During the Second World War in particular, The Swan had a strong association with the forces, because we were one of the places regularly frequented by the personnel from nearby RAF Lavenham. Our Airmen’s Bar commemorates the air crews who served at RAF Lavenham during the war. Many of the 850 signatures which adorn the walls of the Airmen’s Bar belong to members of the 487th Bombardment Group, who were stationed at Lavenham Airfield. The 487th formed part of the 8th USAAF (US Army Air Force), who were referred to as ‘The Mighty Eighth’. Known as the ‘Friendly Invasion’, US forces arrived in this area of Suffolk, to find the quintessentially English medieval village of Lavenham and found a warm welcome from the locals.
This ‘Friendly Invasion’ and the 8th USAAF’s part in the Second World War is captured forever in an artist’s masterpiece, which can be found at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, in the United States. As you’ll see The Swan at Lavenham features in this masterpiece and Pearl Fyderek, Director of Marketing at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, has very kindly shared photographs and the background to this wonderful work. This masterpiece is entitled ‘A Pictorial Salute to the Mighty 8th’ and was created by the artist, Douglas Edwards, now a naturalized American citizen, who was born in England and raised amid the turmoil of the Second World War. It was during this time that he encountered his first Americans, troops preparing for their role in the D-day invasion. The majority of those youthful and boisterous Americans were soldiers who would make a lasting impression on the young boy with their stories of America. But, his main interest lay in the big bombers piloted by men of the US Army Air Force. Determined one day to live in the America those soldiers had etched in his young mind, and dedicated to a life in art, Douglas Edwards eventually emigrated to the United States, haunted by memories of those poignant images of yesteryear. After many years spent developing his craft, the artist finally considered himself worthy of honouring those men of the elite 8th Air Force with the mural you see – a pictorial salute to the ‘Mighty Eighth’.” The piece is 16’2″ x 7’10” oil on canvas and as you can see, depicts The Swan at Lavenham at the centre of it. http://www.mightyeighth.org
With 1940s events planned in Lavenham from May 2017 through to May 2020, which will mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, we will continue to commemorate those who served during the Second World War. But this November one of the most poignant of times, we ‘salute’ all service personnel past and present and… ‘We Will Remember Them’.
Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.