TWINWOOD Airfield is one of the least-known tourist attractions in Britain. Travellers have to be alerted to it by academics, especially those enthralled by musical history.
Right now, there is a sudden surge of interest and tomorrow is a red letter day for the devotees of 1940s big band swing music.
It is the anniversary of the presentation of the first solid gold record to American bandleader Glenn Miller – the first artist in history to sell more than a million copies of a single – Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Even though he was a superstar for just four years, he recorded 23 number one hits – more than Elvis Presley (18) and the Beatles (20) did in their respective careers. Miller’s successes included In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Pennsylvania 6-5000, A String of Pearls and American Patrol.
Why the interest in Twinwood, on the outskirts of Bedford in the midlands north of London? During World War II it was home to many American entertainers, due to its proximity to the then-secret BBC headquarters.
In 1942, Major Glenn Miller (who had volunteered for the US Army) and his orchestra played an open-air concert for American airmen there. And it was from there he set off on December 15, 1944, to entertain troops in France. His plane, a single-engined Norseman, disappeared in thick fog and was never seen again.
Now aviation experts from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is about to check out an area of the English Channel where experts believe the wreck of Miller’s Norseman lies.
The original Twinwood control tower is now a Glenn Miller Museum which features an annual music festival in August, with a British Glenn Miller Big Band and tourists dressed in the fashions of the ‘40s.
The former owner of the land, on which the Twinwood airfield was built, once offered to sell the tower to Miller’s descendants for 30,000 pounds, but the family baulked at the price.
They now know it would have been a bargain, as those tourists in the know flock to Bedford hoping to get “in the mood”.