The Arrowhead Club

Home » 2016 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2016

Enlisted Men’s Mess

In November 1943, about the time Dale Smith took over as Commanding Officer of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, the 443rd Sub Depot was created under the command of Major John H. Humphries. Smith referred to the Sub Depot group as “ground pounders” and felt they were treated like second-class citizens. They had their own mess located about a mile from the central communal area, away from the Foxy Theatre, Combat Crew Mess, Officers’ Mess, and Service Club. It is unclear from this map where the separate ground crew mess was located. Smith felt that the separation led to low morale and set about to reform things.

Enlisted Messes

See the areas circled in red on the above map. On the map, the messes are noted as EM (Enlisted Men’s) Combat Mess and Consolidated Mess.

 6th Svc Sqdn, 443rd Sub Depot, 544th Bomb Sq

6th Svc Sqdn, 443rd Sub Depot, 544th Bomb Sq

One of Smith’s first reforms was to integrate the messes so that there would be no distinction between ground and air personnel in an aim to become a unified team. The airmen’s Combat Crew Mess became the Airmen’s Mess, feeding the first three grades: privates, corporals, and buck sergeants. The Ground Crew Mess became the NCO mess, feeding all staff, technical, and master sergeants.

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

 

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

 

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

 

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Mess Kitchen Wash Tubs

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Mess Kitchen Wash Tubs

 

Smith then created the Zebra Club (lots of stripes) for all the senior non-commissioned officers by remodeling an unused RAF NAFE outlet (store for necessities).

The bar of the Zebra Club.

The bar of the Zebra Club.

 

The Bar Room at the Zebra Club

The Bar Room at the Zebra Club

There is another building to the right of the Consolidated Mess called the Red Cross Aero Club. I have not found any information or pictures of this club other than one photo of the Grafton Underwood Red Cross Girls.

Grafton Underwood Red Cross Girls

Grafton Underwood Red Cross Girls

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

Information taken from Dale O. Smith’s book, “Screaming Eagle: Memoirs of a B-17 Group Commander.”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

The Officers’ Mess

At the 384th Bomb Group’s air base in Grafton Underwood, officers took their meals at a mess hall separate from the enlisted men. The Officers’ Mess was located between the Officers’ Club and the Foxy Theatre.

Location of the Foxy Theatre at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

Location of the Officers’ Mess at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

 

384th BG Officers' Mess.  Part of the Quentin Bland Collection.

384th BG Officers’ Mess. Part of the Quentin Bland Collection.

 

384th BG Officers' Mess and nurses.  Photo contributed by Anthony Plowright.

384th BG Officers’ Mess and nurses. Photo contributed by Anthony Plowright.

 

384th BG Officers' Mess, photo part of the Leroy Arquette Collection.  Leroy is by the pole towards the back.

384th BG Officers’ Mess, photo part of the Leroy Arquette Collection. Leroy is by the pole towards the back.

Leroy Arquette was a bombardier with the 384th Bomb Group.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

The Officers’ Club

Like other military bases, the 384th Bomb Group had an officers’ club. It was located near the Officers’ Mess and the Foxy Theatre.

Location of the Foxy Theatre at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

Location of the Officers’ Club at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

Major (then Colonel) Dale O. Smith, third commander of the 384th Bomb Group wrote about the Officers’ Club and bartender Primo Lombardi in his book “Screaming Eagle.”

That evening I went to the club bar to try to thaw a chill in my bones that was caused by more than the Midlands fog. My ration of Irish whiskey was poured by the amiable Primo, who owned his own bar in Boston and acted here as a father confessor. I wished I could tell him my troubles, and realized how close I was to crying in my beer like so many of the others.

384th Bomb Group Officers' Club

384th Bomb Group Officers’ Club

 

384th Bomb Group Officers' Club

384th Bomb Group Officers’ Club

 

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers' Club.

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers’ Club.

 

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers' Club. Bartender Primo Lombardi on the left.

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers’ Club. Bartender Primo Lombardi on the left.

 

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers' Club. Bartender Primo Lombardi on the left.

The bar of the 384th Bomb Group Officers’ Club. Bartender Primo Lombardi on the left.

 

 American actor Adolphe Menjou on the left and the first commander of the 384th Bomb Group, Colonel Bud Peaslee on the right at the Officers' Club.

