306th Museum ~~ Thurleigh, England (UK)


The museum is closed until further notice.
It is situated on restricted access property. The museum and 306th monument are not accessible or even viewable from the road when the museum is closed. Regrettably, the museum's founder-operator has experienced a medical condition and he cannot conduct his usual activities.

Click for Museum website (NOTE: the site is operational; however, note the information is limited)

Founder and Curator: Ralph Franklin, who was a "lad in knee pants" during WWII. He often visited with the 306th GI's on the Thurleigh air base in the evenings.

The property: the Museum sits on property that was the former WWII US Thurleigh air base. It is now a closed-facility owned by Jonathan Palmer for his "PalmerSport at Bedford Autodrome" car racing facility. It has a guarded entrance, with strictly NO admittance to the grounds unless (a) the Museum is open, or (b) the guard knows that Ralph Franklin, by appointment, is to meet you at the guarded entrance at any other time. Because of the expanse of the grounds, visitors to the Museum can still get a great visual impression of the former Base.

The Museum: has several rooms and many, many displayed items donated by 306th veterans and their widows. Some of the displays make use of full-sized manikins garbed in authentic WWII uniforms and bridal attire. Just out in the front yard area of the Museum is the 306th Memorial that US WWII veterans and their families paid to erect in 1982, then on a different spot just behind & outside the then Secret RAF Thurleigh Base (earlier the US Army Air Corps Thurleigh Air Base in WWII). In 2012, our 306th Bomb Group Historical Association again paid to have that Memorial professionally moved to be outside the Museum. (In the village of Thurleigh, adjacent to the Village Green, there is another 306th Memorial erected by the good local people.)

Jonathan Palmer has allowed and encouraged Ralph Franklin to operate the 306th Museum at Thurleigh since about 2002. Whenever Ralph's condition allows or other arrangements are made, the Museum will reopen.

Long-term future is uncertain:

2018: Proposal to Develop UK Thurleigh Airfield into Planned Community Unveiled

     It has come to our attention that a development is being planned for the Thurleigh Airfield, which may impact the future of the 306th Bombardment Group Museum in Thurleigh, England. In June 2016, St. Modwen, the UK ' s leading regeneration specialist and MSV Group, joint landowners of the airfield, submitted the Thurleigh Airfield Vision to the Bedford Borough Council a proposal for a new settlement of 5,250 homes, which could deliver a minimum of 2,500 homes within the emerging Local Plan period 2019 to 2035.
     The 306th Bombardment Group Museum in Thurleigh, was opened on July 27, 2002, by proprietor/curator Ralph Franklin. Dr. Jonathan Palmer of Bedford Autodrome, generously donated use the building that houses the museum. In what was once a small arms ammunition storage building, and one of the few remaining original airfield buildings built during World War II, the museum is situated on the airfield, and displays a large collection of artifacts assembled to re-create the activities and atmosphere of the airfield and surrounding area during the war years. Many of those artifacts were donated by our own 306th vets.
     While this development proposal moves forward, the 306th BGHA Board of Directors will continue to liaison with our contacts and interests in the UK while monitoring the progress of the proposal. We endeavor to represent the rich history, connection, and interest our veterans, families, and friends of the 306th BG have with the museum and the surrounding Thurleigh community. Unfortunately, due to recent illness of museum proprietor Ralph Franklin, the museum will remain closed until further notice.
     We will continue to provide relevant updates on our website, Facebook page, in the Echoes newsletter, and via the membership e-mail. Please feel free to contact Bill Feeser, 306th BGHA President if you have any questions or concerns. Bill ' s contact information is on our Link to Leadership Page. To see a summary of the Thurleigh Airfield Vision, as well as a copy of the New Settlement Proposal Summary Document and supporting documents, go to the following link: Click here
     The Local Plan process is anticipated to take several years to complete; it is estimated the plan will not be finalized until sometime in 2019. Following that process, a planning application for the development would be submitted. Further details are available at the following website: Click here
     Readers please note: Our US Association (i.e., 306th BGHA) does not own or control any aspect of the UK museum. We hope our voice, on behalf of our veteran heroes, is heard. It is our goal to be able to facilitate the long-term preservation of the museum ' s collection and the monument to the 306th that stands outside the building.