Church Memorial Honours 28 Airmen

The skies of East Anglia were once busy and alive with the throbbing of radial and piston engines. The dangers of war were constant, and until aircraft were safely on the ground,  danger and risk were always present. This is no more evident than in the large All Saints Church, Carleton Rode, Norfolk.

Although not strictly speaking in Carleton Rode, All Saints Church houses a plaque that is dedicated to the crews of  four aircraft that collided in two separate collisions over the parish during the Second World War.

The Church itself is a historic building dating back to the 13th Century. It was modified in the 19th Century following a collapse of the tall tower. This restoration work gives the visitor the impression that this large church was a built with an unnatural small tower, but this was not so.

All Saints Carelton Rode

The memorial board at All Saints Church, Carleton Rode, gives the names of those who died in the two collisions. The top board contain the names of the 389th BG; the bottom, those of the 453rd BG.

The memorial itself hangs on the north wall inside All Saints, along with wreaths presented by local organisations including representations from the American base at RAF Alconbury.

The two collisions occurred on separate occasions and involved aircraft from both nearby RAF Hethel and RAF Old Buckenham.

Both incidents involved crews of the 2nd Air Division, Eighth Air Force. The first took place on November 21st 1944, followed a few months later, on February 9th 1945, by the second. The casualties of the first, were from the 566th BS, (389th BG) flying from RAF Hethel, and the second involved crews from the 734th BS, (453rd BG (H)) flying from RAF Old Buckenham. In all 28 airmen lost their lives in these two very tragic accidents.

The 566th BS were activated Christmas Eve 1942, and were assigned to the 389th BG, Second Air Division, Eighth Air Force. On arrival in England they were sent to RAF Hethel (Station 114) in Norfolk where they would participate in the air campaign over occupied Europe.

On November 21st 1944, the 389th were preparing for a mission to bomb the oil plants at Hamburg, Germany. Liberator B-24J, s/n 42-50452  ‘Earthquake McGoon’*1, piloted by Lt. Alfred Brooks took off to formate high above the Norfolk countryside. A second Liberator, B-24J, s/n 44-10513, piloted by 1st Lt. J. E. Rhine took off to join the same formation. The entire raid would involve a colossal 366 B-24 ‘Liberators’, along with 177 fighter-escorts involving both P-47 ‘Thunderbolts’ and P-51 ‘Mustangs’ – a formidable number of aircraft to have in the sky at any one time.

As the aircraft were joining the formation, the two B-24s collided, resulting in both aircraft crashing to the ground. Brooks was the only survivor from his aircraft, whilst there were only two survivors from ‘10513’. In total seventeen of the aircrew died that day in the resultant crash.

The crew who lost their lives that day were:

1st Lt James E. Rhine, s/n: 0-820824, *
1st Lt J.W.  Safier.
2nd Lt D.R. Bromer.
2nd Lt J.E. Ryles.
2nd Lt. N.R. Snodgrass
Tech/Sgt. William M. Bucher, s/n: 36814876, *
Tech/Sgt. E.G. Forester
Tech/Sgt. Stanley H. Smith, s/n: 11082353, *
Tech/Sgt. Harold M. Thompson, s/n: 39092072, *
Staff/Sgt. Walter D. Brewer, s/n: 34872455, *
Staff/Sgt. Julius Heitler, s/n: 42041178, *
Staff/Sgt. Carl V. Hughes, s/n: 34021953,*
Staff/Sgt. R.W. Krouskup
Staff/Sgt. F.L. Landrum
Staff/Sgt.  W.E. Leatherwood
Staff/Sgt. H.W. Looy
Staff/Sgt. W.C.Sawyer

*Seven of these men are buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery, five of whom were presented the Purple Heart.

All Saints Carelton Rode

A small window also remembers the 17 men killed in November 1944.

The second incident occurred on February 9th 1945, and involved two aircraft from RAF Old Buckenham.

The 734th BS flew as part of the 453 BG, 2nd Air Division, Eighth Air Force. They were activated on 1st June 1943, moving to England during the December of that year. Their trip took them from Wendover Field, Utah, to Idaho, California and onto Old Buckenham. Throughout the war they would operate as  a strategic bomber group attacking many high prestige targets across Germany.

On February 9th 1945, two B-24s, 42-95102, ‘Spirit Of Notre Dame‘ and 42-50703 ‘Worry Bird‘ took off as part of a 313 strong force of B-24s to attack the Rothensee oil plant at Magdeburg, along with any targets of opportunity. Escorted by 151 P-51 ‘Mustangs’, they successfully bombed the target using H2X and returned home.

As the bombers were approaching Old Buckenham, the two aircraft collided and ‘Worry Bird‘ crashed in a fire-ball, within a mere hundred yards of the runway. ‘Spirit Of Notre Dame‘ on the other hand recovered from the collision making a safe landing at Old Buckenham. In the resultant crash, all 11 crews members of ‘Worry Bird‘ tragically lost their lives.

