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Prisoners of War tell their moving stories to raise funds for artwork project at RAF Honington near Thetford

PUBLISHED: 13:54 25 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:54 25 August 2014

Charles Clarke, second left, and Andrew Wiseman, third right, with RAF Regiment Association members.

Charles Clarke, second left, and Andrew Wiseman, third right, with RAF Regiment Association members.

Archant

Two RAF veterans spoke about their experiences as prisoners during the Second World War at an event designed to raise money for a new piece of artwork at a Norfolk airbase’s memorial site.

With the 75th anniversary of the RAF Regiment - the ground-fighting force of the air force - due in 2017, the Association of RAF Regiment Warrant Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers has decided it wants to commission a fine art piece to go in the place where families gather to pay their respects to loved ones at RAF Honington.

However the bid, known as Project 17, needs to raise a minimum of between £5,000 and £6,000 - and preferably somewhere nearer £10,500 - in order to pay for the artwork, which comprises of an inverted rifle and bayonet.

The rifle would be driven into the ground, with a combat helmet mounted on the top of the weapon.

As such the group, which represents those who have fought in the RAF Regiment, is organising a series of fund-raising events so the fine art piece can be commissioned in 2016, giving the chosen artist a few months to complete the work ready for the anniversary.

The latest event took place at the Bell Inn, in King Street, Thetford on Saturday, August 23, with former Air Commodore Charles Clarke and ex-Warrant Officer Andrew Wiseman telling of their time at Stalag Luft 3 - a Nazi-run prisoner of war camp - during the Second World War after both were shot down in 1944.

Historian Howard Tuck helped with the presentation, with AC Clarke and WO Wiseman talking about their experience of the Long March, where they and other prisoners were forced to march westwards across Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany in the final stages of the conflict.

A meal, fittingly called The Great Escape Dinner, was then held for RAF Regiment members in the evening.

John Lynch, honorary secretary of the association and chairman of the Project 17 sub-committee, said: “There is a lot of history in Thetford and in particular it has a lot of military history. We felt this would be a suitable topic.”

Asked why the project was important, he replied: “Lest we forget. We must remember them. The memorial at Honington is something quite close to my heart. We want to make a contribution and think the association can do that.”

He added: “We do want to get local businesses and people involved and make them aware of the project.”

As a result the presentation was opened up to members of the public to learn about Project 17 and hear the POWs’ story.

WO Wiseman added that it was important to alert people to the work of prisoners during the war, who made great sacrifices in some very tough conditions in order to serve their country.

Are you organising a community project in the Thetford area? Contact EDP South Norfolk community editor Andrew Papworth on 01379 651153 or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk


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