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WWII chaplain honoured in Bury St Edmunds’ tour

A new guided tour by Bury Tour Guides unveils the story of Fr Joe Collins, a USAAF chaplain in Rougham, detailing his vital role and the profound impact of WWII on Bury St Edmunds.

The compelling story of Fr Joe Collins, the USAAF Catholic chaplain at Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, is featured in a new guided tour by Bury Tour Guides which explores wartime in the town. A fascinating insight is given to the changed use of buildings and the adaptation to a different society and culture – the arrival of allied American troops was the biggest ‘invasion’ of the Country since the Norman Conquest. It was an era before PTSD was recognised and in addition to his ministry, Fr Joe provided much needed counselling and support on a range of issues. He was renowned for being in the Control Tower praying for the safety of the airmen at the beginning of their sorties and he remained there until their return or to be on hand to cope with the aftermath of tragedy.

His work was recognised by the two local priests who gave him a 16th century chalice which was returned to St Edmund’s Church by his nephew in 2018. The chalice, dating from around 1600, was a token of gratitude from Frs Lockyer and Throckmorton for Fr Joe’s service during the war. After his death, his nephew, Bill Christie, returned the chalice to St Edmund’s Church in a moving ceremony that highlighted the deep bonds formed during the war. This act of returning the chalice, which had been in the USA since World War II, symbolised the enduring friendship and appreciation for Fr Joe’s ministry.

More detail of the ‘masters of the air’ tour, which includes a visit to the only surviving ROC Operations Room in the Country, is at

Parishioner and guide, John Saunders added, “The tour guides are among the top ten finalists for the VisitEngland Tourism Superstars award which is mentioned on the website for which votes can be cast by anyone from anywhere.”

For additional information on the chalice, please visit this article.

Pictured above, the chalice is presented in Bury St Edmunds, by Bill and Maryann Christie, right to Fr Alvan Ibeh, watched by John Saunders. 

Pictured below is Fr Joe Collins, credit to William Christie.