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Cambridge / Suffolk

'Big Week' US Eighth Air Force Commemoration Tour 2022


10-14 July 2022

'Big Week' - US Eighth Air Force Commemoration Tour 2022

Join us for this 4-night aviation history tour from 10th-14th July 2022, exploring the background of the US Eighth Air Force heroes and their epic air battle in 1944 - 'Big Week'.

‘Big Week’ – A Brief History

Operation Argument or ‘Big week’ was a sequence of raids by the USAAF and RAF Bomber Command from 20 to 25 February 1944. As part of the strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany, the intention was to attack German aircraft industry and lure the Luftwaffe into a decisive battle. The damage inflicted by the Allies would be irrepairable and would achieve air superiority, thereby ensuring the success of the invasion of mainland Europe.

USAAF B-17's head out, in formation, on a daylight bombing raid during the latter stages of WW2

Throughout 1943, the US Eighth Air Force had been growing in experience and started pressing attacks deeper into Germany. It was believed that the defensive firepower of the B-17 and B-24 bombers would allow them to defend themselves. In practice this proved less successful and although the bombers did claim several German fighters, losses were unsustainable. Daylight missions into Germany were then temporarily cancelled to allow replenishment of aircraft and crews.

The P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang were just being introduced into service and had the range needed to escort bombers to targets deep within Germany. Over the winter of 1943 they re-equipped the existing USAF fighter squadrons and long-range versions of existing fighters were developed.

The North American P-51 Mustang, one of the greatest fighters of the Second World War

By early 1944, the USAAF, expecting a fighter advantage, planned missions that would demand a German response. They decided to make massive raids on the German fighter factories. If the Germans chose not to respond, they would be at risk of losing the air war, if they did respond, they would meet the new long-range fighters in the process. In addition, allied fighters were ordered to abandon their role as bomber escorts and make their primary goal to shoot down Luftwaffe fighters. The primary purpose of 'Big Week' was not the bombing missions, but to engage the Luftwaffe and the allied bombers were used as bait. Once freed of close bomber escort duty, allied fighters decimated the Luftwaffe.

In six days, the Eighth Air Force bombers flew more than 3,000 sorties. As predicted, German aircraft could not be sufficiently replaced and as a result, the allies achieved air superiority by the time of the D-day invasion. The combined bomber offensive officially ended on April 1st 1944, when control of the air forces passed to US General Dwight D. Eisenhower in preparation for the invasion of France. While the USAAF continued strategic bombing, its main priority became the tactical air battle in support of the Normandy invasion, Operation Overlord.

'Big Week' - The Tour

Twynhams Tours are giving you the opportunity, as part of our exclusive group, to immerse yourself in our 4-night US Eighth Air Force Commemoration Tour. Commencing with an exclusive VIP hospitality experience at the world-famous Flying Legends airshow. As well as spending time visiting the multitude of classic aircraft hangars at the Imperial War Museum including the internationally famous, American Air Museum, we will visit several ex-bomber airfields in East Anglia and pay our respects at the Cambridge American Cemetery.

The tour culminates with the spine-tingling roar of the Packard Merlin engine warming up, ready for you to take to the skies in an original WW2 North American P-51 Mustang from historic Duxford Aerodrome, the ex-Eighth Air Force WW2 fighter and bomber base. The flight will take you over the same East Anglian countryside that became home to the thousands of US aircrews back in '43 and '44.

Sunday. Our luxury coaches will meet you at the tour 'take-off' point in London, early on Sunday morning, and head North for your VIP day at the Flying Legends airshow. Take your seats, sit back and prepare to be enthralled.

Here is the official trailer for the 2021 Flying Legends Airshow to whet your appetite....

Flying Legends takes you back to the halcyon days before jet-power conquered the skies. You will witness the sights and sounds of a mass Spitfire flypast and an afternoon of entertaining aerial displays and dogfights from iconic aircraft. This world leading airshow offers something for every vintage aviation fan, with DC-3's, pre-war biplanes, American WW2 fighters and bombers including the P-51, P-47, B17 and of course the crowd favourites from the Battle of Britain including Hurricanes, Spitfires, Messerschmitts and many more. Flying Legends culminates in the finale Balbo formation when all the WW2 fighters take to the skies to salute you in a mass flypast.

The Twynhams Tours package gets you to the heart of the action with a full day of VIP hospitality. Our exclusive ‘Hangar Suite’ has incredible views across the airfield from its private terrace. An exquisite all-day menu with complimentary bar makes this the only way to spend your day at Flying Legends.

Flying Legends - Exclusive VIP hospitality and a private terrace with panoramic views of the airfield

Timetable for your day at Flying Legends:
09:00 Flying Legends opens // Flight Lounge opens for morning pastries, tea and coffee // Flight Line Walk opens // 11.00 Drinks reception served with assorted canapés // 12.00 Last entry to the Flight Line Walk // Lunch service commences // 12.30 Flight line walk closes // 14.00 Flying Legends Flying Display starts // 15.30 English afternoon tea served // 17.45 Flying Legends flying display ends // 18.15 Sundowner cocktail //18.30 Evening Flying display 'The Blades' // 19.00 Flying Legends Flight Lounge closes.
*Please note timings are subject to chang

On completion of the flying programme the coaches will be ready to transfer you to our boutique hotel for the next four nights. You’ll have the rest of the evening to enjoy an inclusive dinner in their superb restaurant, or relax in the bar and chat over the day’s flying display with new friends.

After breakfast today, we make the short journey into Norfolk and visit the village of Thorpe Abbotts. In June 1943 Thorpe Abbotts became home to the 100th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force, otherwise known as the ‘Bloody Hundredth’ due to the immense B-17 losses endured during the daylight raids over Nazi occupied Europe. The 100th BG is the group that will be featured in the forthcoming Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg drama series, Masters of the Air.

Thorpe Abbotts fully restored, ex-USAAF 100th BG control tower

Although the ‘friendly invasion’ of the American airmen was relatively short lived the impact on the local community was considerable; airbase personnel outnumbered local villagers. Following the closure of the airfield in 1956, the tower and other buildings fell into disrepair until in 1977 local volunteers made enquiries about restoring the old control tower as a living memorial to American personnel who served at the base during World War Two. The Landowner Sir Rupert Mann, whose family had owned the land during the war, was approached and following a satisfactory survey of the building, a 999-year lease was negotiated for a small area in the North-East corner of the old airfield which included the tower.

When volunteers began restoring the dilapidated tower they were faced with a massive task, including clearing the debris from several years of pigs living in the tower during the 1950s-1960s. Today the museum is a moving testament to the Americans, who in the pursuit of peace, came to Thorpe Abbotts to fight alongside the allies.

After lunch at a traditional British pub, our next stop on today’s tour is the 95th Bomb Group Memorial at nearby Horham in Suffolk. Their home from June 1943 until the end of the war, the 95th was famously the first US group to bomb Berlin in daylight during WW2.

Horham, home of the 95th BG and their famous 'Red Feather Club'