Sat nav sends US servicemen round the wrong bend in Suffolk

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press
By Rebecca Gough
July 2, 2011

They may have the same name – but that’s where the similarities well and truly stop.

One is a sleepy village in Wiltshire – and the other is 170 miles away and the largest US air base in the UK.

But thanks to a mix-up caused by in-car satellite navigation systems, American service personnel are being directed to Mildenhall, near Marlborough, in the west country rather than the massive RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.

John Desmond, the landlord of the Horseshoe Inn, a popular pub in the Wiltshire village, said personnel arrived roughly 11 or 12 times a year.

“It’s mainly American airforce personnel who end up in the village asking, ‘Where’s the airbase?’,” he said. “Then I have to break the bad news to them. 
“I always let them sit down because you’ve got a feel a bit sorry for them, especially when they’ve been travelling a long way.

“I’ve had a fighter pilot and a major and I had a family of eight in a people carrier. The family stayed for some Sunday lunch. It’s sad really because they’ve come so far.
“With the US major he picked the car up from Heathrow, which is quite close to us, and just typed in Mildenhall and of course it brought him here.

“It’s mostly Americans but we also get German and French lorry drivers. They’re gobsmacked when they find out that the base is in Suffolk.”

RAF Mildenhall is one of the largest US air bases in the UK. It is home to several airborne units and supports 16,000 personnel

Mildenhall, Wiltshire, is a village of thatched cottages with a population of 457 in the 2001 census. The name is pronounced “Minal”.

Despite reports that a USAF navigator, major and fighter pilot are among those who have ended up in the village, the RAF base says it has no records of “lost personnel”. …

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