This article appeared in the Ely Ensign in July 2004 on page 14.
The redundant church of All Saints’, Conington, was packed when American veteran servicemen returned to the village for an emotional reunion and the dedication of a new memorial stone.
The 60 visitors had come to unveil a £42,000 monument dedicated to US servicemen from the 457th Bomb Group, who were based at nearby Glatton aerodrome during the Second World War.
At the height of the reunion celebrations, more than 600 local well-wishers gathered alongside the great North Road to see the unveiling of the new granite memorial stone.
A Lancaster bomber, flanked by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, treated spectators to a fly-past, and the roar of the warplanes’ Merlin engines brought back touching memories to the veterans.
At the service, a military band played the American national anthem, and the veterans laid wreaths beside the memorial.
The memorial, dedicated to 790 US servicemen who died during the Second World War, features a picture of a B-17 Flying Fortress on its front, and the insignia of the bomb group on the back.
It was paid for with money raised by the veterans, now aged in their 80s, and their families.
The land on which the memorial was built is the spot where an American outpost was based. It was donated to the project by Huntingdonshire District Council.
The 457th Bomb Group had wanted to place a memorial stone at the site fifteen years ago, but planning permission was turned down. However, with the relocation of the A1 motorway, another application was made and the memorial was built just in time to celebrate the veterans’ sixtieth anniversary.
“For some of us this will be our last visit,” said Will Fluman, President of the 457th bomb Group Association. “We really appreciate the time and effort that has been put into making us feel welcome.
“This memorial is very meaningful to us because of the time we spent based here during the Second World War.”
All Saint’s Church, which became redundant in 1975, was an icon to the young American servicemen during the Second World War.
The pilots used the distinctive building to navigate their way back home after their dangerous missions over Germany. Returning from a bombing raid, they looked down from their B-17 aircraft on to the church towner with its four spires, and knew that they were close to their airbase – and safety