Endorsement of the project was required from 8th Air Force Headquarters, and by order of General Spaatz such endorsement was granted. Col. Bush, as chairman of the Wendling War Memorial Committee, requested donations from all units based at the 392nd BG Airbase, and a total of 591 pounds were collected in April and May of 1945. A trust fund of 200 pounds was financed by additional donations and administered by the Beeston Town Council to provide perpetual care for the memorial and the plot of ground on which it stands.

Maintenance will be provided by the Beeston Parish Council who have agreed to accept the responsibility. Funds for maintenance will be available through a 100 pound (later 200 pounds from donations) trust fund set up for that specific purpose and administered by the Beeston Parish Council. All transactions, including transfer of land and establishment of trust fund, are being accomplished through standard legal procedures in the United Kingdom. Signed by Colonel Bush, Executive.

On the 31st of May, the 5th Endorsement to the above request from Headquarters U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, APO 633, to the Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, approved the 392nd proposal by order of General Spaatz and signed by Colonel J.B. Gordon, Adjutant General.

The project was begun under the able supervision of the Wending War Memorial Committee, chaired by Colonel Bush, with donations totaling the sum of 591-0-4 Pounds.

On the 5th of June, 1945, Barclay's Bank Limited of East Dereham forwarded the War Memorial Committee the final accounting of the memorial funds turned over; the sum of 582-18-8 Pounds Sterling, and the War Memorial plan at last was a reality with the firm of Messrs. Hood, Vores & Allwood administering the expenditures in the name of the U.S.A.A.F. Station 118 Wendling War Memorial Fund.

Ernie Parke, an Air Ministry employee at Wendling during most of the war, recalls helping place the Memorial stone, sometime in July or August of 1945. The stone arrived at the railway station from Sberdeen and with his trusty hoist (left behind by departing Motor Pool personnel) he helped unload it. Later, he went back to the site and helped erect it.

MEMORIAL DEDICATION - 1945

The road from Wendling north to Beeston runs through the airbase, and it was near this road, between the headquarters building and the west end of runway 25 that the memorial obelisk of granite was placed on a plot of land donated by the owner. The plot is 80 feet square; the memorial stands 10 feet tall.

The impressive ceremony at Wendling on Sunday, the 2nd of September 1945, the War memorial would stand, which it still does magnificently, as a remembrance never to be forgotten of the men, their time, and the once proud Liberators from Wendling.

2nd of September 1945 Monument
2nd of September 1945 Memorial

It was that day the local people from the area around the 392nd Bomb Group Airbase assembled there. They were from Wendling, Beeston, East Dereham, Litchum, and perhaps Swaffham and Fakenham. The skies above were silent now; the B-24 Liberators were gone. The people were there to participate in ceremonies to dedicate the new memorial in remembrance of the brave air combat crews who died while flying combat missions over Europe.

392nd’s Memorial at Wendling
Col Everett W. Stewart, commander of the US 4th Fighter Group, and RAF Squadron-Leader H. Bowman unveil the 392nd’s Memorial at Wendling on 2 Sept 1945.
Squadron-Leader H. Bowman - Col Everett W. Stewart
Squadron-Leader H. Bowman - Col Everett W. Stewart

At the unveiling the memorial, Col. Stewart gave the history and statistics of the 392nd. Squadron-Leader H. Bowman, who spoke for the R.A.F., thanked Colonel Stewart for his generous words, and [said that] ... Only by a renewed and continuing friendship between the two nations could the sacrifice of so many lives be made worth while.

Hymns were sung and Rev. G.E. Gale gave a short address in which he recalled his pleasant association with the Yanks and stated that the English people, especially those from East Anglia, would remember the entire Eighth Air Force for a very long time. He then asked that a minute’s silence be devoted to thoughts for the friends and relatives of those who had lost their lives.

The local newspaper from Norwich on September 3rd, 1945 final edition ran a captioned picture, titled, "Wendling Memorial to U.S. Airmen" which read along with tan accompanying article:

A memorial to the U.S. airmen lost in operations of the 392nd Bombardment Group. U.S.A.A.F, which operated from three Mid-Norfolk airfields during the war, was unveiled at the Wendling Aerodrome yesterday by Colonel Everett W. Stewart. A guard of honor was provided by the R.A.F. under the command of Squadron Leader H. Bowman.

A simple marble obelisk set in a square patch of ground in the heart of the Norfolk countryside near the little village of Beeston, was unveiled at Wendling aerodrome yesterday afternoon by Col. Everett W. Stewart, D.F.C., officer commanding the 4th Fighter Group, U.S.A.A.F.

The memorial was erected of officers and men of the 392nd Bombardment Group in tribute to their comrades who had lost their lives while operating from this area. As recently left this country, their ceremony was performed by Colonel Stewart, on behalf of Col. I.R. Rendle and Col. L.L. Johnson, former commanders of the Group.

The R.A.F., who have taken over the aerodrome once more, provided the guard of honour, and a large crowd of villagers joined in the simple yet moving memorial service conducted by the Rev. G.E. Gale, Rector of Beeston, assisted by the Rev. S.M. Farrant (Vicar of Longham) and the Rev. A.M. Pryde (Rector of Fransham).

After the formal unveiling, Col. Stewart recalled that it was just three years ago that the first Liberators of the 392nd Bombardment Group flew into Wendling, and how, in 285 operational missions, they had made over 7000 sorties dropping over 17,000 tons of bombs on enemy territory, 185 B-24s were lost to enemy action or accidents and 781 young crewmen gave their lives to ensure freedom for us who remain. This had only been achieved at a price, and it was to the memory of the fallen from 184 bombers shot down or lost, and also to the group's happy association with the friendly Norfolk country folk, that this monument had been erected.

