What harbour shelters peace?
That photo heads a Rest Is Noise post linked to Alex Ross' New Yorker article about the symbolic power of music. Alex quite correctly credits the photo as appearing in the program booklet for Toscanini's 1944 Red Cross benefit at Madison Square Garden and showing a 1943 mission by the 390th Bombardment Group. But there is another musical connection which Alex may not be aware of. During the Second World War the USAF bomber squadrons were based in East Anglia as the region offered the shortest flight paths to important targets in Germany. and between 1943 and 1945 the 390th Bombardment Bomb Group was based at Station 153 Parham in Suffolk.
Just eleven miles from Parham is Aldeburgh, and for four years from 1785 the poet George Crabbe lived at the Moat House in Parham. Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes* is, of course, based on the eponymous narrative poem in George Crabbe's poetry collection The Borough. Crabbe wrote the poems in The Borough between 1804 and 1809; although they post-date Crabbe's time in Parham it is known that the poet's stay in the village was not a happy one, and it can be conjectured that some of the darkness in Peter Grimes originated in those years.
Alex Ross' New Yorker piece reflects on the bellicose posturing of the new American president, and there are many overgrown paths to be explored between the US, pacifism, and Britten. I, like many of my peers, have lamented the tragic consequences of 'intervention' by the US and other Western powers in the Middle East. But it is also worth reflecting on what the state of the world would be today had not the brave young personnel of 390th Bombardment Bomb Group - which lost 740 aircrew killed in action with a further 754 taken prisoners of war - joined the other Allied forces in defeating Hitler, Allied forces which, incidentally, included heroic Muslims.
* My headline is a quote from the Prologue of Peter Grimes. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).Also on Facebook and Twitter.