It isn’t often that a tale of war has anything like a happy moment but in recent weeks increasing numbers of people have become aware of a terrible accident in 1944, just one of countless up and down the country that happened in those dark years,
Tony Foulds, 82, was just eight years old when he watched the B17 Flying Fortress crash into Endcliffe Park in Sheffield in February 1944. Ever since the crash, Tony has devoted his spare time to looking after the war memorial to honour the men, saying they are ‘like family’ to him.
Tony says he still feels guilty over the airmen’s deaths because he believes the stricken American bomber, known as Mi Amigo, may have landed safely if he and his friends were not playing football in the park. All of this despite Tony suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for 21 years.
The story of both he aircrew and Tony may well have gone unnoticed if not for a chance encounter with BBC Breakfast Television presenter, Dan Walker who met Tony by chance when walking his dog. Unaware of who he was talking too, Tony told Dan the story of what had occurred and his lifetime of devotion.
Mr Walker told his followers: ‘Just met an amazing man in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. Tony Foulds was an 8-yr-old playing in the park when a US plane crashed in Feb 1944. He has diligently maintained the memorial ever since. He was planting new flowers. Almost 75 yrs of service. What a man. I’m in bits.’
He added: ‘He’s been sweeping the leaves away all morning and has replanted and cleaned the whole thing. He re-told the story of the day so vividly and knew the names of all 10 who died. ‘They are like family to me even though I never knew them.’
‘He doesn’t want a medal. All he wants is a fly-past on the 75th anniversary on the 22nd Feb 2019.’
He also told how Mr Foulds has Parkinson’s disease for the past 21 years.
He added: ‘He couldn’t even get his phone out of his pocket this morning because of the shakes but still sweeps, cleans and tends the memorial.
‘Let’s mark his 75 years of service with something special.’
A series of tweets using the hashtag #GetTonyAFlypast were liked more than 6000 times in a matter of hours.
Speaking to the Sheffield Star, Mr Foulds said: ‘I can remember seeing the plane circling above and the airmen waving at us. But being young boys we just thought they were being friendly. Then it went over the trees and there was a huge explosion. It is only later in life that it dawned on me they were waving for us to get out of the way so they could land on the grass.
‘They avoided us and I owe everything to them. I have had 75 years of life since then thanks to their brave actions. A flypast would be a fitting way to remember them. It would be a very, very emotional moment.’
He added: ‘I am not in good health now but come rain or shine I will always go there because of what they did. They should never be forgotten.’
Mr Walker’s tweet was met with a flurry of support, with twitter users calling for Mr Foulds to be honoured for his work.
One wrote: ‘What an amazing man. He deserves recognition.
Another added: ‘These are the people who deserve recognition from our honours system. What a lovely man.’
This morning after welling public support and much behinds the scenes work from the BBC, RAF, the American Embassy in London and the USAAF, Tony was surprised with some amazing news. Weather permitting the crash will be marked by a flypast by the RAF and USAAF to remember these brave flyers and hundreds of others who died on the same day, just another regular day in WW2.
Let’s hope that Tony is also honoured in the very near future as there can be few who are more deserving. If you want to see the BBC Breakfast feature that aired on the morning of 22nd January 2019 then see the link below.
Whilst poor old Tony has gone beyond the call of duty in respecting the men and memorials in his local park, London today woke up to the exact opposite with memorials to Churchill and Roosevelt, Canada ad Bomber Command of the RAF mindlessly vandalised.
Above is the Allies Statue, featuring on my Churchill Walk and War Rooms Tour with Ye Olde England Tours.
Above, the Canadian Memorial in Green Park has also been attacked, commemorating Canadians killed during WW1 and WW2.
Perhaps most distastefully of all was the vandalism to this beautiful memorial to Bomber Command of the RAF in WW2. Remembering the 55,573 aircrew of RAF Bomber Command who died during the Second World War. It was perhaps the most deadly task in the whole of the war with 44.4% of those who served, dying for our freedom and our country.
Both the Canadian and Bomber Command Memorials can be visited on my War Memorials of London Tour with Ye Olde England Tours.