Thursday, June 1, 2023

An American Heraldic Stray in Cambridgeshire, England

Having done now with our personal side trip to Grantchester while attending the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held last year in Cambridge, we come now to the full-day excursion for Congress attendees, which took us to two parish churches and to Ely Cathedral.

There was, alas, no heraldry to be found in the Church of St. Cyriac and St. Julitta in Swaffam Prior, so my few photos of some of the old gravestones that I took for my wife, who enjoys old carved grave markers as much as I do, won't be included here, as being unrelated to the topic of this blog.

Holy Trinity Church Bottisham, though, had a fair bit of heraldry in it, and you will get to see what I saw there.

As one on-line reviewer said of this church, "it is thought to be one of the most recognizable churches in Cambridgeshire. It's a very fine building - one of the four in Cambridgeshire that Simon Jenkins rated with three stars - and definitely worth visiting." I have to agree.

But one of the most surprising, at least to me, bits of heraldry to be found there was an heraldic stray, all the way from the United States of America.

The 361st Fighter Group was a unit of the 8th U.S. Army Air Force, whose primary function was to escort and protect the bombers of the "Mighty Eighth" in their missions to bomb targets in occupied Europe during the last half of World War II.

The planes used by the Group are shown in profile on the memorial plaque above: to the left, a P-47D Thunderbolt (with the "razorback" canopy and fairing); to the right, a P-51D Mustang (with a "bubble" canopy giving greater all-round visibility for the pilot). If you click on the image above, you can see in greater detail the entire plaque and these two aircraft.

The insignia at the center top of the plaque is, of course, that of the 8th Air Force. Here's what it looks like in full color. (This image is taken from Wikipedia.) On a blue field, a winged numeral 8, the lower part charged with the pre- and early-WWII roundel marking U.S. military aircraft: Azure on a mullet throughout argent a roundel gules.

I have to admit that I never expected to find U.S. military heraldry in a parish church in England! It just goes to show once again that "You can find (all kinds of) heraldry everywhere!"

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