UK

Flypast Honours 'Mi Amigo' Crash 75 Years Ago

Crowds gathered in Sheffield to watch flypasts in tribute to the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Huge crowds gathered to watch a pensioner see his lifelong dream fulfilled when a special flypast marked the 75th anniversary of a crash which claimed the lives of 10 American airmen.

Tony Foulds was just eight years old when he saw a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed 'Mi Amigo', crash on 22 February 1944 as it apparently veered away from him and his friends in Sheffield's Endcliffe Park as it returned from a bombing raid.

How the flypast looked from the cockpit of a F-15E Strike Eagle

"The pilot obviously saw the kids," says Pat Davey, Chairman of Freshfield Royal British Legion. 

"The pilot had to decide whether to kill his own crew or the kids."

The pilot steered the falling plane into a nearby forest. His decision killed everyone on board, but it saved the young lives.

Since then, Mr Foulds, now 82, has dedicated himself to looking after the park's memorial to the men, tending it six days a week for decades.

Tony Foulds 220219 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Tony Foulds.

Mr Foulds' appearance on national television last month sparked a huge social media campaign. He wanted a flyby in memory of the 10 US airmen who died.

#GetTonyAFlypast quickly went viral and soon after, the US Airforce and RAF announced he was to have his flyby.

"I did shed a tear because I always do with these lads."

Mr Foulds says that when people ask him about his family, he does not simply mention his sons, daughters and grandchildren, but he adds the crew of the plane. 

"[I say I have] ten close friends – they’ll always be my friends."

	Mi Amigo memorial Endcliffe Park in Sheffield 220219 CREDIT PA
Mi Amigo memorial in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield (Picture: PA).

On Friday, thousands of people gathered to watch planes including F-15E Strike Eagles from the USAF and an RAF Typhoon pay tribute to the crew.

"There would have been so many killed if they had not made that crash-land in the park," says Pauline Memmott, who attended the flypast.

"I even had a little weep when the aircraft came over."

The ceremony was arranged by BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker after he saw Mr Foulds walk in the park and started a campaign to have the men remembered.

Hundreds of people were there as dawn broke on Friday, with many bringing picnics and some wearing Second World War uniforms.

Flypast ceremony 220219 CREDIT BFBS
Scenes from the flypast ceremony.

There was a lot of love for Tony amongst the crowd.

Many veterans could be seen on the park wearing medals, and coffee stalls and sandwich vans were enjoying a brisk trade on the cold but clear morning.

The family of the pilots who flew today’s flypast came to thank him personally.

Mr Foulds said:

"They will be remembered and they will be looked after."