Nuclear base consigned to history

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The Independent Online
The airfield that was once Europe's biggest atom bomb base, home to 10,000 men and many of their families, closed yesterday. There are already a few weeds growing through the concrete at Sculthorpe in north Norfolk, the American base where in 1962 airmen kissed their wives and children goodbye as they prepared for war at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The airfield was built by the RAF in 1942, but was given over to the USAF's 47th Bombardment Wing 10 years later. As Britain suffered economic austerity, the Americans surrounded themselves with home comforts at the base, pictured in 1957. A bowling alley, golf range and gym all appeared behind the fence. But the servicemen's prosperity also filtered through to the pubs of neighbouring Fakenham. Young women went to dances at the base, and the USAF expected three out of five single servicemen there to return home with an East Anglian wife. The routine was interrupted in 1958, when the authorities were so horrifed by a security scare that it was covered up for four years. Master Sergeant Leander Cunningham, said to be under stress, threatened to fire his pistol inside a bomb store. He surrendered after an eight-hour siege.

(Photographs omitted)

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