Martlesham Heath: Relative and friend of American pilot Bill Crump visit Suffolk to find out more about his life

Bill pictured with his coyote "Jeep"

Bill pictured with his coyote "Jeep" - Credit: Archant

The story of American fighter pilot “Wild” Bill Crump is well known among aviation enthusiasts in Suffolk.

Gayle Crawford (Right) niece of Bill Crump and family friend Laurie Napa travel from USA to visit Ma

Gayle Crawford (Right) niece of Bill Crump and family friend Laurie Napa travel from USA to visit Martlesham Control Tower where Bill flew from during WWII - Credit: Archant

The airman, who died about five years ago, was billeted at Playford Hall, near Martlesham Heath, during the dark days of the Second World War with the 356th Fighter Group.

Gayle Crawford, niece of Bill Crump and family friend Laurie Napa look at a display of Jeep

Gayle Crawford, niece of Bill Crump and family friend Laurie Napa look at a display of Jeep - Credit: Archant

But despite only being based in the country for a few years, Bill made a big impression.

Because sitting by his side on at least five sorties into occupied Europe, including the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, was his pet coyote Jeep – which Bill raised from a pup.

Jeep, who died after being run over by the vehicle of the same name, was given a full military send off after his death and the pair’s story has been enshrined with a display at the Martlesham Heath Aviation Control Tower Museum.


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And last week, one of Bill’s relatives and a family friend made the emotional return to Suffolk, to find out more about his life.

Bill’s niece, Gayle Crawford and friend Laurie Napa, visited the control tower on Sunday before travelling to Playford Hall, where a small plaque marks the life of jeep.

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Miss Crawford said: “It is wonderful. I grew up hearing the stories of him being here at Martlesham and about Jeep the coyote.

“We are here in honour of my uncle to see where he was stationed. It is great to see the picture of Bill and jeep and to see where he was in the war.

“He was stationed many places and flying was his passion throughout his life.”

Bill retired as a lieutenant colonel and after he completed his military service he returned to his home in Edmonds, Washington State, before returning to the air force for a short stint.

He later went on to become an air show performer.

Tarkey Barker, a member of the Martlesham Heath Aviation Society, helped to organise the trip for Miss Crawford and Mrs Napa.

He said: “It is a story that I know well because it is one of my favourite stories. He was an incredible bloke.”

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