A piece by Jack Malvern in yesterday’s Times:
A Sheffield pensioner fulfilled a lifelong dream today when thousands gathered for a flypast commemorating a deadly wartime aircrash he witnessed as a child.
Tony Foulds, 82, credits the US crew with sacrificing their lives for his life and those of his friends when they attempted to make an emergency landing in Endcliffe Park in February 1944.
Mr Foulds was eight years old when he witnessed the bomber crash and explode in the park as the pilot apparently tried to avoid him and his friends. All ten of the men on board were killed. Mr Foulds has spent decades dedicating himself to the memory of the airmen he never met, spending up to six days a week tending a memorial to them.
Thousands of people gathered in the park this morning to watch US and RAF planes pay tribute to the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo.
The salute was arranged after a chance encounter between the BBC’s Dan Walker and Mr Foulds. They met as Walker passed through the park and he subsequently started a social media campaign to realise the flypast Mr Foulds had dreamt of.
Mr Foulds said: “I can’t put into words how I feel. I am going to be in tears all day, there’s no doubt about that.”
Mr Foulds said that he and his friends were in the park that day 75 years ago because boys from two rival junior schools were fighting.
He said that the Mi Amigo approached low from the Nether Edge area of the city in an obviously bad way, with only one engine and that the crew would have seen the large expanse of grass as a possible landing place.
The pilot, Lieutenant John Kriegshauser, decided to circle, possibly because he had seen the children.
Mr Foulds said that when the bomber came round again the pilot was waving his arms as a warning. Not knowing what he meant, they just waved back. He said that the bomber crashed after it came round for a third time, just missing the roofs of nearby houses.
“Because we were still there, he had to make a decision: ‘Shall I land on there and hope I don’t hit these kids or try and get over the trees with this one engine?’ Of course, he tried to get over the trees. The engine failed and it dropped straight into the ground.”
Asked why he devoted his life to the men’s memory, Mr Foulds said: “Because they saved my life. I wouldn’t have been here if it hadn’t been for them. They’re my family.”
Depending on the weather, aircraft expected to take part include F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath; a KC-135 Stratotanke, a MC-130J Commando II and a CV-22 Osprey from RAF Mildenhall; and a Typhoon and a Dakota from RAF Coningsby.
Lieutenant Andrew Knighten, the weapons systems officer in one of the F-15E Strike Eagles taking part in the salute, said: “It’s pretty humbling, honestly, just for everyone that’s gone before us and for us to get to fly over and just honour them.”
A four-ship of F-15E Strike Eagles is expected to fly over Cambridge American Cemetery, where three of the Mi Amigo crew are interred, on the way back to base.
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