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'The terrible night search parties set out to find American Flying Fortress' NOSTALGIA.

Byline: John Avison

MELTHAM reader Mr John Howarth wrote in to Examiner columnist Denis Kilcommons on the subject of a dramatic plane crash on the moors above Meltham. Here is his letter:

"I have a vivid memory of an American Flying Fortress bomber aircraft crashing just about halfway along the hill behind my house, to be more precise, about halfway along the hill line between West Nab and Shooters' Nab.

The timing of this event was either just prior to the end of WW2, or shortly after the end of the war.

The memory is most vivid because I, along with many others, toiled our weary way to the wreck site some few days following the event. In fact I accompanied our local policeman and lots of other searchers.

If my memory serves me correctly, the aircraft in question was returning from a training flight and was in fact quite close to its base somewhere in Lancashire. Unfortunately the plane struck the moor edge where it ploughed a very deep channel and came to rest in quite a boggy area.

The aircraft was not carrying any bomb load at the time but was otherwise fully armed with all its defensive weapons. From memory I belive we found some Browning. 50 machine guns and a few. 300 weapons - some singles and some doubles.

Needless to say there was a trail of debris from the point of impact for about a quarter-of-a-mile to where the aircraft came to rest. Of the crew of eight I think I am correct in saying that only one airman survived and he, heroically, crawled down a gully from the wreck site towards Meltham. He was obviously faced with a mammoth task to reach the nearest house where he raised the alarm.

I returned to the wreck site some years later and discovered only scant evidence that there had ever been a tragic airplane crash there at all. There was however sufficient wreckage for one to be able to identify the site without too much trouble.

The heavier part of the aircraft had by this time been swallowed by the ever hungry bogs which are the main feature on that part of the moor. I suppose that given all the time that had passed since that tragic night there will be little evidence remaining for the present day trophy hunters.

I often wonder just what could have happened to that most heroic airman who raised the alarm to report the wreck and where his seven comrades are interred.

Were they in fact buried in the military cemetery near Harrogate, or were they transported to their home town which at that time was the way such things were dealt with by the US military? Just what did happen to that most heroic airman who risked his life in the vain hope of there being any survivors still in the aircraft.

Surely someone who is a little older than I must have the answers which have troubled me for these past 60 or so years.

Somewhere there must be some records of this largest accident of an aircraft ever to have occurred in our district.

Perhaps there is someone in the district who has an interest in this kind of war memorabilia, probably an Examiner reader or even our local council minutes - although I doubt that very much. Maybe there is an organisation who keep records of every air accident?

Can anyone please shed any light on this tragedy which is still bothering me?

To be a little more accurate as to the exact location of the wreck site the almost exact reference is a bog area calledMuddy Brook and the map reference is 075103."

FOOTNOTE: In response to this letter an extensive - and ultimately successful - Examiner archive search was made. See story below.


FLYING FORTRESS: The only airworthy B17 Flying Fortress bomber affectionately known as Sally B, the 55,000lb star of the blockbuster film Memphis Belle which made a guest appearance at Yorkshire Air Show at Elvington, Elvington, near York last August. It was a similar aircraft that crashed on the moors above Meltham
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Apr 12, 2008
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