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The 384th Bomb Group’s Junket XI to England came to a close just over a month ago. I posted a little information and a few photos in a teaser post in early October. Today I’m adding a few more pictures, links to more photos in the 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery, and more details about the itinerary.
The tour was planned by Frank and Carol Alfter (Frank’s dad was a waist and tail gunner with the 384th) and Arena Travel of England.
Most of the group arrived prior to the start of the junket, some touring London for a few days, and some coming much earlier and doing some extensive touring of Ireland and Scotland. My husband, Bill, and I arrived just the day before and toured Scotland on our own after the end of the junket.
Many of us gathered at the Doubletree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, September 18. Bill and I needed the time to recover from the jet lag, catch up with old friends, meet our tour manager, Rick Hobson, and others attending the junket, and get acclimated to the UK.
Day 1 – Arrival in Cambridge
On Thursday, September 19, we boarded a coach to Cambridge, where we were based at the Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge Belfry for the duration of the junket. Some of the junkateers arrived in Cambridge on their own, and we all gathered that evening for a welcome dinner.
As we were getting to know one another, we took advantage of the first of many photo opportunities, snapping one of the daughters of the 384th and one of the sons (and other relatives – the group included sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren of the men who served in the 384th Bomb Group).
Surprisingly, the group included more female relatives than male. When I first started attending the 384th Bomb Group reunions in 2014, I felt far outnumbered by male relatives of the 384th. I am happy to see that somewhere through the years, the women have gained more interest in their fathers’, grandfathers’, and uncles’ WWII service.
I was delighted to reconnect with 384th British friends I had met in the States at prior year reunions and to meet several in person that I had only corresponded with through Facebook and e-mail.
I met Neill and Bridget Howarth at last year’s 384th Bomb Group reunion in Dayton, Ohio. Neill, along with Matt Smith, was instrumental in coordinating the group’s upcoming visit to Grafton Underwood and they both joined the group for most of our visit. Neill is also the driving force behind the difficult work, i.e., physical labor, of uncovering the remains of the 384th’s airbase at Grafton Underwood, and is leading the effort to create a museum and visitor center at the site.
I also caught up with the 384th’s British friend Rob Long, who I met at the 2017 8th Air Force Historical Society reunion in New Orleans. Rob and his son Daniel joined the group for the majority of the group’s visit to England.
And I finally had the chance to meet 384th British friends Matt Smith and Jason Mann in person for the first time and reconnect with Kevin Flecknor, who I had also previously met at the New Orleans reunion.
The visit to Grafton Underwood also led to first-time face-to-face meetings of other 384th friends – Richard Denney, John “Snowy” Ellson, Tony Plowright, Graham Butlin, and Alan Dickens (who discovered we’re also related by marriage).
Day 2 – Thorpe Abbotts Airfield and Lavenham
On Friday, September 20, we departed the hotel at 0900 by motor coach. The junkateers first traveled to the Thorpe Abbotts Airfield where the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force was based during WWII. The group was well known as the Bloody Hundredth and was the main subject of Donald Miller’s book, Masters of the Air. The control tower and a few other buildings house an informative museum on the site.
The next stop was the charming market town of Lavenham, best known for its half-timbered medieval cottages and houses. The group enjoyed a traditional English afternoon tea at the Swan Hotel located in one of the town’s 15th century buildings.
Dinner was served at the hotel restaurant.
Day 3 – Grafton Underwood and the Geddington Star
On Saturday, September 21, we departed the hotel at 0845 by motor coach. We traveled to the village of Grafton Underwood in Northamptonshire, home of the 384th Bomb Group’s airbase, Station 106. We were welcomed by area residents who treated us to a delightful homemade lunch in the village hall after a moving memorial service at the 384th Bomb Group Memorial Monument. We also had time to visit the parish church of St. James the Apostle and view the memorial stained glass window depicting one of the group’s B-17’s.
After lunch, everyone in the group was assigned to a WWII vehicle for a tour of the base. Bill and I rode in the back of a WWII Willys jeep for a trip back in time to see the remains of where my father served in WWII, his housing area of the 544th Bomb Squadron, common areas, and the airfield hardstands and runways.
Today was the day I was able to meet in person the son and grandson of my father’s POW roommate, and the little girl, now in her 80’s, who was one of three children in a mystery photo in my dad’s WWII memorabilia. There will be more to come about these meetings, the highlight of my day at Grafton Underwood, soon.
Until I write more, you can see previously posted photos here.
Some of the junkateers took an optional tour of Boughton House, which is one of Britain’s grandest and best-preserved stately homes, and described in our Arena Travel itinerary as “renowned for its outstanding collection of fine arts, furniture, tapestries, porcelain and carpets. It is beautifully set in a country park with wide sculpted lawns, serene lakes, waterways, woods and avenues of trees.”
With the choice of touring Boughton House or spending more time touring the air base, I knew I had to see as much of the base as possible on our short visit.
Dinner for the evening was served at the Star Inn, a traditional English pub in the nearby village of Geddington, close enough to the air base at Grafton Underwood that we all imagined our fathers must have visited at least once.
And I had another reason, a very personal one, to be excited about this stop before returning to the hotel for the night. Outside the Star Pub in Geddington stands one of the crosses that King Edward I had erected for his Queen Eleanor of Castile after her death.
