In 1942 General Eisenhower stated that British society was ‘devoid of racial consciousness’:
When white plane crews (known as the ‘white flyers’) began to arrive in Suffolk in 1943 and 1944 to start flight operations, racial tensions began to appear as white servicemen, especially from the southern states, were confounded by the liberal freedoms that many of the Black servicemen had in Britain, and with the relative acceptance by Suffolk people. Being served in a bar, walking on the pavements and more incredulously, walking out with a white women was in stark contradiction to the Jim Crows laws of back home. These interactions between the Black and white servicemen often led to conflict and the intervention of the military police.
Smaller towns like Eye and Diss often had “white nights” and “black nights” for passes to segregate US troops in their time off. In larger towns the US Army established a network of Black-only and white-only pubs and dance halls. In Ipswich, for example, a centre for white airmen and Black support and construction troops in East Anglia, designated a number of pubs as “exclusively for coloured troops”, particularly in the area around St Peter’s Street where the American Red Cross Club for Black GIs was located. Rougham was placed off limits to whites and the Duke of York in Ditchingham, near Bungay, which serviced Flixton Airfield, was for blacks only.
James Waddell, stationed at Eye and Debach, as part of the 847th Aviation Engineers Battalion, recalled:
Johnny Speight, based in East Anglia during WW2 recalls….
‘I was in a Suffolk pub one evening and there was a…riot. All these Americans were objecting to one of their black soldiers who had taken up with a local girl. She was white of course. They had him up at one end of the bar and they were going to lynch him…terrifying it was”
Historian, R Douglas Brown suggests that the only serious evidence of racial tension occurred within the US Services. Historian, Graham Smith states ‘Blacks were warmly welcomed in Britain, and the action of the white Americans in furthering a colour bar was roundly condemned.’ Although it must be noted there was an almost universal dislike of the blacks associating with white women.