This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and while Alconbury Weald has had to scale down its plans for the day due to Coronavirus guidelines, it’s looking for your help to capture the special memories of 8 May 1945: the relief and joy of peace, and the commemoration of service and sacrifices made by our forces and on the home front by the many families living around the former airfield.
While the painstakingly restored Second World War Watch Office was going to be the centre of a community event, it is unfortunately currently closed due to COVID-19 guidelines. But when it reopens, the building will have a series of heritage displays within the community building and library. Master developer Urban&Civic is using this VE Day milestone to ask people to search for pictures and share their stories from 75 years ago to help develop a display for when the Watch Office reopens.
Rebecca Britton, Communities and Partnerships for Urban&Civic, said:
“For a long time we have heard anecdotes from families around Alconbury Weald of the interaction with the old airfield – from children waving off the aircraft to villagers rushing up to help after the May 1943 bomb explosion – which will be marked with a memorial at Watch Office Green. We have loved the tales of romance from local tea dances and events, but we have no pictures or tales from VE Day and would love to use this opportunity when people are thinking and talking about it, to capture their memories.”
The project is the start of a wider commitment to pull together a social history of the airfield’s wartime role: from the early RAF satellite station, to the arrival of the Americans in 1943 and on through the Cold War.
Rebecca added: “From our earliest days talking to and working with the local communities, the memories and stories from people have been fascinating, and we have recently started a Heritage Group with local partners to help inform our social history recording and future plans. The more memories, stories and pictures we can pull together, the more we can ensure the future development captures some of those echoes of history: in the design and layout, in street names and public art, in small remembrances of the people who lived and served on and around the base.”
Capturing and sharing memories can be challenging with social distancing measures, but it is hoped that with the focus on VE Day and the many ways in which children and grandchildren are in touch during these times, might encourage some scouring of old tins of photographs, or recording stories in digital catch ups. So, if you have pictures or stories, please get in touch with Rebecca Britton at Urban&Civic (contact details below).
To mark the anniversary, Urban&Civic will also be putting up a two storey vinyl silhouette of Tommy the lone soldier on The Club building and flying the UK and US flags at Watch Office Green in tribute to those who served at the former airbase during World War II. The new community is also planning to mark the occasion with red, white and blue displays, taking part in the two minute silence at 11am and joining in the UK-wide singalong to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again at 9pm.