The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa has joined with newly formed ‘Friends of Lavenham Airfield’ and vintage events group, The Baker Boy Collective, to host a series of 1940s events across the village between 19th and 22nd May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of East Anglia’s ‘Friendly Invasion’ when US Forces began to arrive in support of World War II.
Amongst the many events being planned are a 1940s swing dance at the village hall, a vintage afternoon tea at The Swan and a history talk at the Guildhall about the 487th Bombardment Group, 8th USAAF (United States Army Air Force). Little Hall museum will also be hosting a special wartime memorabilia display on the Saturday and Sunday including information about the evacuees who came to Lavenham.
There will also be a guided walk to Lavenham airfield, vintage fair and commemorative service in the church.
Although long departed the names of the 487th Bombardment Group remain inscribed on the walls of the Old Bar in The Swan. Renamed the Airmen’s Bar, it’s full of memorabilia and signatures of the servicemen, some of whom took up the challenge of downing 3.5 pints of ale from a glass boot and how long it took them; the record seems to be an amazing 40 seconds held by RAF serviceman WH Culling!
The Airmen’s Bar will be open from 11am until closing time throughout the weekend for everyone to enjoy a drink and view the signatures. On Saturday, 20th May at 10am a picture will be unveiled of Beirne Lay Jr., WW2 Commander of the 487th Bombardment Group, 8th US Army Air Force. Beirne Lay went on to be co-author and screenwriter of ‘Twelve O’Clock High’ the Hollywood blockbuster film, which starred Gregory Peck. His niece, Libby Lay-Wilder, who is traveling over from the US for the event, will unveil this new addition to the Airmen’s Bar.
You can expect to see 1940s vehicles and vintage fashions worn around the village by The Baker Boy Collective group, together with 1940s re-enactors. Village residents, shops and local businesses will be supporting the event.
On Sunday, 21st May there will be a Lavenham Airfield guided walk, while on Monday 22nd May there will be a Wartime Memorabilia Display at Sudbury Heritage Centre.
Vintage events will continue to be held annually in Lavenham during May leading up to the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8th May 2020. They will help support SSAFA – The Armed Forces Charity and Lavenham Community Council, which is raising funds to construct a new pre-school building.
For more details, visit www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk/explore/vintage-weekend, where the full programme can also be viewed or call Lavenham Tourist Information Centre on 01787 248207 or Jane Larcombe at The Swan at Lavenham on 07787 426371.