Still day 2 in Norfolk in Kerstin’s car and a very special discovery. We eventually find Foulsham, where my dad was based during the war with Squadron 462, Bomber Command.
I’ve been there before but only found an empty field with a bank of trees. This time we have time to seek out more concise directions. There’s an empty field with a bank of trees but on this occasion I am able to collar a local who overflows with helpfulness and information in a delightful Norfolk accent.
“Yes,” he says. “There is still part of the airstrip. I’ll lead you there.” And we trundle off at a batting pace, wondering if he has forgotten we are following and we are going to drive up behind him as he parks in his garage and goes inside for tea. But he stops. “This is it, you are driving on it,” he says. There’s about a mile of it on a rise, and halfway along evidence of a cross strip.
Most of the concrete, but not all, has been pulled up over the years. But it’s still very definitely there, as well as some of the huge hangars which have been re-sheeted and converted into sheds.
Then the gem – a piece of first-hand information from our Norfolk farmer. “When my mum was knee-high to a bumble bee, she told me, she used to watch the planes having to bank steeply when they came in over that stand of trees at the bottom of the strip.”
Suddenly I can visualise my father piloting his Halifax back to base, the knot in his stomach starting to unravel as he spots that stand of trees with a mile of white concrete stretching out for him. His plane is lighter than it was when he took off over the side of the rise at the other end; he’s discharged his load away to the east and once again got away with it.
Not all of them were so lucky. Dad will have to write the letters home once they have worked out who those may be.
It’s a pretty powerful feeling to be standing there.