FEATURE: Sharing memories of RAF Mildenhall
Down the years, RAF Mildenhall has created close ties with the local community - here are the memories of some who have enjoyed links to the base.
Patricia Warby, a councillor who lives on Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, was honorary base commander for seven years, from 2005-2012.
She says she attended at least one event a month during that time, along with her husband, Frank.
“One of the highlights for both of us was going out in a KC-135 refuelling tanker over the North Sea and watching it refuel the F-15s. We got to see the boom come down and refuel the F-15 - that was something very few people get to see so was a real highlight,” she said.
She also recalls taking part in a mock take-off for Afghanistan.
She said they boarded a plane and were taken down the runway before disembarking and getting ‘geared up’ with armoured breast plates and dog tags. They were then led to a tented area, a mock Afghanistan, where they cooked food in self-heating bags.
“It was a real eye opener,” said Mrs Warby, who also presented medals at Joan Mann Special Sports Days, athletic events the base staged for disabled children.
Of the closure, she said: “It’s very sad, although there’s been talk of it for several years now so it’s not a total shock.”
Nigel Roman, deputy leader of Forest Heath District Council, was the only one in the role for the first two years.
He said: “I had the great honour of being the very first one.”
He added: “I used to go to the regular commander call meetings. I was a magistrate at the time and that intrigued them so I gave talks on that and information on the local magistrates’ courts. Any function they had I was automatically invited to. It was a wonderful time for me. I was heavily involved in my squadron’s work on base and made a lot of new friends.”
He said it was ‘with sadness’ that he had received news of the closure, but that he was staying positive about it.
“When you stop and think, there could be a positive side coming out of this. We don’t know what the MOD’s going to do but there are lots of possibilities so I’m being quite positive about it,” he said.
Thetford Mayor Sylvia Armes said her family had close links with the American servicemen at the base, and remembers their visits to the town for ‘a taste of life’.
Many years ago her husband befriended an American serviceman who had come to England during World War Two, when he was just 18.
“I shall be sad to see them go because our connection with them goes back so many years,” she said. “Hy husband has many fond memories of them being here.
“The Americans played such a big part here. Before they came the children in our schools had never seen ice cream or candy before!
“I remember Lady Rose Musker used to hold Anglo-American days and a summer fete at the Shadwell Estate. She would invite the Americans vfrom the bases to have an English afternoon tea. It was nice because it brought everybody together. But that’s another thing for the history books now.”
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