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A Suffolk Summer - The Book Written in WWII That Made the Abbey Gardens' Rose Garden

A Suffolk Summer Created a Lasting Tribute

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When Tech Sgt John Tate Appleby from Arkansas stumbled from a train on to the dark and rainy platform at Cockfield railway station in Suffolk one evening in March 1945, the war in Europe was all but over.

The last mission of the 8th US Army Air Force flew in April 1945, just after John Appleby’s arrival at the 487th Bomb Group in Lavenham. It was his first visit to England.

Before the war Appleby studied at Sorbonne and worked as a reporter for the Paris Times. When he returned to the USA, he worked at The Washington Post as a columnist writing the famous newspaper's 'Post Impressions' column and book reviews.

Appleby served with the Eighth Air Force (the mighty Eighth as it was known) from 1942 to 1945 as a celestial navigation trainer who taught pilots to find targets using the stars during nighttime bombing raids.

But with nighttime sorties becoming less frequent by 1945, during the seven months that he spent in Suffolk he appears to have had plenty of spare time, which he spent travelling around East Anglia, mainly by bicycle.

Although he admired Cambridge, Ely and Norwich, John Appleby fell in love with Suffolk and the result was a book, Suffolk Summer, published in 1948, which has charmed its readers ever since.

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John Appleby gave the copyright to Suffolk Summer to St Edmundsbury Borough Council so that all royalties would be used to maintain the Rose Garden in the Abbey Gardens as a permanent memorial to those Americans based in Bury St Edmunds who gave their lives during World War II.

It was officially named the Appleby Rose Garden.

Originally an orchard, the garden has over 400 rose bushes and a very unique feature is a beautiful bench made from the wing of a B17 Flying Fortress, donated by the US Air Force as a token of the partnership between the soldiers who were stationed at Bury St Edmunds and the locals who lived and worked alongside them.

There's also a stone monument in memory of the 94th Bomb Group. Unveiled in 1977, the monument is dedicated to those Americans ‘who gave their lives during World War II’.

But what happened to John Appleby?

After the war, Appleby returned to Fayetteville where he ran an apple orchard and continued writing. In 1953, he moved back to Washington DC and devoted himself to studying and his love of English history and he wrote several books on English Kings and became membership secretary at the American Historical Association an Associate Editor of the American Historical Review.

John Appleby died at his home in Washington DC on 19 December 1974 after a battle with leukaemia, but the beautiful rose garden in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds in memory of the brave young men who lost their lives so far from their homeland lives on.

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