After landing in Heathrow and passing through customs and immigration painlessly, we waited for our leased coach to arrive. It did, in short order, and we met Jaap and Derek, our two drivers from the Netherlands. We were all pretty exhausted, as this was day three now with a grand total of about five hours sleep, and it was 10AM and we had a full day. The answer?
Next, we visited Bassingbourn. We had a short ceremony, and I saw the first of many poppies, these being on a wreath. The poppies are everywhere, and worn, are a symbol all over Europe of a war veteran. People would see these gentlemen we were with, notice the poppies, and their faces literally lit up. It was fantastic.
Two of the men with us that flew from this airbase spoke, as did two of the cadets. Bassingbourn remains an RAF base, though the airstrip isn’t used. THe control tower is one of several we visited that’s been restored, and artifacts and plaques containing stories about the base and the history of the war fill the building.
After Bassingbourn, we headed to Thurleigh. A heavy bomber base where the airfield’s now been converted to a racetrack, often rented out by executive staffs for a retreat. Cars buzzed around what used to be the area of the main runways. The restoration of this building was fantastic. They were waiting for us, and a couple of locals had brought out their restored Willy’s jeeps for the vets to sit in, and look at. We had tea and sandwiches in the front room from one of the sweetest ladies in all of England.