A TV Hollywood production based in Norfolk has hit the screens in January 2024! 'Masters of the Air' tells the story of the US Air Force stationed across Norfolk and further afield in the East of England during World War II. 

The series, showing on Apple TV, is based on Donald L Miller’s book, 'Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany'. It tells the story of the American bomber pilots who made up the US Eighth Air Force. After the success of Emmy-award winning ‘Band of Brothers’, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks collaborated on this $250-million-dollar production, starring Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Barry Keoghan, and Anthony Boyle. The series brings the Norfolk-based story to life as we follow the “bomber boys” in their fight against Nazi Germany when over 350,000 US servicemen and women of the Eighth Air Force fought bravely to bring democracy back to Europe. In the words of Winston Churchill, they became Masters of the Air.  You can see the trailer here.

Between 1942-1945, the US personnel served across 18 airbases in Norfolk, billeted near villages such as Horsham St Faith, Old Buckenham, Rackheath, Thorpe Abbotts and Watton. When they had time off, they explored the historic cities of Norwich, Cambridge, and the waterways of the Broads National Park.

Sadly, during the war, the US Air Force suffered more losses in the field than the Marine Corps. The brave force risked flying in daylight to bomb Nazi-occupied Europe, with almost 700,000 tonnes of bombs dropped. The Eighth alone made up roughly 47,000 of the Air Force’s 115,000 casualties, earning them a brutal reputation and nickname of ‘The Bloody 100th’. 

The brave troops played a key role in the Allies' success, earning the Eighth 17 Medals of Honour, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses and 442,000 Air Medals after an incredible 11,200 aerial victories across the war.

Places to visit to find out more:

Old Buckenham Aerodrome:

Many of the US airbases used in the war aren’t easily found anymore, with airfields being built over and turned into farmland since their decommissioning. However, what is left is certainly worth a visit, especially the Old Buckenham Aerodrome. (Most airfields are run by volunteers so please check opening days and times before you set off). This airfield offers a fantastic and interesting day out; you can learn to fly, take in the exhibitions and there are also airshows throughout the year. You will also find a museum on the 453rd Bombardment Group, who were part of the Eighth. 

Thorpe Abbotts Airfield and 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum:

For another airfield belonging to members of the Eighth, you can check out Thorpe Abbotts airfield and visit the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. Based near Diss (20 miles from Norwich city centre), this base has documents, photographs, uniforms, equipment, and even a recreation of the original teleprinter room!  Entrance is free, donations are welcome.

The American Library (online and in Norwich):

Well worth a visit is the American Library (free entrance) located in the Forum in Norwich city centre. The American Library has a huge collection of over 4,000 books about American life and culture, as well as films, newsletters, objects, audio recordings and photographs. You can visit the library from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and also 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.

IWM Duxford and the American Air Museum:

Further afield is IMW Duxford in Cambridgeshire, a companion site to the Imperial War Museum London and Churchill War Rooms. It is home to the impressive American Air Museum, the largest collection of American military aircraft on public display outside North America. The American Air Museum also has an excellent archive that is open to the public.

The wider Duxford site itself is Britain’s largest aviation museum. Originally an RAF airbase, it houses in three WWI double bay hangars around 200 aircraft, military vehicles, artillery and minor naval vessels in seven main exhibition buildings.

The American Air Museum stands as a memorial to the 30,000 members of the US Army Air Forces who died while flying from Britain during World War II. It also tells the story of the people whose lives were shaped by American airpower over a century of war. For those specifically interested in the Eighth Air Force, you can see a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, an American four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps. It was the type flown from the East of England during World War II. 

Other places of interest in north Norfolk:

RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, Hoveton:

Hidden within the peaceful surrounds of the Broads lies a clandestine world of air defence. RAF Neatishead, one of the oldest radar stations in the world, has been keeping our skies safe since 1941. Housed in Neatishead’s original Grade II listed 1942 operations building, the museum is a treasure trove of stories, artefacts, and hands-on exhibits. From the hair-raising heroics of Battle of Britain’s Fighter Control to the top-secret work of the radar operators scanning the skies for Soviet spy planes, the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum tells the intriguing story of air defence. Find out more here.

Langham Dome, Langham:

A Scheduled Ancient Monument, Langham Dome is one of only a handful of anti-aircraft gunnery domes left in the UK. Built in 1942 – 43 on the edge of RAF Langham, this intriguing building utilised innovative technology to train anti-aircraft gunners. The lovingly restored military museum was one of the first examples of virtual technology, when moving images were projected onto the inside of the Dome to teach brave trainees how to shoot down enemy aircraft successfully. More than seventy years after the end of World War 2, a visit to the Dome offers a unique opportunity to journey back in time and experience what life was like for those who served at RAF Langham. Find out more here.

The Muckleburgh Military Collection, Weybourne: 

The Muckleburgh Military Collection is Norfolk's largest working museum of military vehicles including tanks, guns, a large range of weapons, armoured cars, bombs, artillery and missiles used by the allied armies during World War II. It incorporates the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry Museum of uniforms, weapons, photographs and documents, RAF Reconnaissance and Air Sea Rescue and Marine Craft. The exhibitions offer an interesting day out and you can even book a tank-driving experience. Find out more here.

Control Tower B&B, near Wells-next-the-Sea:

This is your chance to stay in an original control tower, on the former RAF North Creake Airfield. It was built in 1943 to control all 199 and 171 Squadrons take-offs and landings. These were part of The 100 Group of Bomber Command and their mission was to carry out secret radio counter measures. The Tower has had many uses since then; now it is transformed into a special place to stay in the bustling agricultural hamlet of Egmere, just 3 miles south of Wells-next-the-Sea. Find out more here. The owners sometimes have special events and open days where you can discover more about the history.




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