312ePARHAM
Airfield Museum

390th Bombardment Group Memorial Air Museum
and
Museum of the British Resistance Organisation

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The date was January 1942. Great Britain was totally preoccupied with WWII. Percy Kindred together with his younger brother Herman were the Suffolk farmer/landowners of Crabbs & Park farms at Parham. Their lives were soon changed forever. Construction of a Class 'A' airfield called for half a million tons of concrete, three diagonal runways & a giant workforce. Rubble for hardcore was imported from bomb sites in London & Birmingham & 4,500,000 bricks were laid. Two enormous hangars appeared (in No 2 Glen Miller & the Band of the AEF performed before an audience said to number 6,000 in 1944).

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The Control Tower
during World War Two
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The Control Tower
before restoration began

 

Although Suffolk had seen nothing like this before, there was more to come. The airfield was handed over complete to the united States 8th Army Air Force in early summer 1943 and redesignated 'Framlingham Station 153'. After suffering disastrous losses in daylight air attacks on the Continent, the first Bombardment Group the 95th, was transferred to nearby Horham to regroup. Replacing the 95th, the 390th were to operate B-17s 'The Flying Fortress' from Parham for the remainder of the War in Europe. In over 300 missions they dropped 19,000 tons of bombs, they lost 181 aircraft and 714 airmen were killed. Parham Airfield Museum is a Memorial to those men.

After the War in Europe, runways were broken up and the land returned to the Kindred brothers. Buildings were allowed to become dilapidated and when not pulled apart were used for farm storage. Many of those still standing are now 'collector's items'. Among them was the Control Tower shot up and abandoned after the Americans held a riotous farewell party there in August 1945. With Station 153 now neglected, windowless & derelict, a dedicated and determined group of volunteer enthusiasts working with Founding Chairman Ronald Buxton, entered into the five year task of restoration, in 1976. Support for this entirely self-funded project was given by Percy Kindred until the day he died in 1996.

The Tower was finally dedicated as the 390th Bombardment Group Memorial Air Museum of the USAAF on 13 May 1981, and since then has remained in active contact with and received steadfast support from US veterans, their relatives, supporters & friends.

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The B17 Flypast on 13 May 1981
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Aerial view taken on 13 May 1981

 

Early exhibits were provided by the efforts of those dedicated enthusiasts responsible for restoring the Control Tower, with efforts in the field to recover aircraft parts & memorabilia long since buried in the soils of East Anglia, usually after pinpointing the location of a previously unexplored air disaster, whether American, British or German. The exhibition display has continued to expand and recently to benefit from more formal archiving & administration than was possible in the early days, when the main effort was essentially 'in the field'.

In 1992, Ron Buxton hinted privately that Percy Kindred himself had something to tell of his own WWII experiences but had kept to himself for fifty years following a commitment entered into in 1944 under the Official Secrets' Act. This revelation led, as associated research continued through the years, to the creation of the Museum of the British Resistance Organisation which opened in 1997. The opening ceremony was carried out by Lieutenant Colonel JW Stuart-Edmundson TD RE, one of the founders of the nondescript 'Most Secret' GHQ Auxiliary Units, as they were officially known. The 'Auxunits' were one of Britain's nine secret services of WWII, alongside better known clandestine organisations such as the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Like the SOE, the Auxunits had been formed under the express authority of the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and his Inner War Cabinet, directly after defeat at Dunkirk. Both the Auxunits & the SOE were to be headed by Major General Colin McVean-Gubbins, a legendary vetern of irregular warfare.

These credentials called down extraordinary post war secrecy, amplified by the fact that the men of the Auxiliary Units (there were about 3,500 throughout the land at any one time) had existed and operated, although generally without their knowledge illegally and in direct contravention of the Rules of War. The nation's survival was the indisputable imperative. Before 1997, the Auxiliary Units were left with virtually no public recognition.

Two viable, long term museums now exist registered as one charity, with the MLA & the British Aircraft Preservation Council are now operating successfully at Parham, entirely due to a common link through Percy & Herman Kindred. Percy's son Peter is now the President.

 

©2013 Parham Airfield Museum