The Americans

During the Second World War Griston was the base for the 3rd Strategic Air Depot of the US Eighth Air Force. Large tracts of farmland were taken, to provide workshops, accommodation, recreation and medical facilities and a large motor pool for vehicles. The village was virtually surrounded by the American presence, with RAF Watton also having been taken over by them.

The parish church was used by the Protestant servicemen. Chaplain Philip Pennington conducted their weekly Sunday morning services and he was assisted by Sergeant Herman di Brandi. Parishioners were welcomed to share their worship. The Americans were extremely generous, donating the collections from three services each month to the parish church, retaining the third for their own church expenses. Each week they would arrange flowers for the altar and their decorations for special services, such as Christmas and Easter, were very elaborate.  Extra seating had to be brought in to accommodate the large numbers of servicemen.

Christmas alter

The Christmas Altar



Easter Alter

The Easter Altar















American Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve Service


Christmas Eve Service

Christmas Eve Service










The Americans had their own choir and Dorothy Parrot, a local young lady, was their organist.   There was no electric at Griston at this time so the organ had to be pumped and Dorothy’s  sister Betty (Norris) did this.  The choir gave performances at both Norwich Cathedral and St. Peter Mancroft church in Norwich.  Dorothy would travel with them for such events.

American choir

The American Choir with their organist Dorothy Parrot

A memorial plaque to the men of the 3rd SAD is on the south wall of the nave.  Another memorial, designed by Tommy Land who was based at Giston, is in the churchyard by the porch.  Another is situated at the entrance to the HMP Wayland which stands on the former 3rd SAD site.