Memories of a bygone era

AN OLD bus trundled to the World War Two airfields of Suffolk where bombers were once based.But the journey made by Florence, a 1960s coach with a top speed of 50mph, could be the last as joint funding for the four-year project is coming to an end.

AN OLD bus trundled to the World War Two airfields of Suffolk where bombers were once based.

But the journey made by Florence, a 1960s coach with a top speed of 50mph, could be the last as joint funding for the four-year project is coming to an end.

The airstrip tour, the third of its kind, set off from Ipswich railway station and took 27 flying enthusiasts to Debach airfield, where the control tower has recently been restored, Parham Airfield Museum, where they could learn about the British resistance organisation, and Suffolk's oldest airfield at Martlesham.

Susan Brookes, Suffolk County Council's heritage promotion officer, said the council and the East of England Development Agency provide the money for the annual trip.

She said: "The Friars to Flyers tour aims to promote small-scale heritage sites to the wider public. The combination of a vintage coach and the airfields again seems very popular this year.

"However there will be a problem running the tour next year unless we find someone to take up the sponsorship."

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Among the passengers that will be disappointed next year if funding is not found was Nigel Lockwood, 47, who had travelled from Sheffield to see the airfields.

He said: "This is the key attraction of my visit. My main interest comes from the evocative nature of the surroundings. Coming to somewhere like this makes me think of what it must have been like 60 years ago in the war."

Lily Freeman, 71, and her husband Dennis, 70, were sent on the tour as a surprise from their son in Essex.

Mrs Freeman, from Diss, said: "It is wonderful to visit the places again. I was born in Charsfield so I know Debach very well and went there for a Christmas party when the Americans were here."

Mr Freeman, whose father was based at Martlesham in the war, said: "My father would tell us all sorts of things that happened in the mess room. By coming here I can imagine it all going on."

Driver and owner of the bus, Tony Buckland, said: "The great thing about this tour is that people get to see sites around Suffolk that are not generally open to the public.

"The bus dates from 1966, the Cold War era, so it is very appropriate for the airfield tour."

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