After a hymn, the Rev. G.E. Gale gave a short address, in which he recalled his own happy associations with America and its people, and then asked that a minute's silence be devoted to thoughts for the friends and relatives of those who had lost their lives.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a wreath of flower was placed at the foot of the monument by Mrs. Lillyproud, a cafe proprietress in Little Fransham, as a tribute representative of the friendship felt by the local people.

TIME TAKES IT TOLL OVER THE YEARS

392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 1985
Over the years, time toll its toll, in spite of determined efforts of the villager to maintain it.
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 1985
Memorial Prior to Being Refurbished

By 1986 the funds to maintain the memorial had run out. The landscaping had fallen into disarry, the concrete base of the obelish was disintegating, and sometimes water stood on the grounds. This situation was discussed at the 392nd Reunion in Tulsa, OK in June 1987, the fund drive was authorized to raise the funds to refurbish the monument and establish a trust fund for its maintenance.

SITE REFURBISHED IN 1987 - 1988

Carrol Cheek was named vice president for memorials, and he led the entire effort until its successful conclusion. Tom Scott family provided land which almost doubled the size of the plot and allowed room for a parking lot. The Scott family also furnished equipment, labor, and material in the refurbishment. The Memorial Association is indebted to Tom and Jill Scott for their generous donation of the expanded grounds and their unselfish and continued dedication to the upgrading project.

The funds were raised and the obelish memorial was refurbished, the grounds re-landscaped, a hedge planted, and a parking lot was added. This brought the plot to 11,600 square feet with 440 feet of hedges.

Wendling Memorial Refurbished Photo 1986
Wendling Memorial Refurbished Photo 1988

SITE REDEDICATED IN 1989

It was a typical damp, cool, misty morning on October 7, 1989 at Wendling, Norfolk. There were 30 Veteran Representatives of the 392nd Bomb Group gathered along with their spouses and children, military and government people and local villagers totaling over one hundred to rededicate the refurbished memorial to the 869 who died in combat and all who served at the Wendling base during WWII.

As we were protected from the weather under a huge green and white striped tent, we were guided through the rededication ceremony by the Chairman of the Memorial Committee, Carrol W. Cheek. See Rededication Program by Clicking Here.

Wreath Laying Ceremony
Myron Keilman,J.D. Long, Charles Dye,
Carrol Cheek, Col. Gilbert, participating
in the wreath laying part of the ceremony.
Rothrock and Mary MacTavish
Cecil Rothrock and Mary MacTavish
inspect the new base of the
renovated obelish at Wendling.

It was appropriately a British-American affair. There were greetings and expressions of gratitude for our past services to each other from H.M.'s Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, Mr. Timothy Coleman; Vice Commander of the U.S. Third Air Force, Col. Edward Chase, Chairman of the Norfolk County Council, Mr. John Birkbeck; North Norfolk Member of Parliament, Mr. Ralph Howell; U.S. Air Force Attaché of the American Embassy in London, Col. Robert Perry; and the Chairman of the Beeston with Bittering Parish Council, Mrs. Jill Scott, J.P.D.L.

Our own President of the 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association and final Commanding Officer of the 392nd, Col. Lawrence G. Gilbert (Ret.) gave the inspiring dedicatory address eulogizing those who gave their lives for us, the living, and expressing our responsibility to those who died that they will not have died in vain. He received a standing ovation. All involved were emotionally touched by the ceremony. To read Col. Gilbert's dedicatory address: Click Here.

With the concluding dedicatory circle of veterans around the memorial, the laying of the dedication wreath at its base followed by a moment of silence, taps, the prayers of dedication and benediction by Cannon Donal Munt and the Retirement of the Colors, eyes were misty along with the weather. If you would like to see the video of the rededication Click Here.

Immediately following the dedication ceremony, the Beeston Women's Institute provided a reception. It was thoughtfully held in a nearby farm building with some heat provided where the percipients could happily converse with their British hosts and friends. Later they were divided by Patty and Keith Roberts, the 392nd tour conductors, for lunch at two nearby pubs, the Ploughshare and the Rose Cottage.

ADDITIONAL MAINTENANCE FUNDS RAISED 2007

The Memorial is maintained from proceeds of a Trust Fund maintained in England. In response to a report of the Trustees that the income has become close to inadequate for proper maintenance. Carroll Cheek, Vice-President for Memorials, made a $10,000 challenge gift toward a $20,000 fund drive.

At the 392nd BGMA membership meeting held in conjuction with the 8thAFHS reunion at Kalamazoo, MI. in July 2007, the fund drive was authorized by the membership. This will make certain that our footprint in England is maintained in such a manner as to reflect honor to the WWII 392nd Bombardment Group onto perpetuity.

The Carroll Cheek $10,000 challenge had 83 donors that responded with the net amount of $23,569.25 to be sent to the maintenance trust for the Wendling Memorial of the 392nd BG.

NEW HEDGES IN 2017

392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2016
Twenty-eight years after the 1988 refurbshing, the hedge needed to be replace. Notice the brown spots where the hedge was dead or dying.

A major and costly effort became necessary early in 2017 to remove and replace over 1.3 football field lengths of hedges. This project would require heavy machinery and a ton of manual labor hours. Not to mention the disposal of the old hedges, acquiring over 250 new hedge plants and manually planting them. A big thank you to the Henry Dennett family and the Scott family for this tremendous effort and commitment to the Wendling Memorial and what it stands for.

Removing Hedges 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2017
Removing Hedges 2017
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2017
Memorial 2017
392nd’s Memorial at Wendling 2017
Memorial 2017