RAF Grafton Underwood Airfield Transformed

The Journey so far of the 384th Bombardment Group Museum

Grafton Underwood, once the bustling hub for the 384th Bombardment Group during World War II, is witnessing a renaissance. Efforts to preserve its history and establish a museum are underway, with a dedicated team of individuals at the helm, managed by the Trustees of the 384th Bombardment Group Museum Charity.

B-17 near Grafton Underwood
Artist’s depiction of US B-17 Bomber flying low over the English countryside, near Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire.

Historic revival

With 78 years, 5 months, and 29 days since the Operations Block was last used, RAF Grafton Underwood reopened its doors on October 23rd with an event that saw locals from the Geddington Historical Society embarking on a tour of the Operations Block internal rooms. They were treated to a detailed 40-minute presentation on the airfield’s significance, its profound impact on the surrounding areas, the role of the 384th American contingent, and the dedicated volunteers who’ve championed this project. This reopening occurred just five weeks after a flag-raising ceremony was graced by visitors from America.

Consistent progress at Grafton Underwood

October has been bustling with activities at the site and, notably, Boughton Estates have rendered invaluable support. Their contribution involved a massive ground clearing operation on Capitol Hill Road, grinding stumps end-to-end – an effort greeted with much gratitude by the team of volunteers. Activities such as a new roof, reconstruction of the chimney brickwork, wall construction, continuous sweeping of buildings as well as clearing and maintaining the outside areas, have kept the team on their toes. Not wanting to let the grass grow under their feet, they have also provided tours of the airfield and the Headquarters site to promote telling the story of the base’s history as well as raising money for the project.

Volunteers in action

The Museum Project continues to grow

The 384th Bombardment Group Museum initiative has continued to progess with the Trustees of the museum obtaining UK Charity status. They expect to imminently secure the Operations Block and Norden Bomb Site buildings and some land. This has been a mammoth undertaking with many hurdles but through their sheer grit and determination they will have managed to achieve something many others have only dreamed of.

At the heart of this ambitious project lies the Operations Block building, the last vestige of Grafton Underwood Airfield’s past. The Charity believes this structure is the optimal starting point for the museum. While the edifice needs extensive repairs and fortifications, the diverse expertise of the volunteers, coupled with the support of the 384th Bomb Group, Inc (the post-war US veterans’ and next generation group) and other benefactors, promise a bright future for the museum.

A visual overview depicting the area’s transformation from its wartime image to the present can be seen on the 384th Bomb Group’s official website.

A glance at the original layout from 1944 reveals the meticulous planning behind the museum’s design. With future constructions slated to include visitor centers and display spaces, the project is bound to be a grand homage to its historical status.

The immediate phase focuses on the acquisition and securing of buildings and land associated with the Headquarters of the 384th Bomb Group, followed by the rehabilitation of the Operations Block building, the introduction of main utilities, and the establishment of a car park. Future phases are even more ambitious: the renovation of the Norden Bomb Site building (A very rare building in conjunction with the Operations block), the assembly of a Nissen Hut with the inclusion of display and workspaces, among other structures.

During the presentation to a local History Society

A call to arms!

Establishing a museum of this magnitude requires substantial resources which include money, time and materials. Estimates for the initial phases of the museum are in the region of £300,000. Both UK and US donors have various methods to contribute, from direct transfers to personal cheques/checks. Their website and Facebook pages provide forup-to-date information on how to donate.

Acknowledgment

The work and progress made by the Charity and its team of volunteers is truly outstanding. Their dedication and tireless efforts to ensure the 384th Bombardment Group’s legacy remains vibrant is for generations to come. As the group’s motto eloquently puts it, they are indeed helping to “Keep The Show On The Road.”

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3 comments on “RAF Grafton Underwood Airfield Transformed

  • As an American descendant of someone who served at GU, I am beyond humbled by the efforts being made to preserve history in this lovely village. What an amazing team of people dedicated to preserving GU’s important history. Thank you so much for highlighting this very special place that I look forward to visiting again and again.

    Reply

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