Saturday was a busy day, I rose very early as I had to be at work by ten, and it takes a while to get ready. Before ten I arrived to be greeted with the phrase "Go away!" This was because the email system at work had failed, again, and the email telling me to arrive at one p.m. had not arrived at my end, it did arrive around 11:30 that day however when I was back home. So I dragged my weary bulk back home via the market ensuring I bought nothing and rested my intellect until time to retrace my steps.
At two p.m. we had a talk to open the 'Cold War' Exhibition which runs alongside the exhibition featuring the 60's to 80's period, a very good idea indeed. Here the curator of the 'Wethersfield Airfield Museum' give a talk on the history of the base during the days of Cold War activity. This base was used by the USAF from the early 50'suntil sometime in the 90's when the world was once again safe for democracy, if you vote the way we say. There appears to be no webpage but there is a 'RAF Wethersfield' Museum page on facebook which is worth visiting.
Originally built for World War 2 bombers, twin engined A-20 'Havocs' flew from here, the runway was lengthened for jet fighter bombers when the US returned in the early 50's. The 'Thunderstreak' and later the 'Sabre' jet that became famous during the Korean War were later superseded by the 'F100 Super Sabre' supersonic jet and later the first prototype 'F 111' arrived here.
These and other aircraft put on airshows attended by many locals. When asked how many in our audience of 60 persons had attended one of these around half had done so. The locals and the Americans got on very well indeed. The friendships were such that between the early 50's and 1990 around 4000 weddings took place, not all from the town but from the wider area. One anecdote concerned a bus driver who often drove girls from Ipswich to the base on a Saturday night for the dances and events staged there. He commented that when he left for home after midnight the bus was always half empty. Many women went to the States, some men remained here and one of those was in the audience last night, by chance his photo and details were mentioned during the talk. Many of the US folks return regularly to the town, often visiting the museum as they ought!
There was little fear during the Cold War that I can remember. Certainly we knew of the cost if war broke out but the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' was the only time that this came close and then neither side wished to pursue this. 'MAD,' Mutually Assured Destruction, ensured no successful war was possible and few entertained the idea. Today there is more danger from small militant groups carrying even smaller nuclear weapons in hand luggage!
However the first CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament') march left from Wethersfield and marched to the House of Commons. I often wondered why these folks did not march through the streets of Moscow or campaigned to get the Soviets to stand down their weapons. In war two sides participate not just one, Soviet influence was strong among these groups, feeding on fear and a one sided 'appeasement' attitude that prevailed mostly amongst the middle classes as far as I can remember. They do not gather in large groups to oppose North Korea or Iran or Israel having such weapons, is there a reason for this?
A very popular and enjoyable talk which afterwards encouraged some attending to wander again through the exhibits and even spend money in the shop. This we were delighted to encourage!
It did mean we did not close until late and then I got home just in time for the 6 pm football which was acceptable after a hard day
I have just discovered this on YouTube, a video by Ross from the Wethersfield Museum which is worth a look.