Return to Hardwick is a documentary about the 93rd Bomb Group, based at RAF Hardwick airfield, in Norfolk, England. The film recounts their life during World War II, then switches to follow two generations of the families of the service members who spent the war at Hardwick.
Pilots and crews of the B-24 Liberator bombers typically awoke hours before dawn. Those first few minutes of waking must have been powerful, in the quiet night of East Anglia, the pastoral farmland stretching to the sea, peaceful and dark. Imagine them donning their gear, drinking tea or coffee, reviewing aircraft maintenance reports and mission briefs, worrying at what might have been missed, all the while trying not to think about whether they were coming back. Some nights might have brought no sleep at all, simply rising from a restless bunk to prepare for the flight.
“…two generations of the families of the service members who spent the war at Hardwick.”
The mission scope was measured in pounds of aviation fuel scheduled to be loaded on the aircraft. More gas meant more hours aloft, to targets deeper into Germany, more exposure to anti-aircraft guns, and more of the deadly threat of enemy fighter pilots intent (and often successful) on shooting them down. It seems unlikely that any of the men on those missions would ever have entertained the notion that nearly 80 years on their families would come to this lonely, distant place to see where they served.
In the context of war, we learn that life was lived, not put on hold. Weddings took place among the funerals, as did a myriad of other major events. This time marked everyone involved, and their families and ancestors, in a powerful moment of reckoning, where the forces of democracy and freedom stood against the darkness of fascism. It is an elegant, elegiac reminder of who we were and who we can be again.
"…an elegant, elegiac reminder of who we were and who we can be again."