Days 10 Another Kendig Home at Thorpe AbbottsFor our last day, we chose to go the opposite direction than we toured to the whole trip, east to East Anglia, where my dad, Russ Kendig, was stationed during WWII outside Diss. That entailed going to the East Liverpool Train Station for the first time (thank you "Journey Planner"- see day 9) and taking the train to Diss, then a taxi out to The 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. My one regret about this trip is that we didn't take any photos of the many volunteers who keep this place alive for the many visitors, including the vets who first lived here. I am pictured here with Ron, who with his wife Carole, are just the heart of the place today. He showed us this stone mosaic that a departing G.I. gave to an English family, who had it out in their garden till the family was leaving a few years ago and contacted the museum. Ron is from the region and has the local dialect which I love and couldn't reproduce if I tried. Instead, we took a lot of the photos to take back to my dad. He and my mom toured the museum in the 1990s when my sister Daun was teaching in her college's study abroad program in Northumberland, but the museum has grown a lot in its displays since then, such as acquiring the mosaic which Dad probably passed most days of his year here.
Allan, another of the volunteers (and a retired engineer) took us on a tour of the control tower, pointing out what the layout would have been. He told us that the tarmac had been broken down years ago to be reused for road elsewhere, but if one goes on the google aerial view, some long-gone base areas have seeped into the earth and can be seen till. From the tower, one can see the location of the Battle Headquarters, where the Commander would go in the event of an attack.
It was good to make this physical connection to my dad's past. Unlike many WWII vets, my dad did not avoid talking about his war adventures, both the fun and the horrendous, and he did not sentimentalize them either. No rah rah what a great idea war is-- he did write letters for some of our friends who applied for CO during Vietnam-- but also, he has a clear sense of pride in the very difficult task he accomplished as an 18-20 year old tail gunner in this terrific group, the 100th and within it, The Brass Hat. He remained lifelong friends with his crew, especially Bob Ellis, the pilot and Best Man at his wedding, whose son, Drake and his wife Jennifer are my friends today. A shoutout too, to the other last remaining crewman of the Brass Hat, Wilt Kreamer and Donna!
We toured the "Sad Sack Shack" which had some displays, including the story of Sad Sack, both the character and the cartoonist, a character I recall from my childhood in the memorabilia my dad kept in the house, along with the hundreds of photos he had taken and developed during the war. And there were many displays in all the buildings, including a photo of my dad's group, The Brass Hat, which went on display in 2006, so we took a photo of the photo to show my dad, who knows it well. He still has a clear memory of his flight outfit, including the oxygen mask that rubbed his nose while he chewed gum, the only food he had for the day except for a Hershey bar, but we took a photo of it anyway:
Meanwhile, Carole and Ron had arrived. I had met them a year and a half ago at Dad's 100th Bomb Group Reunion in Cleveland. As well, I met Margaret, working in the cafe, who made us a great cup of tea, what Mom had remembered about the place. (My mom and her tea!). We met Derrick and his wife (Kathleen?) and Sian and Gordon and Tony. And Margaret's husbandk who was working hard on the yard. All of these people volunteer at the museum, and all of them clearly have many
talents that go into their volunteerism. Most of them have been to many reunions in the U.S. and plan to go to the Savannah Reunion in October this year. However, it wasn't all volunteers at the Museum. We ran into many English people touring the site, a couple with their Westie who especially appreciate the grass plat outside the cafe, a couple who photographs WWII bases and showed us their huge scrapbook, a young couple looking to volunteer. And there are many more visitors there, right now this moment as I type as it is 10 a.m. in England (6 a.m. in the U.S.) and Opening Day at the museum, commemorating the 70th anniversary of missions flying out of Thorpe Abbotts.
Before we left, Ron gave me piece of the original tarmac for Dad. Wow, talk about having a piece of the rock, huh? It is black tar, loaded with heavy, local stones. I bought Dad some other souvenirs, but this is the only one he will get right off.
And then we said good-bye to our many new friends, as Allan drove us back to the Diss train station.
Arriving back in London two hours later, we grabbed dinner and took one more walk through Tavistock Square to get a photo of the bust of Virginia Woolf, who lived on the block before Leonard's and her home was bombed flat during WWII. And there, in the center of the park, was a stone to Conscientious Objectors and a statue to Ghandi, which all seemed a fair way to round out the day, as I am right now reading a book by Kim Stafford, himself a CO and the son of the famous WWII CO, William Stafford, who worked in camps all during the war and was nearly killed for his beliefs. So in our journeys this day, we paused to pay tribute to all those who have stuck to their beliefs in the most difficult days of the 1940s and beyond, even as Nelson Mandela, another hero of our era, lies in critical condition in South Africa. As the 100th Bomb Group Museum pledges, "We Will Remember Them.