Shadows of The Mighty Eighth

November 2018.

A connection across the generations; another world war; a tenuous geographical link from across an ocean. An imprint from the past.

A stroll in the late autumn Norfolk sunshine sent me off on a tangent, and a departure from my usual subject matter. Three names calling out from a redbrick wall.

My forbears in the Crook family had roots since the early 1900’s at Overa Cottages, Eccles. But as the memory faded of their lost sons who perished in the clay of Flanders, the desert sands of Mesopotamia, or put down roots in Canada; literally just across the railway line from that old house, in 1942, a new world war came to them.

If you’re familiar with modern house builders, the name Taylor Woodrow is well known, but back in 1942 they were busy in the Breckland fields opposite the Crook farmhouse, constructing RAF Snetterton Heath. With that would come the boys of the 386th and 96th Bombardment Groups of the United States Eighth Army Airforce. Farm boys from across the ocean? A familiar tale.

Just as the Crook boys had dispersed around the world, another generation of sons found themselves on foreign soil.

D.O.Steele, Texas USA ’43
Chauncy N Danner, Adelphi, Ohio
David H Schroeder, Ohio

D.O. Steele, Texas, USA, ’43, Chauncy N Danner, Adelphi, Ohio, David H Schroeder, Ohio.

Three names, carved with a penknife tip, into the soft red brick wall of the White Horse pub at Kenninghall.

A couple of miles from the airfield. A lifetime away from home. A sanctuary from war and homesickness. Sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, comrades. Strangers.

By the time the B-17s stood across the cornfields at harvest time in 1943, the Crook family was long gone from Eccles. Soon the American boys would be gone too.

Like the Crook brothers in another war; memorials in stone. An unknown story, a hidden history.

Another project, for another day.

RAF Snetterton Heath

Image © Imperial War Museum

Further reading here:

Researching their names, I found this link to an obituary for Chauncy N Danner:

Chauncy was born April 4th 1920 and passed away April 13th 2014. I can only imagine the thoughts of a 23yr old as he carved his name so far from home.

There didn’t seem to be any immediately obvious sources for D.O. Steele, but a search for David H Schroeder uncovered the below enlistment details for him:

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