Rare colour photos of Stansted as American airbase during Second World War generate huge response
An extraordinary collection of rare photographs of Stansted airfield during the Second World War has captivated villagers.
The stunning images transformed into colour were given to Jeremy Goldsmith, owner of Mountfitchet Castle, by a fellow war enthusiast, who discovered them among his archives.
During the conflict, Stansted was an American airbase, and the photos show US airmen relaxing or alongside their bomber aircraft, with ammunition piled up on the ground. Jeremy posted them on the Stansted Matters Facebook page and was overwhelmed by the response.
"Images of Stansted are really hard to find – maybe one or two people back then had cameras and the images were either taken back to America or never survived – so to find pictures of this quality is pretty outstanding," he said.
"I've no idea who took them. I imagine it was one of the ground crew there.
"They're amazing and I had to share them with the community otherwise they're gone forever.
"I've been amazed by how many people have liked them – there's something about World War 2 that still invokes that community spirit."
Jeremy urged anyone with other images or memorabilia to come forward. "It would be wonderful to catalogue it so that it's saved for the village," he said.
FACTFILE: Stansted's early history
- The station was first allocated to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force in August 1942. Construction work by US engineers of the 817th Battalion began that month.
- The airfield was officially opened on August 7, 1943 and was used during the war as RAF Stansted Mountfitchet by the Royal Air Force and the USAAF as a heavy bomber airfield.
- Although the official name was Stansted Mountfitchet, the base was known as simply Stansted in both written and spoken form.
- As well as a bomber base, Stansted was a maintenance and supply depot concerned with major overhauls and modification of B-26s.
- After the Americans' withdrawal on August 12, 1945, Stansted was taken over by the Air Ministry and used by an RAF maintenance unit for storage purposes. From March 1946 to August 1947, it was used for housing German prisoners of war.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation finally took control of Stansted in 1949 and the airport was then used as a base by several UK charter airlines.