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Suffolk airbases prepare for ‘memorable’ anniversary flypast

PUBLISHED: 16:49 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 31 January 2019

The crew of B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed

The crew of B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed "Mi Amigo" of the 305th Bomb Group. Back Row: Robert Mayfield, Vito Ambrosio, Harry Estabrooks, George Williams, Charles Tuttle, Maurice Robbins. Front Row: John Kriegshauser, Lyle Curtis, Melchor Hernandez, John Humphrey Picture: AMERICAN WAR MUSEUM

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Two Suffolk airbases are gearing up to take part in a “memorable tribute” to a crew of US airmen who lost their lives when their plane crashed 75 years ago.

RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, which both house US Air Force units and personnel, will honour the victims of the ‘Mi Amigo’ crash in 1944 with a special anniversary flypast.

The B-17 Flying Fortress – known as Mi Amigo – crashed in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield on February 22, 1944, killing all ten men on board.

The story has captivated people across the country and beyond after a chance meeting between BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and Tony Foulds, who witnessed the crash when he was eight-years-old.

Mr Foulds, who has tended the park’s memorial to the victims for decades, told Walker of his wishes for a flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash as a tribute to the victims.

Tony Foulds at the memorial he has loving tended for 75 years to the 10 US airmen who died in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield in 1944 Picture: DAN WALKERTony Foulds at the memorial he has loving tended for 75 years to the 10 US airmen who died in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield in 1944 Picture: DAN WALKER

A social media campaign was then launched with the hastag #GetTonyAFlypast which quickly gathered speed around the country.

MORE: ‘Look to the skies on February 22’ - Tony gets flypast to honour US airmen

Mr Foulds was surprised live on television on January 22 by Colonel Will Marshall, from RAF Lakenheath, who urged him to “look at the skies on February 22” for a special flypast.

A spokeswoman for RAF Lakenheath said: “Since US Air Force participation was officially approved early last week, our RAF Lakenheath mission planners have been working together with our partners at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Coningsby to develop a plan for the flyover.

“We are committed to delivering a memorable tribute to the fallen crew of the Mi Amigo, as well as the incredible men and women that have been caring for US war memorials across the UK.”

Flying Fortress Sally B at the Jubilee Air Show Duxford in 2012 Picture: STEVE BROOKS/IWMFlying Fortress Sally B at the Jubilee Air Show Duxford in 2012 Picture: STEVE BROOKS/IWM

She added that aircraft participation was dependent on weather and mission requirements so it was still too early to confirm exactly which planes would be taking part in the flypast.

MORE: Airmen at RAF Lakenheath ‘deeply moved’ by Sheffield pensioner’s call for flypast

Meanwhile, Sheffield City Council has released previously unheard interviews with two fresh eye witnesses to the 1944 crash.

Ivy Walsh, aged 32 in 1945, was a tram conductress who witnessed the plane crash while on duty and was one of the first on the scene.

CH Hepworth was a police officer who, along with a colleague, had to identify all of the bodies at the City Mortuary.

Mrs Walsh was speaking in 1980 and Mr Hepworth in 1981, and the recordings have never been broadcast before.

Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “Listening to these two moving testimonies is further evidence of just how that terrible day is etched in the collective memory of Sheffielders.

“Like everybody else, we have been absolutely moved by the dedication shown by Tony Foulds. We have admired his belief that the 75th anniversary of the Mi Amigo should be honoured with a flypast, and cried with him when he was told about the flypast on live television.

“We are thrilled to support the flypast, which will showcase the important part in the city’s history, especially as it comes so soon after we all joined together to celebrate 100 years since the end of the First World War.”

The flypast will be broadcast live on BBC Breakfast on Friday, February 22, between 7 and 9am.

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