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New giant sculpture to be built to mark 'forgotten' gem of Suffolk's history

A historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFE

A historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFE

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It may have played a pivotal role in saving lives and fighting oppression - but for many people, the crucial contribution a Suffolk airfield made to world history is barely a distant memory. But now, a vision has been unveiled to ensure the contribution of this Second World War American airbase is visible for all to see - not just from the ground, but from the air.

A historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFEA historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFE

Lavenham Airfield was home to thousands of airmen in the 1940s flying B17 and B24 bombers on dangerous missions over Europe to help the Allies win the gruelling conflict.

The 487th Bomb Group based there also had a central involvement in the D-Day invasion of France in 1944, with 233 servicemen sacrificing their lives for future generations during the war.

Yet despite its direct contribution to world history, John Pawsey - who farms from the former airfield today - said: "A lot of people don't know about it.

"Right on our doorstep is this incredible piece of history, but people tend to forget. I feel recent history is very easily forgotten."

A historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFEA historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFE

As such the Friends Of Lavenham Airfield (FOLA), which Mr Pawsey chairs, will this weekend stage a 1940s vintage commemorative weekend to remember the base's remarkable contribution.

And it is hoped the event will raise funds towards FOLA's next landmark project - a giant sculpture of the letters "LV" which will be visible to planes from the air, to highlight the area's past.

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Airfields during the Second World War used to have giant letters visible from the skies so those flying military aircraft could tell where they were landing.

A historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFEA historic photo of the control tower at Lavenham Airfield. Picture: LAVENHAM LIFE

The project will cost somewhere between £8,000 and £12,500, depending on which final design is chosen, with £4,500 already raised.

But Mr Pawsey said the sculpture would act as a "permanent remembrance" for the sacrifices of those made at the airfield when it is unveiled at the 2020 1940s vintage commemorative weekend.

"There were a huge amount of airfields built across our county and the amount of upheaval and change was quite extraordinary," said Mr Pawsey.

"Suffolk is littered with these airfields. These men made a huge sacrifice - and it happened on our soil."

Speaking about the vintage commemorative weekend, which begins on Friday, May 17 with a series of events such as wartime and 1940s sing-along, Mr Pawsey said: "The reason for the event is to raise money and make people more aware of what happened on their doorstep."

Key events during the weekend are a talk by Charles Joesten at Lavenham Village Hall at 7pm on Friday entitled Service and Sacrifice with the 487th, a commemorative concert at St Peter and St Paul's Church at 7pm on Saturday and a large display of vintage military vehicles in Market Place from 10am on Sunday.

People are encouraged to dress in 1940s clothing for the weekend.

For general enquiries about the event, call the Friends of Lavenham Airfield on 07393957023.

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