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Villagers honour American air crew heroes seventy years on




The 12-man crew of a US bomber which crashed into a field near Isleham 70 years ago has been honoured with a memorial in the village’s community centre.

A plaque bearing the names of the 11 American and one British airmen who died when their B-50A Superfortress hit the ground and exploded in a ball of fire on October 13, 1949, was unveiled on Thursday at the Beeches Centre by USAF chaplain Lt Col Kyle Hundley.

The aircraft, which was designed for long-distance bombing raids and was said to have been specially adapted to carry atom bombs, had been on a training flight but had got into difficulties shortly after leaving RAF Lakenheath.

Lt Col Kyle Hundley with, from left, campaigner Brian Challis, local historian Stewart Evans and Richard Radcliffe, Isleham Parish Council chairman.
Lt Col Kyle Hundley with, from left, campaigner Brian Challis, local historian Stewart Evans and Richard Radcliffe, Isleham Parish Council chairman.

The pilot, Major George Ingham had sent a wireless message to another plane in his flight just before the crash, the text of which was never revealed. But a transcription was handed to coroner Mr V Cade during an inquest into the death of RAF signaller David Garrett.

Paying his own tribute to the pilot and his crew, Mr Cade said: “Although nothing has come out in this inquest, it would appear that the pilot took every step he could to avoid and save the damage to this village and we regard this as a noble action on his part. If he had landed on Isleham, the death toll and damage would have been colossal.”

Reports at the time said Newmarket and surrounding villages were shaken by the ‘enormous explosion’ as the giant bomber, the latest of its type, dived out of the clouds from about 500 feet hitting the ground almost vertically, its bombs and fuel bursting into flames which were visible for miles around.

The burning remains of the aircraft were scattered over an area of 500 square yards on the Beck Row Road where neighbouring farm buildings and haystacks were set on fire.

Although 70 years have passed, a campaign to remember the doomed aircraft and honour the crew members who died had gathered pace in Isleham and resulted in Thursday’s ceremony which was attended by parish councillors and other villagers.

The 12 names on the brass plaque are: George Ingham, John Dryer Jr, Roger Stannard, Robert Short, Robert Chatfield, Paul Butler Jr, Harold Morin, Arthur Gilbreath, Delmas Bise, Julius Odegard, Robert Williams and David Garrett.