Years of hard work culminated in a flypast and doves of peace soaring above Moreton Hall on Monday as a long-awaited statue was unveiled.
The B17 Flying Fortress commemoration sculpture, with a dove of peace blossoming from it, was officially revealed in front of scores of schoolchildren, US airmen and Bury St Edmunds residents, commemorating the US Air Force’s arrival at Rougham Airfield in 1943.
“The sculpture you see before you today is a symbolic remembrance of the gallant American servicemen based at the Rougham airfield during the Second World War who, by preparing, maintaining and flying these B17 Flying Fortress bombers on 325 missions between June 1943 and April 1945, contributed to lasting peace in Europe,” Clive Springett told the assembled crowd. A town councillor for Moreton Hall, Mr Springett first had the idea back in 2005 for a sculpture on the Lady Miriam Way roundabout.
The Flight of Peace sculpture was unveiled on the roundabout junction of Mount Road and Lady Miriam Way.
An initial proposal proved too expensive, but after reworking a new scheme, it was accepted and constructed.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said after eventually seeing it. “It’s the moment where it takes your breath away. To only see it as a drawing and then see it in its entirety is amazing, it really is.
“I think it’s a really good uplifting piece of artwork which brings the old and new together.”
He said the monument was meant to celebrate peace and not become a memorial.
“It’s taken a while to get here, as most things do, but it was well worth the wait,” he said.
White doves were released on Monday and there was also a flypast by a DHC-1 Chipmunk, which then landed at the airfield.
The aircraft from Rougham Airfield were identified by the letter A in a square background on the tailfin, which is captured in the new sculpture.
Bury Town Council and Bury in Bloom were both praised for the statue’s eventual creation, as well as St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Taylor Wimpey, which built the platform upon which the statue stands.
The 8th airforce, 94th bombardment group landed at Rougham in June, 1943.
“A relationship was created between our town and the US Airforce, which is still going strong today through the personnel based at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath,” said Mr Springett.
Roy Proctor was praised for designing the revised sculpture after the previous design fell through, as was Nigel Kaines, of Designs on Metal, who built the sculpture and has also constructed other works found on Bury roundabouts.
East Anglian - Wednesday, September 14, 2016
The ‘Flight of Peace’ sculpture is a symbolic remembrance of the gallant American servicemen based at, the adjacent, Rougham airfield during World War II. These men prepared, maintained and flew B17 Flying Fortress Bombers on countless raids over enemy territory and contributed, in no small part, to eventual lasting peace in Europe.
These aircraft were part of the United States 8th Air Force, based in Europe. Their tail fin insignia was significant, and provided ready identification of the base location of each aircraft. Those that were part of the 4th Bombardment Wing had a square background to the insignia, and the aircraft of 94th Bomb Group, based at Rougham, had the letter ‘A’ in the centre of this square.
The sculpture represents this Rougham tail insignia. It comprises a double skin of Corten steel plate measuring 2 meters square. The letter ‘A’ is cut into each skin. One of the top corners of the square is peeled apart and from this aperture emerges a dove of peace. The dove is an open, minimalist structure of stainless steel rod. The sculpture is about 3.8M high, and is mounted on a one meter high brick plinth, measuring 2.5 by 1 meters.
The landscaping of the roundabout represents the United States five pointed white star in a blue circle. The star is planted with ‘white’ grasses together with white flowering plants, and is surrounded with loose ‘blue’ slate.
There will be an information board, explaining the significance of the sculpture on a foot path next to the roundabout, and the sculpture will be illuminated at night.
At the unveiling of the ‘Flight of Peace sculpture’ 17 birds were released ,10 white doves of Peace as a celebration of the Flight of Peace unveiling and 7 blue pigeon homers as a remembrance to the American service men that did not return after their mission. The total of 17 was a tribute to the B17 aircraft stationed at Rougham Air Field.
During the years 1939-1945 over 200.000 young birds were given to the services by British breeders through the NPS the only munition of war which was provided free of charge these birds were used by both the RAF and the USA as standard equipment on all bomber and reconnaissance planes.
Paratroopers also carried them when dropped behind enemy lines to pinpoint gun emplacements and fuel dumps for the bombers to target.
Many of these birds saved countless lives of aircraft crews and troops on the ground under attack from heavy artillery bombardment.
One local bird called Royal Blue NURP.40.GVIS.453 bred and trained at the Royal Lofts, Sandringham was the first pigeon to bring a message from an aircraft crashed on the continent. Royal Blue was awarded the Dickins Medal.
One of the most famous American birds was G.I.Joe USA.43.SC.6390 bred by the U.S. Army this bird saved hundreds of British lives by delivering a message to the Twelfth Air Support Command of the advancement of the British Infantry in to a position formally held by the enemy that was scheduled to be heavily bombed, the bird flew at more than a mile a minute and reached air support just minutes before the bombers left the ground.
The Dickins Medal for outstanding animals helping us all has been awarded to 46 pigeons.
Please click the image below to download a pdf copy of the Duxford workshop leaflet.