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Theft of poppy wreaths sees new home for tribute to US airmen of WWII

PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 23 October 2019

Colin Smith of Sudbury Royal British Legion, left, Vera Burrell and Mayor of Sudbury Robert Spivey  Picture: VALERIE HERBERT

Colin Smith of Sudbury Royal British Legion, left, Vera Burrell and Mayor of Sudbury Robert Spivey Picture: VALERIE HERBERT

VALERIE HERBERT

A poppy tribute to American airmen who died in WWII will no longer be placed on the memorial at their former wartime base in Sudbury because of thieves.

Remembrance tributes have been laid at the memorial 

at the site of the former base for years - members of the 486th Bomb Group Association  watch as 
Trudy Ronson, whose husband was a navigator in the 835th Squadron, lays a wreath in 2007  Picture: WENDY TURNERRemembrance tributes have been laid at the memorial at the site of the former base for years - members of the 486th Bomb Group Association watch as Trudy Ronson, whose husband was a navigator in the 835th Squadron, lays a wreath in 2007 Picture: WENDY TURNER

For the first time in decades there will no longer be poppies laid on the commemorative stone at the former Sudbury airfield to the bomber crews of the 486th Bombardment Group.

Last year the tribute placed at the memorial was stolen almost immediately after it was laid, as was a replacement.

To avoid a repeat, this year's tribute has been laid at Sudbury Heritage Centre where the names of the 200 fallen aircrew are listed in a history of the time the Americans spent at Sudbury.

Colin Smith, chairman of Sudbury Royal British Legion, said: "For as long as I can remember there has always been a tribute there.

RAF veteran Len Manning at the laying of the Sudbury poppy wreath to the Americans in the town's museum  Picture: VALERIE HERBERTRAF veteran Len Manning at the laying of the Sudbury poppy wreath to the Americans in the town's museum Picture: VALERIE HERBERT

"It's very sad that people can't leave it alone but it's also strange - the memorial is quite remote and you have to go out of the way to get up there.

"Quite why someone felt the need to take them I have no idea, but rather than run the risk of it happening again we are now placing it at the museum."

However Mr Smith said the move did mean the party of US air force personnel from RAF Mildenhall who took part in the Remembrance Day service every year would be able to see the list of names.

"That's something that's important for them," he said.

The wreath at the musem was laid this year by Legion member Mrs Vera Burrell, whose late husband was aircrew with RAF Coastal Command in WWII.

Among the gathering was Sudbury Mayor Robert Spivey and 94-year-old Len Manning, from Little Waldingfield, near Sudbury, who knows personally the dangers faced by WWII aircrew.

On his third mission as a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber he was shot down over France shortly before D Day.

Four of his crewmates died, but despite suffering burns he was able to parachute to safety and was hidden by the French Resistance until American troops liberated the area.

"I certainly understand what they went through," he said of the US airmen listed on the Sudbury Museum memorial.

In the period leading up to Remembrance Sunday on November 10, Len will be collecting for the Legion's Poppy Appeal outside Roy's store in Sudbury.

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