This week we celebrated the remembrance of D-Day, the beginning of the end of World War II. My step-father was an Omaha Beach survivor and the stories he told about the bombardment of the troops on the beach, the men drowning as they stepped off the carriers into the too-deep water and the amazing courage shown by these troops, reaffirmed to me the greatness of those who have served and still serve our country.
But, with any great war or tragedy, even though time passes, the remnants of that time leave an imprint on the land. This is one story, written by a blogger named Michael from England who had an experience with a lingering spirit.
I have lived in Norfolk. Mainly around the old air bases once used during the war by the Americans.
Once I drove out to small villages such as Tibenham, Old Buckingham, Thorpe Abbots, Hardwick and Seething, just to name a few, south of Norwich. Most of those stations have long gone disappeared under the grass or cleared to bring back the fields again. Some old runways and perimeter track remain in airfields but if you didn’t know the history, you would not know they were once there. If you get one of the old airfield books and see how it was, you can possibly drive around and pick a few features out, such as nissun huts and buildings.
Those airfields that were once so very busy during a two-year period in the war and were lively bases for airmen and visiting locals still have an atmospheric feel about them. On some
days when the summer is moody or when the winter is dark and chilly you can step out onto one of those disused runways and feel like you are not alone. You become aware of the history and the sacrifices that were made, the remains of artwork left by some young men on the walls of the huts, especially at Seething.
Seething still has a tower and this is used now as a museum displaying uniforms, photographs, parts of planes, radio equipment, etc… This tower is open almost every Sunday and, though most veterans have stopped coming, now local enthusiasts have kept the airfield as it used to be, surrounded by acres of field, before the thick layers of concrete were laid all those years ago. But at some airfields you can’t find anything other than the odd bunker or nissun and all looking in a forlorn state.
One day in late summer, just as the shadows were thickening on one of these deserted airfields called Deopham Green, I stepped out from my car and crossed what was left of its runway. I felt so exposed as no trees or shrubs had grown since the land was levelled in 1943. No one was around and the open expanse brought a chill wind. You could almost feel and hear the flying fortresses moving around. Very much like in the film “Aces High.” After some minutes, I could not help but feel a presence, and when I turned about I saw a figure about a hundred yards away. He was not moving. His facial features were fixed and his eyes were looking to the smoky skies. At first my brain raced to wonder who this farmer was, but then I noticed the flying gear and typical helmet and boots. At that point, I went cold all over with a freezing tingle at the back of my neck.
But I was determined to be sure, and not panic; I watched and blinked and watched, but the person did not move nor look at me. Then slowly, the figure dissolved.
I went back to the base two years later. I never felt quite the same feelings as I did before but had an empathy for these surroundings and a desire to know more about Deopham Green and all that served there. I went back again six months later and spoke finally with the owner of the land. He was quick to tell me that he too had seen this apparition along with several other locals. There were other sightings.
Most of the Norfolk airfields now have plaques and memorials which has seen a huge decline in recent sightings. Lost souls finally at rest?
The pilot I had presumably spotted had returned from a mission it seems, and had to take part in a crash landing – some of the crew had bailed out over Germany due to a feathered
engine. The three remaining crew members decided to stay and take their chances and had landed the plane on the perimeter track but they did not survive the impact.