The Geddington cross is the best-preserved of the original dozen crosses erected between 1291 and about 1295 in memory of Eleanor, who died in November 1290. The crosses marked the nightly resting places along the route followed when her body was transported to London for burial. The funeral bier was thought to stop in Geddington on December 6 or 7, 1290. Only three of the crosses remain today.
Earlier this year, I discovered that Edward I and Eleanor were my 23rd-great-grandparents. That would have made them my father’s 22nd-great-grandparents. If my father did visit the Geddington Star pub while he served in the 384th, he couldn’t have helped but notice the Eleanor Cross standing outside. Did he realize that he was looking at a memorial for one of his English ancestors? My father’s parents named him Edwin, perhaps a version of a name carried forward through the generations.
Day 4 – Imperial War Museum and Battle of Britain Air Show
On Sunday, September 22, we departed the hotel at 0800 by motor coach. We traveled to the Imperial War Museum at the historic Duxford RAF airfield to see the largest aviation museum in Britain and attend the Battle of Britain Air Show. We enjoyed a full day at the show with Gold Experience tickets including seating in a covered enclosed area, an air show program, lunch, and access to the flight line.
Our group also enjoyed seeing Britain’s B-17 Sally B with a quick tour inside and excellent viewing to see her fly in the air show.
After a long day, we retreated to the group hotel for dinner.
Day 5 – American Cemetery at Madingley and Cambridge
On Monday, September 23, we departed the hotel at 0915 by motor coach. We traveled a short distance to the American Cemetery at Madingley, the only American WWII burial site in England, where we attended a private Service of Remembrance to honor and pay our respects to the fallen US service men and women who died in the war and are buried there or inscribed on the Wall of the Missing. The cemetery contains 3,800 white crosses and the stone wall is inscribed with 5,000 names.
The group laid a wreath at the Wall of the Missing and laid flowers at the graves of all of the men of the 384th Bomb Group buried there. I decorated the grave of Marvin Fryden, the original bombardier of my dad’s crew who was killed on his second mission on August 5, 1944, and read him messages I found that his wife, Marilyn, wrote before her death.
Marvin Fryden and Marilyn Ash were married on October 8, 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time, he was a bombardier instructor at the Albuquerque Air Base.
On November 18, 2007, almost sixty-three years after Marvin died, Marilyn Ash Fryden, now Marilyn Samet, posted a request on the 384th Bomb Group’s web site Log Book. It is still there today in the Log Book archives. It reads, in part:
My husband, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden was on his second mission as bombardier aboard the Tremblin Gremlin when he was fatally wounded, remaining conscious only to drop his bombs over Langenhagen..(544th) He had been commissioned and assigned as an instructor in the states. We had almost 2 years together as he constantly said he was not doing his part, He finally requested combat duty and was assigned to the Gremlin with John Buslee, Dick Albrecht and other crew members. He was gone from me less than six weeks when he was killed.
Another six years went by and on October 17, 2013, Marilyn again posted to the 384th’s Log Book. Marilyn must have had some difficulty typing her message, and I have edited it only to be easier to read. This original message, too, is still in the 384th’s Log Book archives .
My husband, 1st Lt Marvin Fryden, left his Bombardier Training in Deming, NM because he felt needed in combat. Left me to fly the Tremblin’ Gremlin over the pond at the end of July 1944. Fatally wounded on second mission. Buried in Maddingly in Cambridge. I am 88, still loving my first love. Ready to leave this world and reunite with my love in England.
Three days later, on October 20, 2013, Marilyn posted her final message to the 384th Log Book (again, I have edited). It reads, in part:
I am inspired by so many still remembering. My husband Lt Marvin Fryden was a Bombardier Trainer in Deming NM, but on D-Day he woke up and said, “I should be over there.” He requested combat duty, trained with crew on a B-17, and left me on June 23rd. I went home. He flew his first mission on 8/4/44. Next day he was fatally wounded and is buried at Maddingly.
Two and a half weeks later, on November 7, 2013 Marilyn Ash Fryden Samet passed away after a long illness. She was 88 years old. Marilyn willed her remains to the Duke Medical School and asked that no service be held, feeling that “good memories make enough of a memorial.”
I did not discover Marilyn’s posts until November 17, 2013. Not knowing that she had died ten days previously, I e-mailed her, but of course, I was too late. I was not to discover until early in 2014 that Marilyn had left this world.
On this day on the 384th’s visit to the American Cemetery at Maddingley, I was able to stand at Marvin Fryden’s grave and read the messages to him that Marilyn left in the 384th logbook. I could feel her enduring love for Marvin through her words, and felt that the most love and respect I could show for the two of them would be to read her words at Marvin’s final resting place.
After leaving the cemetery, we traveled by coach into Cambridge for lunch, shopping, and sightseeing. The highlight of the Cambridge visit was the Eagle Pub which is inscribed with the names of WWII servicemen on the ceiling. Our three 384th veterans added their names to the walls of the pub.
The group returned to the hotel for a Farewell dinner and goodbyes before heading back to London and flights back home, or to further travels.
My husband, Bill, and I traveled by taxi to the Cambridge train station the next morning and armed with BritRail passes, took the cross country train to Edinburgh, Scotland. We spent several days seeing Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling Castle, amazed at the ancient architecture all around us, and marveled at the beauty of the cathedrals, castles, and palaces, and, of course, enjoyed the food and drink of the local pubs.
(Click on the above photo to enlarge and view Edinburgh Castle in the background looming over the city).
After another cross country train back to London, we flew back home with memories to last a lifetime, and thoughts of plans for a return.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019