Vintage bus tour of American air bases in Kettering

Discover the impact of the 'American invasion' on the county from the comfort of a vintage bus.
Discover the impact of the 'American invasion' on the county from the comfort of a vintage bus.

Discover the impact of the ‘American invasion’ on Kettering from the comfort of a vintage bus.

A tour of local air bases, including Grafton Underwood American War Memorial and Harrington Aviation Museum, is taking place on Saturday, May 16.

The tour is the finale in a series of events exploring the town’s Second World War Legacy, particularly focused on exploring the impact of the arrival of thousands of American service personnel at local air bases in 1942.

In 2012, Kettering Museum and Art Gallery received more than £30,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding to deliver projects to explore the borough’s Second World War Legacy, which have included creating a 40-minute film, The Day the Americans Came, delivery of an exhibition, American Arrivals, at the Manor House Museum, development of education resource packs for schools, running an American Dance Experience event, a 1940s inspired vintage market, and recording local people’s oral histories.

The final event, a tour of Kettering borough’s Second World War American air bases, will departing from Kettering.

Visitors are invited to explore Kettering borough’s two Second World War American airbases by hopping aboard a vintage bus which will take them through the countryside, firstly to Grafton Underwood American war memorial.

Construction of Grafton Underwood’s air base began in 1941, intended for use by RAF Bomber Command, but assigned a year later to the US American Air Force’s Eighth Army Air Force, as Station 106.

It was to be used in almost continuous succession by American heavy bombardment groups, and the station from which the very first and last USAAF Eighth Army Air Force raids on Europe were flown.

The bus will continue to Harrington Aviation Museum.

Harrington airfield was built by American engineer battalions in 1942 and 1943.

It was built as a bomber base, but in the interim of a bombardment group moving in was temporarily loaned to the British Royal Air Force.

Its firm American Bombardment group arrived in March 1944, becoming station 179.

From Harrington the USAAF flew special operations missions known as Operation Carpetbagger.

Until the end of the war the Carpetbaggers aided resistance groups in Nazi-occupied France by flying in supplies, agents and special forces.

The bus will make its way back to its final stop in Kettering, the town which between 1942 and 1945 saw thousands of those men stationed at Grafton Underwood and Harrington arrive.

To find out more, and to book your place, telephone the museum on 01536 534 219.

Tickets are free thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding, but places are limited and therefore booking is essential.

Kettering Council head of community services Guy Holloway said: “This is an unmissable event for all those that want to discover more about the legacy of the ‘friendly invasion’ of the local area by American servicemen and women during the Second World War.”