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American Visitors to North Lopham

20th May 2006

14th July 2005

On Saturday 20th May 2006, a coach load of representatives of the 96th Bomb Group, which was  based at Snetterton during the Second World War, visited North Lopham as part of a tour of sites of special significance for them and their nation.


The visitors were welcomed at the War Memorial by Albert Crook, who worked so hard to organise the addition of a special memorial to the 18 American aircrew who died when their planes collided over the Lophams in January 1945, and Richard Vere who drew up the design for the memorial.  Only one of  this group had been present at the dedication ceremony in 2002; the others were fascinated to learn of its history.  After placing flowers at the memorial, the visitors were entertained to lunch prepared by ladies from the Parish Council, in Lophams' Village Hall.  When Albert Crook had described what the collision day had been like for local residents (miraculously no-one was killed when the bombs and aircraft debris rained down on the community), one of the other pilots, Al, who was flying that day read out his diary entry for January 29th 1945.  This was the first time that local people had heard what it had been like for the other aircrews - a very moving moment for everyone present in the village hall.

The coach party then left Lopham for a visit to Hingham, birthplace of the ancestors of Abraham Lincoln.  They followed the scenic route through Eccles village so that Al could stand once more on the station where he used to catch the London train on his wartime days off.


Thanks to Geoff Ward (the UK contact for 96 Bomb Group Association) for organising the visit and to Jan Tate, Val Garnham, Joan Muncila and Nancy Reeder for providing and preparing the lunch.


All photos from this visit reproduced below are by courtesy of Bruce Martin, to whom all enquiries (e.g. permission to reproduce photos) should be addressed (c/o Geoff Ward).

All seven veterans with local organisers.


L-R  Geoff Ward; John Goddard; Albert Crook;

Tom Tierney, (Co pilot, ex POW)  

George Bonitz, (Waist Gunner)  

Joe Garber, (Radio Operator, ex POW)  

Al Greenberg, (Bombardier)  

Harry Shirey, (Tail gunner, ex POW)

Don Barcliff, (Waist gunner)  

Vernon Robb, (Waist gunner)



Albert Crook shakes hands with George Bonitz and Joe Garber.  Joe Garber was making his first return back to Snetterton since he was shot down in July 1944 - sixty two years ago



George Bonitz and Joe Garber laying a floral tribute to the two crews at the memorial.  Both these men are representatives from the 338th and 337th Squadrons from which the two crews belonged



George Bonitz and Joe Garber salute at the memorial after laying their tribute





Buffet lunch in village hall


On Thursday 14th July 2005, Bob Strawser from Indiana USA visited North Lopham with a group of 15 relatives and friends. Bob’s uncle, Sgt. Maynard Faux, was one of the USAF airmen killed on 29th January 1945 in a mid-air collision over the Lophams. Until making contact with the village via the North Lopham web-site, Bob and his family had very little information about the circumstances of the crash.

During lunch at ‘The King’s Head’ they met several villagers, including Albert Crook (author of books about the Lophams war-time memories and about the crash), Albert’s wife Lillian, past Parish Council Chairman, Richard Vere, and present Chairman, Brian Frith. They were able to see various items of memorabilia including wartime photos of the crash sites and damage in North Lopham and to handle several small items retrieved from the crash site by locals at the time. British Legion representative, John Goddard, presented all members of the group with ‘Thanks’ button badges. Albert Crook presented the visitors with a copy of his booklet about the air crash and his book ‘The Lophams Wartime Memories’.

After lunch the party walked to the war memorial where Geoff Ward, the British contact of the 96th Bomb Group Association recorded a short interview with Bob and his brother, Randy, for inclusion in a video being produced later in the year. Before leaving the area for Bob’s son’s wedding in Manchester on 16th July, they also visited the outstandingly beautiful and moving 96th Bomb Group Memorial at Snetterton.

Bob told how he had been impressed with the commemorative plaque on the North Lopham war memorial and by the interest taken by local people in the wartime history of all associated with 96th Bomb Group. His mother (Maynard Faux’s sister), although too frail to travel to the UK, would be pleased to hear of new-found friends from Lopham, and, at long last, to receive more details of the circumstances surrounding her brother’s untimely death in 1945.


From the left: Geoff Ward (96th Bomb Group Association) interviews Bob Strawser and Randy Strawser at North Lopham War Memorial.



Front row from the left: Richard Vere, Albert Crook and Lillian Crook with Bob Strawser (4th from left) and his family.


American Visitors

This page updated December 18, 2010