Trip to Lavenham/Station #137
Visit to the Renovated Tower at Lodge Farm/Station 137
By Lee Hauenstein
All of you who attended the 2003 reunion in Savannah know that John Pawsey, from the UK, gave a presentation of the condition of the tower at Lodge Farm.† It was Johnís grandparents who owned the farm turned airstrip and home away from home for the 487th from 1943-45.† During Johnís presentation, he announced that the tower has been completely refurbished.† This monumental task was completed thanks to the cooperative efforts of John, his family, and David Goode, who now uses the tower for his offices.† If walls could talk!
One week after the reunion I was scheduled to be in the area of London just a few hours from Lavenham.† When talking with John, I asked if I might visit the farm and tower once my business was finished.† He very graciously said yes, and then was inundated with others wanting to speak to him.† Needless to say, I was now looking forward to this work related trip.
Move forward one week.† I arrived in England but while business is not finished I have the weekend to myself and after Iíve spent a few short hours in London I head to Lavenham.† I had a nice drive out greatly enjoying myself once I left the ĎMí roads (interstates, for we Yanks) and began driving through the rolling British countryside.† I am actually a bit nervous with anticipation.† Iíve never visited the area and it holds a great deal of emotional value for me.† This was where my dad had been. He was 23 years old and doing something for his country and the world I can never fully comprehend.
Once arriving in Lavenham, I parked up by the church, a peacefully beautiful site, and wandered this town I felt I knew because of the photos my dad had shared with me from the time he was stationed here and from the time he and my mom visited in 1987.† As I walked around seeing first hand what my father had told me so much about, it was my dadís voice I heard describing the town; the crooked buildings, the Swan.† His stories.† His memories.† I cannot explain how overwhelmed I felt. To be where he had been as such a young manÖless than half the age I am now doing a job I cannot imagine having the courage to do.† I felt humbled and proud to be in the village he had told me so much about.†
Several of you know David Deacon from his visits to our reunions.† David lives in Lavenham and Bob Carr had specifically asked me to say hello to him if I was fortunate enough to get to Lavenham.† As I was walking around, I asked a gentleman out working in his yard if he knew where David lived.† ďYes,Ē with a big smile, ďI most certainly doĒ.†† Turned out this was Davidís brother!† He called David who insisted I come by.† He and his wife were planning a large family party but no matter they wanted to see me.† I had a short but very pleasant visit with David and his wife.† They, of course, wished to be remembered to all their 487th friends.
I went back to town to find lodgings for the night.† I stopped at 2 inns only to find out Lavenham is a very popular location at this time of year.† There were no rooms in town. Beginning to be a little frustrated that I would have to travel to another town, I thought I would at least call John and Alice Pawsey to ask about visiting on Sunday.† I reached Alice and reintroduced myself.† She said well of course I could visit the farm the next day, but there was a ĎBlitzí dance at the farm that night and I should come to that.† I told her I would be delighted, but first I thought I should find a place to stay.† She suggested a friendís B&B just down the road.† Well I called Julie and found a delightful room.† In addition her B&B is about a mile from the farm, can you beat that!
I cleaned up and drove to the farm, very eager now to be there.† As I drove in John, in tuxedo, was parking cars next to the Quonset hut at the turn just before the tower.† He was very gracious in his greeting and thanked me for coming.† A very pregnant Alice came along shortly and I was greeted like long lost family.† Then I was introduced to some friends, and family (Johnís sister and brother-in-law included), and wandered into the Quonset hut Blitz Dance building.† The theme of the Blitz Dance was the war years and many people were dressed in 1940ís uniforms, dresses, etc.† And there was a swing band that played for the evening.† They played so many of the favorite tunes of that time, which frankly I grew up listening to and love!† I couldnít have been more delighted to be there.† I took a break from talking with people and wandered around the corner for my first view of the tower!† No kidding, John and David have done an incredible job and the building looks extraordinary.† I wandered around it for some time before returning to the dance.† During the dance John got up and announced the winners of some door prizes, then talked a little about what had gone on in this place during the war, with specific references to the 487th Bomb Group.† Then John surprised me by saying that the son of one the pilots of the group was here visiting and asked me to stand to the applause from the group.† Boy, my eyes were not completely dry at the end of that very touching reception.† I donít know if itís possible to say how honored I felt at that moment.
The dance continued and I even made an attempt at a few steps on the floor.† I do apologize to the ladies who were kind enough to let me show them how poor my dancing ability is.† Well I was enjoying myself in the extreme, and must have made that known by the fact that I was in the last group to leave.† I have to tell you this was a very special night for me, and I still smile thinking back to it.† The music, the dancing, the people, and especially the fact that I was in this very special place, left me with an extraordinary memory.†
John and Alice insisted I come back to their home the next day to visit a bit more and to have a tour of the base/farm.† Of course, this I was very eager to do.† We met at the house and again the entire family warmly greeted me.† I had the pleasure of meeting Johns mom, some other family and of course the younger Pawseys, Lillith and Rufus. What charmers those little ones are!
John took me around the farm showing me the remaining buildings and the location of the various squadron areas.† He took me into the old theatre, and officers club.† I saw the portion of runway that remains and I loved getting down and putting my hands on that surface.† When we got back to the tower, we went through the entire building and on to the roof listening to him talk about the renovation process and how hard they worked to retain the history and integrity from that period in history.† From the roof top of the tower there is a spectacular view of the fields where your runways once lay. What an awe-inspiring experience for me.† I look out and again hear my dad tell me about taking off from this field.† What a day, what a weekend!† Time has passed too quickly.† I had to leave and return to work the next day in Manchester, U.K., a couple hundred miles away.† It felt good to have been there.
I sadly said goodbye to the Pawsey family and left Lodge Farm.† On the way out, I did stop at the tower to walk around it once more and to take with me a few pieces of the old runways. Gifts so my mother, sister, and daughters have a piece of dadís runway.