A few years ago one of my lifelong friends asked me to go to England with her, in celebration of our birthdays. As it turned out, I went with two girlfriends and we made the trip in June. It started with six days of touring the countryside and on the sixth day we were in Cambridge.
We waited for a taxicab to arrive to take us to the train station for our ride to London. When the taxi came I knew I had to make up my mind as to whether or not I would visit Nuthampstead. It was now or never!
I asked the driver how far Nuthampstead was from there. His reply was Ive never heard of it. I thought, Maybe this isnt such a good idea. But I had heard about the war and my dads stories my whole life and I was always very interested. My dad, Paul Roderick of the 602nd, was a pilot. Im sure he is part of the reason that my son, Tim, has always had the flying bug, and the reason that he joined the Air Force. So I got out my map and we hunted for Nuthampstead. The driver was not very encouraging about getting there, and he couldnt tell how much it was going to cost either. He thought maybe 40 quid.
After a short discussion with my friends, I said, I cant come all this way, be this close, and not go to see this. So we were off! It was about a 45-minute drive through lovely countryside, we did not get lost, and, boom, all of a sudden we were there!
In front of us was a beautiful stone monument with wreaths and flowers all around it. I was not ready for the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, pride, respect, and love that totally took my breath away. I am an emotional person anyway, but this was such a surprise. To see the fresh flowers all around the monument was more than I could handle. I was a blubbering daughter, who was so proud of her dad at that moment, that I couldnt talk. I have never been overly religious, but I felt as if I was on sacred ground, and said a prayer for all of those young men who did not make it back, and a thank you for helping my dad to come home. I wish my brother could have been there.
The Woodman Pub is very near the monument and the taxi driver asked the owner, Ian, if it would be all right if we looked around the pub. It was 10 oclock on Sunday morning and he was cleaning up after the Americans we found out later. So this very nice Englishman unlocked the doors for us.
He let these three teary-eyed, Americans browse, cry, and look at all the memorabilia in this wonderful thatched roof pub. The pictures that cover the walls of some of the 398th crews and planes are heartwarming. Ian was so nice to us and gave me some coasters and bar towels from the pub as a keepsake. After taking a whole roll of film of the monument and the pub, to try and capture the moment, we headed back to Cambridge.
I cannot begin to express how much it meant to me. We even had the taxi driver misty eyed. So now I had to get to a phone and call my dad! Because it was June 16th,Fathers Day, what a perfect day for my visit, and I could not wait to tell him where I had just been. I almost couldnt talk to him I was still so choked up. But I have never been more proud of my father than I was that day. Its like seeing the monument and the pictures in the pub made it very real for me.
In September I went with my husband, Pete, to the 398th reunion in Springfield. We met my parents there. Seeing all of these men at the reunion meant so much more to me, because I have seen the monument and the pictures in the pub, and the war is more real for me now. The pride that was in the young faces in the pictures on the pub walls is still in the older faces of these men. The camaraderie and friendship that I saw are hard to duplicate. I cannot say enough about going to Nuthampstead and seeing it, and I think that I have finally persuaded my parents to go on the next 398th tour.
I eventually learned that the 398th tour had had a memorial service the day before we got there. Thats why there were flowers and wreaths on the monument. They were put there by the people of the village, and a lot of the flowers were put there by children. That would have been way too emotional for me to see! By the way, the taxicab fare was £50 or about $80, and it was the best $80 I have ever spent! Going to Nuthampstead was the best souvenir that I brought back with me, and I didnt even have to pay duty on it. So, my advice is, if you ever get the chance to visit England, please make sure you take a map and get to Nuthampstead!
Modified and transcribed from the Flak News by Wally Blackwell