US airmens' disdain for Norfolk weather revealed in 64-year-old letter

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe has uncovered a letter stuffed in the wall by two former Americans.

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe has uncovered a letter stuffed in the wall by two former Americans. - Credit: Kevin.J.Osman

Two US airmens' dislike of the Norfolk countryside and English weather has finally been revealed after a letter stuffed in a wall 64 years ago was unearthed during works. 

The letter, written by two Americans who were based in Norfolk during the 1950s, was discovered during the demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe, and called on a response from any English person lucky enough to find it.

The letter from Mr Ronald Strop and Mr Eugene Bennett discovered at RAF Sculthorpe.

The letter from Mr Ronald Strop and Mr Eugene Bennett discovered at RAF Sculthorpe. - Credit: RSHC

Signed by a Mr Ronald Strop and Mr Eugene Bennett, the letter dates from 1958.

In it, they write: "This paper was placed in its present location on the 26th day of March, 1958.

"May I make one thing very, very clear: I do not care for the English countryside nor do I care for the weather they have in England.

"If an English person should per chance find this note you may write the following persons and offer retaliation.

RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre was contacted by Clarke demolition company that they had found a letter stuffed in the wall

The RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre was contacted by Clarke demolition company that they had found a letter stuffed in a crack in the wall in what was the former airfield operations area. - Credit: RSHC

"But first I advise the person to come to America - and find out what God's country is like."

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The letter was not addressed to anyone, instead, they left their contact details at the bottom.

The tower, which was constructed back in 1945, was part of the Very Heavy Bomber conversion, which took place at airbases to accommodate larger planes, and was one of only three airfields in the country to be modified for this use.

This required the construction of a new air traffic control tower to accommodate the new aircrafts, such as the and B-29 Superfortress bombers, and later on the B-50 and the B-36. 

Ian Brown, curator, giving The Queen a private guided tour of RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre

Ian Brown, curator, giving The Queen a private guided tour of RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre - Credit: Kevin J. Osman /RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre

Of these towers, only Marham remains. The other was Lakenheath which was demolished in 2009.

The tower had become unsafe due to vandalism and people trespassing on the Ministry of Defence training area to break in.

Ian Brown, curator of the Sculthorpe RAF heritage centre (RSHC), said the tower was either to be taken down or would have fallen down - bringing on a repair bill in the millions.

Mr Brown said: “It's sad to see it go, but with its demolition, it gave a secret up.

Clarke Demolition kindly allowed RAF Sculthorpe to cut out the wall section where Mr Strop had written his name and address.

Clarke Demolition kindly allowed RAF Sculthorpe to cut out the wall section where Mr Strop had written his name and address. - Credit: RSHC

“We (RSHC) were contacted by Clarke demolition company, who said they had found a letter stuffed in a crack in the wall in what was the former airfield operations area.

“We popped over to the tower and saw this fantastic piece of unseen Sculthorpe Heritage.

“After a little research, we found that Mr Strop and Mr Eugene Bennett had both passed away in 2020 and 1989 respectively.

“Clarke Demolition also very kindly cut out the wall section where Mr Strop had written his name and address.”

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe.

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe. - Credit: Kevin.J.Osman

Both the wall cutting and the letter are now on display in the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre.

History of RAF Sculthorpe

Dubbed by some as the Friendly Invasion, Americans were based at Norfolk airbases during the Second World War, at any one time around 50,000 the United States Air Force personnel stationed within a 30-mile radius of Norwich.

Sculthorpe itself was chosen as a part of America's Strategic Air Command during the height of the Cold War.

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe.

The demolition of the control tower at RAF Sculthorpe. - Credit: Kevin.J.Osman

By the 1950s, there were more than 10,000 personnel and it was said to be the largest operational airfield in the UK.

Mr Brown said planes had been loaded and ready to fly during the Hungarian Revolution. 

The two most famous Americans were undoubtedly Reis Leming and Freeman Kilpatrick, who were awarded the George Medal for their heroics during the Hunstanton flooding of 1953.

While the base became inactive 30 years ago, it is still used by the US Air Force's 352nd Special Operations Group.