American actor Adolphe Menjou on the left and the first commander of the 384th Bomb Group, Colonel Bud Peaslee on the right at the Officers’ Club.

 

Dog gave birth to pups in Officers' Club, May 5, 1944.

Dog gave birth to pups in Officers’ Club, May 5, 1944.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

The Foxy Theatre

The Foxy Theatre was the site of entertainment for those stationed at Grafton Underwood airfield in the UK. Movies and live shows were held at the theatre.

Location of the Foxy Theatre at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

Location of the Foxy Theatre at the Grafton Underwood Airfield

During Dale O. Smith’s command, and possibly later, free ice cream cones were served there. Smith believed that one of the reasons of low morale at the camp centered around the messes and quality of food being served. He started his “reforms” by integrating the messes. Ground and air personnel, who previously were served in separate messes, were served together. Following that and some other rearrangements, Smith turned his attention to improving the food served to his men.

The poor quality of the food was blamed on the rations being provided, but Smith knew that the Polebrook outfit received identical rations and still produced better meals. After sending his cooks to Polebrook to find out their secrets, they found ways to make the powdered eggs and powdered milk palatable by mixing it with water at high speed for twenty-four hours. The Sub Depot even found a way to rig the mixers with B-17 starter motors and ran them continuously to produce this mixture in large quantities.

Smith relates those stories and the following story in his book “Screaming Eagle.” A mess officer found a closed ice cream factory in the nearby town of Kettering. Officers’ Club funds were used to buy the factory and move it to Grafton Underwood. They were able to produce delicious ice cream from the powdered egg and milk mixture and served the free ice cream cones in the Foxy.

These photos of the Foxy Theatre at Grafton Underwood are provided courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

The Foxy Theatre - from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

The Foxy Theatre – from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

 

The Foxy Theatre - from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

The Foxy Theatre – from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

 

From the collection of William F. Touton - Abbott & Costello in "Lost in a Harem" was playing at the Foxy Theatre

From the collection of William F. Touton – Abbott & Costello in “Lost in a Harem” was playing at the Foxy Theatre

 

The Foxy Theatre, photo courtesy of Tony Plowright

The Foxy Theatre, photo courtesy of Tony Plowright

 

The Foxy Theatre, from the John N. Smith album

The Foxy Theatre, from the John N. Smith album

 

The Foxy Theatre, from the John N. Smith album

The Foxy Theatre, from the John N. Smith album

 

The Foxy Theatre - from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

The Foxy Theatre – from the Leonard R. Niemiec Collection

 

The Foxy Theatre, from the Quentin Bland Collection

The Foxy Theatre, from the Quentin Bland Collection

 

William Gilbert Barron, known as Billy Gilbert, an American comedian and actor known for his comic sneeze routines, performed USO shows during WWII. Photo from Ken Hammond.

William Gilbert Barron, known as Billy Gilbert, an American comedian and actor known for his comic sneeze routines, performed USO shows during WWII. Photo from Ken Hammond.

 

The Foxy Theatre, from the Robert Bletscher collection

The Foxy Theatre, from the Robert Bletscher collection

 

A photo taken by Richard Denney in 2007. To the right is the site today of the 384th Officer's Club and Foxy Theatre.

A photo taken by Richard Denney in 2007. To the right is the site today of the 384th Officer’s Club and Foxy Theatre.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Memorial Day

 

There are many ways to memorialize the men of the 384th Bomb Group of WWII, but my dad – George Edwin Farrar – chose to remember his crew mates on a cap that I believe from its condition he wore on the Black March of Stalag Luft IV prisoners of war in early 1945. I discovered the cap over twenty years after my father died when my sister and I were cleaning out the family home for sale after the death of my mother.

On the bill of the cap, he wrote the names of the men that were members of the original Buslee crew, and the name of the replacement bombardier after the death of the original bombardier on August 5, 1944.

DSCN0285

Sebastiano Peluso was the radioman, Erwin Foster the belly gunner, George Farrar and Lenard Bryant the waist gunners, Clarence Seeley the top turret gunner/engineer, Eugene Lucynski the tail gunner, John Buslee the pilot, David Albrecht the co-pilot, Marvin Fryden the bombardier, and Chester Rybarczyk the navigator. James Davis replaced Marvin Fryden as bombardier after the August 5, 1944 mission.

Half of the crew – Peluso, Bryant, Buslee, Albrecht, and Fryden – perished in WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016