Mission #7 - June 11, 1943
No sooner were flight crews cleaning up their barracks when the signals were changed again. A mission was on! Therefore, participating crews would go to Snetterton from Andrews Field by way of Germany!
They were briefed at noon and take-off time occurred as late as 1500 when the group joined the 4BW with Captain James Irish as Lead Pilot with Major Stanley Hand in the co-pilot's seat as Command Pilot. The lead navigator and bombardier were Lieutenants William Jones and Tom Hines. The primary target, Bremen, was obscured. The Wing scouted the secondary, the submarine docks at Wilhelmshaven, but found they were "weather-protected." At this point the 96th formed a Composite Group with some 94th planes and our Captain Vern Iverson in Mischief Maker led a raid on a target of opportunity, the rail yards and submarine servicing docks at Cuxhaven. These installations were badly hit by 42 tons of high explosives. Although all planes returned safely, two from Iverson's "make-shift" Group suffered flak and fighter damage. All 96BG planes flew from the target to their new base at Snetterton; the last one landing just after 2100.
If the 11th of June was a day of confusion, the 12th didn't offer much of a chance to explore the new base either because another mission was scheduled. All day long both air and ground personnel moved onto APO Station 138. Many of the buildings were still under construction and would continue to be for several weeks to come.
Snetterton Heath was in a very rural area. The flat East Anglian countryside spread in every direction to far horizons. This part of England was to be called "the world's largest aircraft carrier."
Although the nearest small town was Attleborough, the men would become more familiar with the village of Eccles. This village abutted the airbase and the LNER (London North Eastern Railroad) bisected it. The flying field and tech sites fell to the west of the railroad while the living and communal quarters were to the east. Every 96er soon became aware of the wooden bridge which crossed from his squadron area to the flight line.
Where the quaint Eccles station stood prepared to shuttle them south to London or north to Norwich, 96ers recognized the greatest social landmark of all -- The Railway Tavern, Ye Olde Eccles Pub. The tavern had begun to prosper on the thirst of imported Irish construction workers of the Woodrow Taylor Civil Engineering Company. These were the burly, thirsty Irishers who had carved the 96ers' permanent home-away-from-home out of the East Anglican countryside. Within weeks of the 96th's arrival, the watering hole was officially renamed the Eccles Tap and from it the lyrics of every popular wartime song were carried on night winds across the Heath to the base.
Men enjoy first batch of mail to reach Snetterton.
Ye Olde Banham Pub