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Independence Day 1945 at Thorpe Abbotts

Splasher Six
Volume 33, Summer 2002, No. 2
Cindy Goodman, Editor

Jim Gintner was recently looking through 100th Bomb Group records on microfilm and came across this interesting piece written by someone on base about a Fourth of July celebration.

Wednesday July 4th 1945.

Along about 2200 hours the Tannoy announced that a fireworks display would be held at the west end of the main runway.

So along about 2230 hours, groups of men were sauntering out through the gathering evening. It was clear and cool. At the end of the runway were several trucks, the beginning of the audience. Near the runway were laid out piles of very cartridges and parachute flare cartridges.

Several signal rockets were poked into the ground pointing towards that distant Control Tower.

At 2300 hours we were waiting for its start. Very flares were already rising from the squadron area hanging in the sky, bright red and green jewel slowly falling.

A few minutes after 2300 hours, about half a dozen men took up Very pistols, loaded and cocked them.

The officer in charge fired his .45 into the ground. Away the flares went, straight up. “We Ohhhed and Ahhed” appreciatively, then when they seemed as if they would fall on us, we scattered. But the flares didn’t come very close. Mixed salvoes of Red – Red, Red – Green, Yellow – Yellow went up. The Yellow – Yellow flares once in a while proved erratic and would scoot about unpredictably. Soon the loads were changed to the parachute flares.

When the first batch drifted down burning brightly and trailing dense clouds of white smoke, we looked on, saw them hit the runway, saw the little paper parachutes fall and burn.

Then some enterprising soul figured the little chutes would be a fine souvenir, so as the next salvo went off, he started to chase a flare drifting near the ground, and seized the chute before it collapsed onto the still burning flare.

That started it. For the next quarter of an hour we were entertained both by the beauty of the flares and the antics of those chasing them. Soon the boulder men would leap into the air and seize the chutes before the flare touched down, all this with very flares still falling about.

Then they would whirl the chute, flare and all about their heads just as small boys whirl tin cans filled with fire.

The combination of darkness, flares dense smoke from the flares all lent a theatrical touch to the affair.

Then someone set off the first rockets. Alas, the guiding stick was wedged into the earth so it fizzed tremendously but impotently expired frustrated. But the next rockets were loosened and took off with a properly satisfying whoosh to burst high up into small stars. The whole display lasted about half and hour and was truly a good way to celebrate the Fourth of July!”