History of the Museum

Thurleigh as an airfield dates back to July 1940 when work began to build a Bomber Command Base as part of a massive nationwide building programme.

An R.A.F. party arrived in July 1941 to open the far from complete airfield.

The early days of 1942 saw a major influx of personnel to Thurleigh with the formation of 160 Squadron R.A.F. Their stay was brief, they left for the Middle East in February.


At about the same time 18 Operational Training Unit arrived with its Wellington Bombers and Polish crews who left in early June.

The airfield then underwent a considerable expansion of facilities to accommodate an American Heavy Bomber Group.

In September 1942 the 306th Bombardment Group arrived.


On 9th October 1942 a formation of B17 Flying Fortress left Thurleigh on the first of what was to be 341 daylight bombing missions over occupied Europe. The 19th April 1945 saw the Group return to their wartime home after what was to be their final combat mission of the war.

Thurleigh airfield became the first base in England to be handed over completely to the Americans, giving them full sovereignty and control of these few acres.

The 306th stayed longer than any other Eighth Air Force combat Unit at a single base and longer in England than any other Eighth Air Force bomber or fighter unit.