​​Bicycles of Thorpe Abbots​

United Kingdom




​​​The quickest and most efficient way to navigate around the airfield known as Station 139, Thorpe Abbots, was on bicycles. The airfield and surrounding villages were full of bicycles which were used by the personnel who were living in the area.

​​​In the village of Thorpe Abbots, next to the Lion Public House, was the cycle repair workshop. ‘Valiants Cycles’ stored hundreds of bicycles that were for sale or being repaired.

The American crews used to head to the village, leaving their bicycles in the hedgerows as they visited the local pub and got drunk. Many would forget where they had left their bicycles and walk back to their billets on the airfield, leaving the bicycles behind. Staff at ‘Valiants Cycles’ would head out and collect the bicycles littering the area, taking them back to the shop, where they were be repaired if needed and resprayed. Valiants then put them back up for sale. With hundreds of personal at the airfield, Valiants owners made very good money off the trading of bicycles.

Within the workshops on the airfield, a small amount of American bicycles were made. Most were purchased from local shops, which were also happy to recycle them if needed. A local boy who lived in the area recounted how after the war the bicycles were still for sale and could be purchased at Valiants or another bicycle store in Brockdish.

The Village Hall, now at the heart of Thorpe Abbots, was paid for by the USAAF shortly after the war. There is a picture of a B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft above the entrance door, and a village sign at the driveway of the hall incorporates a B-17. The USAAF have never been forgotten by the villagers that surround the airfield. One local boy recalled how quickly in 1945 it became a ghost village on the airfield. Empty buildings, curtains still fluttering, and unsecure windows banging. Locals avoid where the hospital once stood, which was the first site to be dismantled, stating they could feel a presence in the area. Some of the airfield's infrastructure remains around the village area, but it is mostly on private property.


​​The Street, Thorpe Abbots​, ​​Diss​, ​​Norfolk, IP21 4JA​