US Major General marks war anniversary

Major General Stephen Wilson at the memorial at Boughton House
Major General Stephen Wilson at the memorial at Boughton House

Community leaders and veterans descended on a county house to hear a moving speech from a US Major General to mark the significant local war anniversary.

Friday, August 17, marks the 70th anniversary when bombers from the 8th US Air Force were first flown from Grafton Underwood on attack missions to Germany during the Second World War, and the American fleet grew from there into one of the biggest in the country.

It was the first US-led raid launched from England.

To mark the occasion, Kettering Council organised a special commemoration at Boughton House, where stellar names like US Major General Stephen Wilson, commander of the 8th, and the Ministry of Defence’s joint head of staff Ro Atherton gave speeches.

Scores of American flags and vintage vehicles littered the Grade I listed house’s gardens, while proceedings were kicked off with a salute from planes from RAF Alconbury.

In his speech to an audience of more than 200 people, Major General Wilson said: “Our air force is based in America but was made in England.

“The 8th Air Force started here in Grafton when 12 US planes flew with Spitfires on a bombing mission to Germany.

“The 8th has since grown into the largest air force in the US in every way.

“All those thousands that flew earned their title the greatest generation the hard way.

“For many of them, they didn’t return to Grafton. But they ultimately ensure the preservation and freedom of the rest of the world.”

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone was in attendance, along with a number of councillors, community leaders, servicemen and veterans, as well as a contingent from the US.

Kettering Mayor Jim Hakewill opened the speeches and said: “It is almost impossible to imagine the emotions and feelings of the air crew, embarking on their missions which, for some, would be one of many, but sadly, for far too many, would be a one-way trip and the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

“We are all here to commemorate our significant local wartime history and the international friendships which have risen out of those dark days, when everyone came together to protect and preserve our way of life.”

The event was followed by a wreath laying service at near to the Grafton airbase.

There were also wartime bases in Desborough and Harrington.