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Poignant flight over Saltby Airfield near Grantham for American couple

An American couple were flown over an airfield where the wife’s father flew from on D-Day in 1944.

Authors Jack and Sue Talley, who are currently touring Britain, were treated to a flight over Grantham when they visited Saltby Airfield as part of their tour.

The couple had a “very special” reason to visit Saltby due to Sue’s father, George Gurwell.

Jack (left) and Sue Talley (right) with some of George's letters.
Jack (left) and Sue Talley (right) with some of George's letters.

George was a paratrooper with the US 82nd Airborne Division and flew from Saltby on June 6, 1944, in a Douglas C-47 of the 314th Troop Carrier Group.

He then parachuted into Normandy at around 2am on the morning of June 7, with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIF) as part of Operation Overlord, a codename for the Battle of Normandy.

This battle resulted in the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe.

Left to right: Dave Unwin, Sue Talley and Jack Talley
Left to right: Dave Unwin, Sue Talley and Jack Talley

Sue said: “I will never forget the care and hospitality of Nottingham and Saltby in memory of my father and the 508 PIF.”

When the 508th came back to England on July 17, 1944, they returned to their station in Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

Of the 2,056 that left, only 995 returned.

The couple’s visit to Saltby first came about when local historian Darren Bond contacted the Buckminster Gliding Club to explain the couple wanted to visit the airfield as part of their tour.

Darren had been in touch with the couple for a year, and said: “It was amazing to see all the pieces come together.

Dave Unwin in the plane with Jack Talley
Dave Unwin in the plane with Jack Talley

“It was an honour to be able to be their UK host and join them in this part of their pilgrimage.”

The club were more than happy to facilitate their visit and pilot Dave Unwin offered them a surprise flight in the Scheibe SF-25 motor glider.

The couple thought they were going to visit the airfield and be driven along the runway by resident Ray Bennett, who remembers the American troops in 1944 when he was a child.

Dave said: “When the club heard the story about why the Talleys were visiting, we were of course eager to make their visit extra special.

“I really enjoyed taking Sue flying on what was clearly a very memorable and emotional experience for her.”

George died in 2004. After his death, Sue and Jack discovered Second World War memorabilia in his house and among it was over 1,000 letters between George and his wife, Jeane.

Also among the letters was a ‘Round Robin’ letter, a Christmas letter sent to multiple recipients.

Before the letter reached Jeane, 48 of the 508th officers' wives had already contributed to it.

Historians regarded this letter as “unique” and this then prompted Sue and Jack to write a book called Never Give Up The Jump, containing snippets of the letters.

After Dave parked the aircraft after the flight, he read a “beautifully written” letter that George had sent on June 5, 1944.

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