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Bracelet discovered at Eye Airfield which is traced back to United States airman from Second World War



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While working on an aircraft on Eye Airfield during the Second World War, United States airman Richard Francis dropped a bracelet that had been given to him as a keepsake by his girlfriend.

In the years that followed, Mr Francis would return to his home in Massachusetts, where he and Marion would eventually marry and have three children.

The bracelet, however, would lie untouched, eventually becoming buried underneath inches of soil on the airfield farm, which was later returned to the pre-war ownership of the Baldwin family.

Richard and Marion Francis, taken in 1942
Richard and Marion Francis, taken in 1942

That was until a sunny autumn day last month, when metal detectorist Stefan Fulcher discovered the bracelet lying on a newly ploughed furrow.

Enquiries were made to Jackie Aling, who, along with fellow members of the 490th Bomber Group Memorial Group, undertook a week of research to seek out the family of Richard Francis and return it to them.

“I phoned up one of my contacts and asked if she could find anything,” said Mrs Aling.

Pictured from left Tom Baldwin, Jacqueline Aling, Fred Astbury and Stefan Fulcher. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.
Pictured from left Tom Baldwin, Jacqueline Aling, Fred Astbury and Stefan Fulcher. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.

“We had his name and the number was correct so it was just a case of finding out what happened to him.”

The group struggled to trace the Francis family, almost resigning themselves to the idea that the bracelet would never make its 4,000-mile return trip across the pond.

That was until an online group based in Germany stepped in.

The group specialises in returning missing articles of this historical type to their original families – and tracked down a 73-year-old retiree named Deborah Francis, from Santa Rosa, California.

Stefan Fulcher found the bracelet at Eye airfield. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021
Stefan Fulcher found the bracelet at Eye airfield. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021

“We almost gave up,” added Mrs Aling. “But as a last resort, I went to Facebook and, within 48 hours, we had the details of a woman in California.

“We were very cautious at first, because we thought there was a possibility that, until all the checks were done, it could be the wrong person.

“When I told her, she was shocked to the core – but she was thrilled to bits, too. For her, it must have come completely out of the blue.”

Richard and Marion Francis died in 2001 and 2011, respectively. Their daughter, Deborah, explained the wave of emotion that came over her when she was told by Mrs Aling that the bracelet, which she had never known about, had been discovered.

“I was pretty suspicious of the call at first,” she said. “So I went on Facebook to verify it was true.

The bracelet which was found at Eye airfield belonging to an American serviceman. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021
The bracelet which was found at Eye airfield belonging to an American serviceman. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021

“It was jaw dropping and it really took me back, emotionally.

“We didn’t know about the lost bracelet. It’s like a love story.

“I know my dad couldn’t wear jewellery with his uniform, so it just shows how much he loved my mother that he kept it with him.

“It’s really a sign of their togetherness; my dad adored her and he missed her so much when he was serving overseas.”

Deborah’s younger siblings, Sandi and Ric, who both live in Washington state, have also been informed of the shock discovery.

“I will take it to them so they can hold it,” added Deborah.

“My family will want to touch it. My mother and father were sweethearts, and this feels like a deep reconnection.”

The 490th Bomber Group Memorial Group has spoken to the United States Air Force, who are making arrangements for the bracelet to be handed over at RAF Lakenheath for its last journey home on a United States military plane – the same way it made its outbound journey almost 80 years ago.

With Remembrance Sunday just around the corner, the discovery could not have come at a better time, said Mrs Aling.

“It’s fairly amazing when you think about it,” she said. “Seventy-plus years later, and it just turns up.

“We’re trying to get it over to them for next week.

“My hope is that, as we are remembering those who died during the war on November 14, Deborah will be opening that parcel, remembering a father she knew for many years.”

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