Click on the box around Earls Colne to learn more about how this area looks today. The industrial park that the base has become includes an impressive memorial to its wartime service, and Billy's friend Bob Mims, shot down on a mission in February, 1944, was a featured speaker at the dedication.
Here is a local area web page that gives a nice history of the Earls Colne Airfield, both before and after the Marauders were in residence. And here is a description of a visit I made to the former base in 2008. I hope to someday be able to visit some of the other locations on this map.
Billy called several small towns in England and France "home" during his service in the E.T.O. He spent the most time at Earls Colne, England, a long-term base for the 323rd Bombardment Group. But due to Billy's switching around to different Groups, and also due to the movement of bases as the war, and the front lines, advanced, he spent time at the other bases whose names are indicated above in black. Also appearing on the map above (in red type) are some other towns mentioned in the Journal, other than as part of mission write-ups, or are the subjects of photographs Billy took (or are represented on artifacts) which you can see in the galleries. The town noted in purple, Chorley, where Billy reported prior to his return home in the fall of 1944, is north of the border of this map, in Lancashire County, England. Country names, and other cities (in blue type) are given as points of reference.
For more information on Marauder bases in England, see this information from the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
Here are the dates during which he was located at the following bases:
|Earls Colne, England||323rd||August, 1943–mid-February, 1944|
|Matching, England||391st||mid-February, 1944–mid-April, 1944|
|Rivenhall, England||397th||mid-April, 1944–late May, 1944|
|Earls Colne, England||323rd||late May, 1944–mid-July, 1944|
|Beaulieu, England||323rd||mid-July, 1944–late August, 1944|
|Lessay, France||323rd||late August, 1944–mid-September, 1944|
|*Chartres, France||323rd||mid-September, 1944–early October, 1944|
|*Laon-Athies, France||323rd||October, 1945–February, 1945|
* Billy was only at Chartres for a short time, and flew no missions from there. He was ordered back to England—specifically, to the "Casual Pool, 12th Replacement Control Depot, Station 591" (which was in the town of Chorley) "on or about September 28 to await transportation to the Zone of the Interior" (which means home). He spent some time in England (whether all of it in Chorley or not, we do not know) since he did not actually get that transportation until late October. He was thus never at the 323rd's base in Laon-Athies. We found pictures labelled "Laon," however, in with some of his papers, that look like they were taken in the dead of winter (see below); I can only conclude that they were sent to him by friends still in the E.T.O.
Above is Earl's Colne during the war; at right is Rivenhall today.
I want to thank a gentleman whose father served with the 323rd Bombardment Group in the winter of 1944-5, who contacted me after finding this website. He said that the photos above look very much like ones his father has of Laon-Athies. However, the ones his father has of the camp which were taken in October and November featured plenty of mud, but no snow at all. So these photos were definitely taken well after Billy left the E.T.O. and must have been sent to him by friends still over there.