306th Bomb Group Museum (Thurleigh)

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Thurleigh started life in July 1940 when work began on the site to construct a Bomber Command station for the RAF. The RAF finally moved onto the base a year later though at this point the site was far from complete so flying would not begin until January 1942 when No.160 Squadron formed up equipped with the B-24 Liberator. Their stay was short lived as the squadron moved to India, being replaced with the Wellingtons of the Polish No.18 Operational Training Unit. Again 18 OTU quickly moved on and Thurleigh underwent a large expansion programme before being handed over to the USAAF with the 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arriving in September 1942 equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress flying its first operation on 9th October.

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On January 27th 1943, the 306th along with three other groups from the 1st Air Division and two B-24 groups from the 2nd AD  launched the very first penetration mission into Germany, attacking German naval facilities at the port of Wilhelmshaven. The 306th eventually flew a total of 344 missions between October 1942 & May 1945 with Sergeant Maynard H. Smith being awarded Medal of Honor for his actions on 1st May 1943. The group flew its last mission on 19th April 1945.

In the years after World War Two Thurleigh became home to the world renowned Royal Aircraft establishment known as RAe Bedford. Today the site is privately owned and houses a museum dedicated to the 306th Bomb Group that hosts a wonderful collection of artefacts and memorabilia from both the American and British perspectives including life on the home front.

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