B-17 Crash Memorial Project - Suffolk, England

On November 10th 1943 an American Flying Fortress Bomber crashed in the village of Brome, Suffolk. It had taken off from the nearby 100th Bomb Group airfield at Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk and was attempting a relatively short flight back to its home base of Alconbury, near Huntingdon, when it almost immediately got into difficulties moments after take-off. With a serious fire onboard, the pilots were attempting to reach the runway under construction at the new USAAF Bomber Base at Eye Airfield, but sadly did not reach the threshold. The mighty B-17 tragically crashed a 1/4 mile short of the runway and directly upon a gang of Suffolk County Council roadmen who were clearing drainage ditches. When the gravity of the tragedy was fully realised, all 13 aircrew members of the United States 482nd Bomb Group on board and four local civilian road workers were pronounced deceased, along with their horse. This incident represents one of the most significant aviation related accidents to take place in the entire Mid Suffolk district, both in wartime and peacetime.

Significant research both in the UK and the USA has discovered that the aircrew flying the B-17 that day were very experienced aviators, with both pilots having already flown numerous combat Op's with the USAAF (91st & 92nd Bomb Groups) and the Royal (Canadian) Air Force. With such a seasoned crew in the cockpit, it has always been difficult to comprehend what could have gone so terribly wrong, in order to bring the aircraft down so violently and all within minutes after take-off. Although the official Suffolk Police Report made on the day of the incident, gives no information as to the probable cause, the official USAAF Crash Report documented at the time and labouring heavily on eye-witness accounts, does reveal the cause of the crash as an onboard fire. It however falls short of attributing the likely cause of the fire, but our speculation is most likely from the Pressurised Oxygen System, as one of the civilian eye-witnesses reported that the interior of the fuselage was 'illuminated' as it crashed. We believe this observation to be the light given off by the fire and not from the low level lighting system in the aircraft.

Although this accident has received limited publicity in years gone by, little remains at the site of the crash to educate the passer-by as to what took place here in 1943. With the 80th Anniversary of this tragedy fast approaching on November 10th 2023 and to coincide with Armistice Weekend, a small but dedicated group of volunteers are seeking to honour those lives lost by erecting a permanent Memorial to all the American and British souls killed that day. If sufficient funds are raised, it is also hoped to produce a booklet at a later date, making all of the information publically available that we are documenting on both the British civilians killed and the young American airmen, who were each lost fighting a war so far from home.

After much-dedicated research in the US, we have been extremely successful in finding photographs of all 13 young men of the United States 482nd Bombardment Group who perished in the crash and here in Suffolk, we have also found pictures of some of the local civilians killed. We have further been able to track down descendent family members of some of those Airmen lost, who have been able to help us significantly with background information on their relatives and in turn, we have been able to provide them with additional information surrounding the loss of their family members. (Official telegrams and letters at the time between the War Office Dept and the immediate families gave scant details concerning how the men were lost).

We have been very fortunate in having been granted a beautiful countryside setting to build the Memorial, positioned in the extensive grounds of the Oaksmere Country Hotel in Brome, Suffolk. The exact location we have chosen will be within meters of where the aircraft collided with the trees on the Oaksmere Estate and where it subsequently impacted the ground and struck the roadmen. We are therefore entirely indebted to The Oaksmere at Brome for allowing us to use their wholly appropriate grounds for the purpose. Although local professional craftsmen are being employed to create the Memorial itself, this project is being collectively overseen by an entirely voluntary working team, who each devote their time and effort to this worthy cause not for any personal gain; but simply to ensure that those who this Memorial and booklet seeks to honour are rightfully recognised. The sad reality is that countless Military Aircraft and crews were lost during WWII, conducting the around-the-clock bombing campaigns flown from East Anglia and the sacrifices that all these airmen collectively made for the greater cause of freedom and betterment of mankind must never be overlooked or forgotten. This particular incident however has struck a particular chord with so many, not least of which because of the additional loss of life from the immediate local communities.

Any donation you can therefore offer, large or small, will go directly towards the significant costs of undertaking such a significant Project of this magnitude. If you wish to talk to any one of us personally to gain a better understanding of our exact and ultimate objectives before making any such donation, we would very much welcome your enquiry.

Clive D Stevens - Brome, Suffolk, UK
Wendy Rust - Miami, Florida, USA
Steve Andrews - Wroxham, Norfolk, UK
Maggie Aggis - Framlingham, Suffolk, UK

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Clive Stevens

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