The Sheffield Memorial Day
At News Shots are pictures of this moving event, and below is the Report prepared by our Representative:
My visit for the Sheffield Memorial Flypast
Branch Welfare Officer
Friday 22ndFebruary, 2019
US Army Airforce B-17, ‘Mi Amigo’, serial 42-31322 had been allocated the target of the airfield at Alborg, Denmark on 22ndFebruary, 1944 but was unable to drop its bombs due to cloud cover and, not wanting to kill Danish civilians, aborted the drop. The airfield was home to both Fw190s and Bf109s which attacked ‘Mi Amigo’ and left her badly damaged.
She dropped her bombs harmlessly in the North Sea and struggled to return to Britain. By the time she reached the coast she was at least eighty miles off course and struggling to find somewhere to put down. The crew spotted a grassed area in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield but the park was occupied by children playing football. As the engines failed ‘Mi Amigo’ came down in the wood to the rear of the park, killing those members of the crew who had survived the fighter attack.
In total on that day 430 American airmen died and 43 aircraft were lost.
Seventy five years later after a chance meeting with a BBC Breakfast presenter, Dan Walker and Tony Foulds, who has laid flowers on the site and later the memorial since seeing the crash as a child, a memorial flypast was arranged for the anniversary.
I arrived just after 05:00 and the TV broadcast was mostly set up and ready to air from 06:00, taking over the entire ‘Breakfast’ programme. The café in the park had been taken over by the BBC for make-up and as the ‘green room’ for invited guests, not all of whom actual got onto the programme. Throughout the morning the crowd increased until at the time of the flypast, barely any grass could be seen. During the broadcast the usual format for ‘Breakfast’ was followed, with interviews from the sofa in the park, history snippets and cuts to the airfields preparing for the flypast. What was not shown was the short memorial service held just before the flypast. Local British Legion and ATC standards were in evidence, as were the cadets from South Yorkshire and Legion members. Sadly I did not see a single RAF Association standard, even though the memorial was provided by the Sheffield Branch, along with a semi-circle of ten American Oaks c.1969. However, the President of RAFA Air Marshall Sir Baz North was there representing us all.
The flypast was the culmination for many and the park started to slowly empty, with the public unable to access the memorial, which had been roped off for the day.
As I had not visited the Hope Valley for a few years and the weather was exceptional for February, I decided to return to Sheffield on the following Tuesday to visit the memorial then continue to Ladybower Reservoir and the Hope Valley. I was amazed when I arrive by the number of people at the memorial and the number of wreaths and other items that had been left. I arrived in the morning, intending a quick visit, but spent much longer than anticipated talking to members of the public. As a result I did not get to visit the dams on the reservoir which were used for practice by 617 squadron, prior to the ‘dams raid’, because of the long walk from the car park. At least I now have an excuse to return to the area again. (Photography note - the photos of the flypast are not the best because the aircraft were approaching from out of the sun; the BBC had to use air to air shots to combat the problem)