ROC Control Room Header image 1500 x 390 copy


Itinerary: Masters of the Air

Perhaps you’ve heard of the infamous bomber boys of the USAAF 8th Air Force, known as the ‘Mighty Eighth’? Maybe you’ve read the fantastic non-fiction book by Donald L Miller, which recounts the heroic true story of the American Air Force bomber unit who brought the war to Hitler's doorstep? If this is the first you’ve heard of it, be sure to catch the upcoming nine-part Apple TV drama ‘Masters of the Air’, starring Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan, and produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks. 

After binging the series, you’ll want to pay a visit to some key locations in and around Bury St Edmunds where you can delve into the extraordinary stories of the US army airforce who found themselves stationed in Suffolk during WWII. Why not make a weekend of it and uncover some fascinating history whilst enjoying all that the area has to offer.

Day 1

Appleby Rose Garden 965 x 540 copy

Begin your weekend in style as you arrive at the luxurious Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds on Friday evening. Choose from a selection of bespoke and individual rooms; each carefully designed in eclectic and elegant decor. Enjoy the thoughtful touches such as gorgeous toiletries, sumptuous bedding and even views of the cathedral from some rooms. Upgrade to a Copper room and enjoy a deep bath in a spectacular freestanding copper tub.

After you’ve unpacked and settled in, head down to the Angel’s Bar for a cocktail or two.

Day 2

ROC Control Room 965 x 540


After breakfast, stride out and make your way to Bury St Edmunds Guildhall which boasts the country’s only surviving WWII Royal Observer Corps Operations room. During the war, the room- situated on the first floor of the building, was occupied by the 14th Group who worked tirelessly to protect the skies of Suffolk by relaying vital messages to crews at local air bases including Rougham and Lavenham. Book onto a tour (by appointment only) and a knowledgeable guide will be sure to answer all your questions while they take you on a journey through the Guildhall’s remarkable 800 year history.


For lunch, head to the Corn Exchange which today is home to a Wetherspoons but has seen hundreds of years of history including during WWII, when it was a favourite dance spot for GI's based at Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham.

After lunch, stroll to the Abbey Gardens and take in the glorious roses which grow there. Although during the war these gardens housed pigs to contribute to the war effort, nowadays they are a sight to behold with over 400 fragrant rose bushes. The garden is even named after the American serviceman John Appleby, who served in the 487th bomb group in Lavenham. The eagle-eyed can spot a memorial stone paying tribute to the many US service men and women stationed in Suffolk as well as a rather unusual bench, fashioned from the wing of a Flying Fortress Bomber aircraft.

On your return walk, be sure to pass by the impressive Athenaeum, which served as a vital location for the troops to gather together, eat and socialise during the war. John Appleby praised the local people of Bury St Edmunds for creating a hub of entertainment and well-priced delicious food, as well as a lending library and mending service. By the time it closed its doors in 1945, the Athenaeum had seen almost a million and a half service men and women cross its threshold!

If you have time, book a Bury Tour Guides ‘Masters of the Air’ Tour for the ultimate insight into the links between the film and Bury St Edmunds' buildings and locations. This one hour walk will take you all around the town with a specialist guide there to breathe life into the history, people and events which contributed to the war effort.

Day 3

Rougham Control Tower 965 x 540 copy


On Sunday make your way over to Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum where you can step back in time to life during the war on the airbase. The museum itself is housed in the original control tower with a specific room dedicated to the brave war hero Frederick Walker Castle.

Browse the fascinating collection of memorabilia including photos, artefacts, uniforms, letters, and photographs, which tell the story of the Bury St Edmunds base and the US personnel stationed there. Afterwards, check out the flight of peace sculpture which commemorates the US Airforce’s arrival at Rougham Airfield in 1943. The awe-inspiring B17 Flying Fortress commemoration sculpture, with a dove of peace blossoming from it, is in symbolic remembrance of those gallant American servicemen who, by preparing, maintaining and flying the B17 Flying Fortress bombers, contributed to lasting peace in Europe.


For lunch, head to the ICE Restaurant, just 5 minutes drive from Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum. Tucked away in an unlikely location just off J45 of the A14, ICE is located in the middle of the Rougham Industrial Estate in a converted warehouse with lots of free onsite parking, it really is well worth a visit. During WWII the industrial estate would have been the old technical site, the hub of the airfield with many stores, armouries & workshops repairing aircraft, engines, propellers, avionic instruments, and vehicles. ICE has a quirky interior, fitted out with a retro, industrial feel. This restaurant offers incredible food and amazing drinks all prepared and served with love by the extra friendly ICE team. The menu literally offers something for everyone from mac n cheese and monster burgers to a delicious superfood salad and the famous ICE full English breakfast.

Before you head home, you must swing by the village of Lavenham and pop into the Airmen's Bar in The Swan Hotel. A visit here is like stepping back in time to the 1940’s, with an inspiring collection of signatures and momentos adorning the walls, each a reminder of the members of the RAF Lavenham who used to frequent the bar to socialise and relax during the war. Take time to read ‘The boot record’ which is inscribed on the wall and shows the attempts of many servicemen to drink three and a half pints of ale from a glass boot in the quickest time!

Latest news

Bury St Edmunds Powered by DestinationCore