Stories of American servicemen in East Anglia to feature in new film at Saffron Screen
13:00 24 April 2013
THE stories of American servicemen based in East Anglia in the Second World War are being told in a documentary film being shown in May at Saffron Screen.
It is one of two documentaries about life in the 1940s being screened at the independent cinema – with organisers encouraging people to give their memories of life in and around Saffron Walden at the time.
The first film, Nose Art and Pin Ups, includes interviews with the pilots and crew of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) based in the region during the war. It hears their stories of friends lost, battles won, capture and escape.
It features Don Allen who was based at Debden with the Fourth Fighter Group. Don was a commercial artist who was drafted as a crew chief working on fighter aircraft
He painted more than 100 planes with artwork known as ‘nose art’ because it was usually on the nose and sometimes the tail of the aircraft. His artwork has been copied all over the world.
Another Debden veteran, fighter pilot Frank Speer, tells of his escape from the Germans – twice.
The film has been made by former BBC Look East producer Gail Downey from Whirlwind Productions who, worried living veterans were becoming few, self-funded a trip to the US to meet nose art crew members.
The result is a fascinating insight into how the lives of military personnel were made that little more bearable with the morale boost that nose art provided.
Nose Art and Pin-Ups explores the fun topics behind the bomber’s iconic images as well as the deeply personal and sometimes shocking stories of the veterans themselves.
Mrs Downey said: “These were young men, thousands of miles from home, who faced death every day and they told me the artwork personalised their aircraft and gave them something ‘to pat’ before and after every mission. It was also much easier to talk about ‘Our Gal Sal’ or ‘Turnip Termite’ than plane number 123. People remember names, not numbers.”
Rebecca del Tufo, from Saffron Screen, said: “We are delighted to show this moving and fascinating film and to shine a light on the history of the area and the US servicemen who came to our area during the War.
“We would love to hear from anyone who remembers the US Air Force while they were based here.”
The filming coincides with the Duxford Air Show on May 26 which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the US air force arriving at Duxford.
Meanwhile, Saffron Screen will be showing The Spirit of ’45, Ken Loach’s impassioned documentary about the post-war creation of the welfare state. The film looks at the state of the country before 1945 and the effects of the creation of the welfare state and NHS.
• Nose Art and Pin-Ups is being screened on May 25 and will be followed by a Q&A with Mrs Downey. The Spirit of ’45 is being shown on June 9 and 10. Tickets are available from saffronscreen.com, the cinema box office or the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre.