April 30th 2017, 3.00 pm
Town of Great Rollright, garden next to the Village Hall
On December 23rd 1944, as the folk of Great Rollright village Oxfordshire prepared for Christmas, a tragedy occurred.
At 6.15pm, that day the peace was shattered by the sound, of an American Boeing B-17 Bomber crashing near the village.
Earlier that day the aircraft, a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress serial number 43-38812 (‘812’) of the 749th Bomb Squadron, 457th Bomb Group, had taken off from RAF Portreath in Cornwall and was heading for its home base at RAF Glatton, near Peterborough.
The bomber had, on December 19th, been diverted to Portreath after a bombing mission to Germany.
After taking off for home on at approx 4.30pm on December 23rd, ‘812’ seemingly got lost on the way and eventually crashed into the trees near the Triangle at Great Rollright village at 6.15pm, killing the following crewmembers:
Lt. Hendrickson – Pilot
Lt. Graves – Co-Pilot
F/O Williams – Bombardier/Gunner
F/O Kilmer – Navigator
T/Sgt. Riedel – Radio Operator
T/Sgt. Bruer – Flight Engineer/Gunner
Sgt. Hawley – Waist Gunner
S/Sgt. Fitzgerald – Ball gunner
There would be only one survivor of the crash, the Tail Gunner Sgt Clifford A. Heinrich.
Tony King, Chairman of the North Oxfordshire and Cotswolds Area Military Vehicle Trust
Roz Wiley, Chairperson of the Rollright Parish Council
James Tobin, local historian
Bill Siler was my friend. Our friendship resulted because both of us were involved in a common cause more than 70 years ago. We were both assigned to the same military unit, same squadron and our service with that organization overlapped; however, it was nearly 50 years later at a meeting of the Old Timers that we met and our friendship blossomed.
Bill was a little senior in age to many of us and in the early 1940’s, as the war clouds began to loom, decided to go north and enlist his service with the Royal Canadian Air Force. To my knowledge he is the only person assigned to the 457th that served in the RCAF. After our entry in the conflict Bill came back and ultimately was assigned to the 457th.
After he finished his tour he volunteered to fly with a reconnaissance group and stayed in England flying reconnaissance missions. His service did not end with the conclusion of WWII. He saw service in the Korean conflict and later in Vietnam and in between flew the Berlin Air Lift. Unknown to many was his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bill held a top security clearance and at the height of the crisis was holed up in a windowless room at a undisclosed military installation
From and after our first meeting we maintained an ongoing contact. Bill continued at an energetic pace almost to the end. My son, David and I had Sunday Dinner with Bill in August and he was upbeat as usual. I asked him if he planned to go to England next year. His answer was “If I feel as good then as I do now”.
After he returned to Morro Bay I had a final email from him which indicated he had just about finished his tour.
Happy Trails and Blue Skies Bill!
Retired Coral Gables Police Officer Plans to Walk Across The Pyrenees Like His Father Did Escaping From Nazi Occupied Europe in 1944.
|Crew of Frank McNichol’s B-17 bomber. 7 of the 10 would not return from the raid on Augsberg in 1944. Source: www.457thbombgroup.org Public Domain|
In 1944 Frank McNichol was on active service with the United States Army Air Force (748 Bomb Squadron, 457 Bomb Group) stationed at Glatton Airfield near Huntingdon in East Anglia. Finding the East of England flat, heavily agricultural, and perfectly placed, the US 8th Air Force, ‘The Mighty Eighth’, quickly turned the area into a huge land based aircraft carrier for launching massive daylight raids on targets in Nazi occupied Europe. There were close to 100 USAAF airfields and 100 000 men at the height of the war.On the morning of the 25th February 1944, McNichol was part of the 10 crew man crew of a B-17 heavy bomber (B17 G 42-31517). It was only his second mission, and he was the navigator charting a course for Augsberg, Gemany. Approaching the target, flying at 20 000 feet, the plane received a direct hit from German anti aircraft fire. One engine caught fire and the plane was unable to stay within the formation of bombers. Isolated and losing altitude the plane was attacked by German fighters. Further damaged, “the ship suddenly made a violent twist, and we prepared to leave.” McNichol’s parachute got caught and he was pushed out of the hatch by John Vollmuth the bomb aimer. Only three crew managed to exit the plane as it banked steeply: McNichol, Vollmuth and Vito Peragine the engineer/top turret gunner. As they parachuted to the ground they saw the plane, in a spin, crash into the ground on the edge of the village of Mont Saint Martin, near Rheims. The plane exploded on impact killing the remaining crew. (more…)
Lest We Forget
This is a memorial for all the 337 457th members who were KIA, MIA or KIS. Some work still needs to be done to get all 337 names in this memorial but 224 names have been added so far. Some photos are in low resolution but we will try to get these in higher quality so they can be viewed properly.
For the Fallen
Duane Zemper collection
Duane Zemper was the photo officer at Glatton. He took many beautiful photos during his time with the 457th Bomb Group. Thanks to Eric Zemper we have 540 beautiful photos to show you in the photo section.
Duane Zemper Collection
Savannah Reunion 2015 This June we had a great reunion in Savannah Georgia. It was great meeting each other again and listening to the great stories our veterans shared with us. The visit the the 8th Airforce Museum was great. We saw the newly restored B-17 ‘City of Savannah’ and the saved and restored terrazzo compass rose from Hunter Field’s original operations building. The 2016 reunion will be held in Washington so make sure you write that down in your agenda’s!
Bill Mach’s collection Bill Mach was one of the photo officers at Glatton. He took many beautiful photos during his time with the 457th Bomb Group. Thanks to Trisha Mach Robertson we have 850+ beautiful photos to show you in the photo section.
November 2013 marks the launch of the Fund Drive to restore the “Mosaic Star” of the 8th Air Force.
Most are unaware that this beautiful 16-foot square Terrazzo Concrete Star was created by WPA Artisans. The Star was created in the center of the floor of the Operations Building at Hunter Field just prior to World War II.
Many Bomb Groups received training at Hunter Field before going overseas between 1942-1945. The footsteps of countless young Airmen walked upon this Symbol of the Army Air Corps.
This Star when completely restored will rest in the center of the Columbarium directly behind the “Chapel of the Fallen Eagles.”
Donations may be sent to:
Lori Paris Barnett, Treasurer
c/o 457th BG / Chapel Gardens Memorial Fund
304 Old West Point Road
Starkville, MS 39759-2654