The crew of ‘Worry Bird‘ were:

1st Lt. RQ.Rollins
2nd Lt. Earl E. Check, s/n: 2005832, *
1st Lt. Max E. Stump, s/n: 0-718979, *
Tech/Sgt. J.P. Eubank
Tech/Sgt. E.W.Amburn
Staff/Sgt.J.E.Sharp
Staff/Sgt.R.W.Adkins
Staff/Sgt. E.T Soine
Staff/Sgt. D.E.Robertson
Staff/Sgt. E.C.Erker
Staff/Sgt. W.L. Starbuck

*Two of these men are buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery, one of whom was presented the Purple Heart.

This memorial reminds us of the dangers faced on a daily basis by young crews of the armed Air Forces during the Second World War. On these two days, 28 young men lost their lives in tragic accidents, that left a lasting scar on not only their bases, but their families and the local communities as well.

Notes:

All the crew members who lost their lives are remembered in the Saint Paul’s Cathedral Roll of Honour.

*1 in some references the aircraft name is given as ‘Earthquake Magoon‘.

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Development News for Britain’s Airfields (3).

A third proposal for airfield development had been released in this last week. The first two, RAF Downham Market and RAF West Raynham have been highlighted in previous posts. The third, is possibly the most significant so far and one that like RAF West Raynham, sets a standard by which future developments could proceed. This site is that of RAF Coltishall.

RAF Coltishall – The Future

RAF Coltishall was home to around 56 RAF Squadrons throughout its life, these included the Jaguars of 6, 41 and 54 Squadrons along with a wide range of  aircraft from both the Second World War, Cold War era and the Gulf War.  It is a large site that accommodated around  1,500 people at its height, with four hangars, a single runway and both extensive accommodation and technical sites.

Vacated by the RAF  in 2006, it has been the subject of a public consultation since 2013. Questions were asked about the possible future use of the site which included light aviation with air displays, a change to affordable housing, industrial use and site redevelopment. Norfolk County Council took the future of the site very seriously, knowing how much it meant to both the local people of Norfolk and Britain’s aviation heritage. The results of this consultation have now been released and can be accessed through the link at the base of the page.

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The Control Tower at Coltishall may be part of a Heritage Trail

As with West Raynham, a site like Coltishall, that is complete, offers a unique opportunity to develop the buildings and structures whilst retaining and highlighting the heritage value that it represents. The buildings and infrastructure are ideal for a small self-contained ‘village’ that encourages links with both the local and wider community as a whole.

Norfolk County Council have recognised the importance of this site in particular, and as a result, much of it is now listed as ‘ancient monuments’ or locally listed buildings. These include: the World War 2 dispersals, Cold War blast walls, hangars, tower and communal buildings. It survives today in its entirety, primarily because the entire airfield is designated a Conservation Area by Norfolk County Council. This status gives protection against some of the more virile development and ensures in part, the preservation of the site for future generations.

Norfolk County Council have now released their proposed plans for the site, which include a harmonic development of both the main technical and accommodation areas utilising the buildings in situ where they can.

These plans may mean the sad loss of the main runway and grassed areas, probably both being returned to agriculture or open green space. It would also suggest a loss of much of the perimeter track as well.  However, their plans do include creating a public heritage trail, viewing platform and sign-age to promote and explain the uses of Coltishall, as it was throughout its aviation life. There are also suggestion of ‘interpretations’ of both cold war and second world war aircraft in their respective pens.

Just this week however, a private enterprise (led by a cycle shop owner) put forward a proposal to use the three-mile perimeter track as a cycle track for recreational and competition cycling opportunities. Further proposals include  a £300,000 development of the former operations room into a cafe and cycle workshop.  Landscaping would also be included making it a hub for recreational activities linked by cycles paths to Norwich, Hoveton and Aylsham.

Financial support has not yet been granted for this particular part of the proposal, but it is hoped that the site will be open mid 2016.

Norfolk County Council are considering the plans in line with their own heritage and development ideas. If it all goes ahead, then once developed, RAF Coltishall is likely to be the best preserved airfield in the UK that has not only been developed but opened to the public. Furthermore, if these proposals are to come to fruition, it could become a model for future development of Britain’s old wartime relics.

Details of the Council’s proposal can be found here.

The overall plan can be found here.

RAF Coltishall appears in Trail 7.

In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton

A moving tribute between airmen. 

As we spend the day remembering and giving thanks to those who gave their lives in conflict, I thought it timely to share another poem that was included in my grandfather’s collection of war memorabilia. As with the last poem I published, I am not sure of the author. It is unlikely that my grandfather […]
https://broodyswar.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/jimmy/