The contents of a battered old suitcase which revealed the story of one of Boxted Airfield’s American pilots will be this year’s star exhibition at the museum.

The story of Robert Silva will be told at the airfield museum in Langham, where up to 3,000 American servicemen were based.

The 23-year-old was based at the airfield during the Second World War before he was killed when his plane came down in bad weather over the Channel.

He had been escorting the first daytime bombing raid to Berlin on March 4, 1944 but neither his body nor the wreckage of his place were ever found.

His mum put all his possessions, including 100 letters he had written home, his Purple Heart medal and the telegram informing her of his death, in an old suitcase on top of a wardrobe.

His nephew, Bruce Henderson, who is a best selling American author, has now donated the suitcase to the Boxted Airfield Historical group, which runs the museum.

Chairman Richard Turner said: “The family agreed for it to be in our safekeeping for evermore, it is fantastic and will give a lovely personal story.

“This is the new exhibition with a really strong story attached to it.”

The museum will hold its first open day of the year on Sunday between 10am and 4pm.

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