THE EMPIRE THEATRE

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In the Footsteps of Bud Owens - UK Film Premier

Saturday 24th June, 2017, 5.00 for 5.30pm -  Tickets £5.00

Preserving A Legacy: In The Footsteps of Bud Owens

Producer: Geert Van den Bogaert
Associate Producer: Sean Claxton
Director of Photography: Jed Henry

Tracing the journey of a Ridgewell hero

A film telling the story of 'Bud' Owens and his hazardous journey through Nazi-occupied France.

Francis "Bud" Owens was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He joined the US Army Air Forces as a B-17 gunner in 1942 and was assigned to the 381st Bombardment Group of the American Eighth Air Force in March 1943. Owens was awarded the Soldier's Medal for saving a man's life during a bomb loading accident at RAF Ridgewell on June 23, 1943. He later saved the life of his B-17 radio operator when their aircraft was shot down over France on July 4, 1943. Bud Owens evaded capture by the Germans, but died of exposure crossing the Pyrenees on October 25, 1943.

Proceeds from this event to go to the Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Association Museum

Built during 1941-42 as an RAF bomber station, Ridgewell operated as a satellite to RAF Stradishall until May 1943. It had three concrete runways, initially 36 pan hardstandings, and two dispersed T2 hangars. Taken over by the Eighth Air Force in June 1943 as home to the 381st Bomb Group, equipped with B-17s, the hardstandings were increased to 50 pans and five loops. The 381st Bomb Group flew a total of 297 missions and lost 165 B-17s while based at Ridgewell, although at least two specially-named B-17s 'Rotherhithe's Revenge' and 'Stage Door Canteen' each completed over 100 missions. After the 381st Bomb Group left in June 1945, the station was handed back to the RAF and used as a Maintenance Unit munitions store until 1957. Although most of the site has since been sold, demolished and returned to agriculture, MOD retained the hangars as an extra storage facility for the USAFE at Wethersfield and Alconbury until the early 1990s. A small, private collection of SWW memorabilia is currently displayed in and around the old Hospital building by the Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Association.

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