Central England colleagues bring back precious memories to a US WWII vet

Two of the co-op’s workers sent former airman Ray Fredette photos of the memorial to 34th Bomb Group at Mendelsham, Suffolk

Two Central England Co-operative colleagues have helped tell an American war hero, who lives over 3,500 miles away, about a memorial to his bomber crew.

Brad Tuckfield, who works at the society’s food store in Brundall, in Norwich, and Carl Cope, who works at Stowupland Petrol Filling Station, went out of their way to take pictures of the 34th Bomb Group Memorial, in Mendlesham, Suffolk, after learning that a friend of society president Elaine Dean, Ray Fredette, was based there during the war.

Former Lt Col Fredette, who now lives 3,695 miles away in Washington DC, operated out of the Mendlesham airfield in 1944 when he took part in 31 combat missions.

The memorial to 34th Bomb Group at Mendelsham

The last surviving member of his crew, Ray was shocked and delighted to receive a collection of photos from Brad and Carl showcasing a memorial erected in the area to highlight the courage of his ‘Fancy Nancy’ B-17 bomber crew.

The 93-year-old said: “I was so surprised to see the photos of the 34th Bomb Group Memorial at Mendlesham.

“I arrived there in 1944 as a crew member of ‘Fancy Nancy’, a B-17 bomber. We had flown across the Atlantic with a stop in Iceland. Flying out of Mendlesham, I completed 31 combat missions that fall and winter and my task was to drop bombs.

Lt Col Fredette during the war

“When my crew went home, I arranged to stay in England because I had met an English girl, Pamela Dorsey, of Derby. 

“After VE-Day, the Eighth Air Force left England, but I still managed to stay behind with the occupation forces in Germany.

“We were married in 1946. I am now widowed, and I am also the last surviving member of my crew.

“I would like to thank Brad for sending the pictures – they certainly brought back old memories.”

A total of 190 airmen from the 34th Bomb Group were killed in the war, prompting people from across Mendlesham to honour them with a memorial.

The old airbase at Mendelsham

Store manager Brad Tuckfield said: “Our president Elaine Dean visited our store at the time in Stowupland, Suffolk, and mentioned that her close friend Ray Fredette used to be based at an airbase nearby and that there was a memorial honouring his unit.

“She told us more about his story, and it was really inspiring. So Carl and I decided to head to Mendlesham and seek out the memorial.

“We took some pictures and sent them across to Ray, so he knows that everyone in the area still remembers his bravery and that of his fellow airmen.”

Ms Dean said: “My connection with Ray stems from the fact that his wife was my mum’s best friend. We have been in contact my whole life, and when I said I was headed near Mendlesham, he told me about the memorial.

“I mentioned it to Brad and Carl, and in a wonderful act of true co-operation they went out of their way to do something amazing for Ray.”

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