Hero WWII airmen’s sacrifices honoured

Clitheroe youth forum members gather to pay tribute to airmen killed in collision
Clitheroe youth forum members gather to pay tribute to airmen killed in collision

Airmen killed in a horrific Second World War collision in the Ribble Valley have been honoured at a touching memorial service.

The penultimate Acts of Remembrance in a series of Remembrance Services organised by community stalwart Mel Diack MBE and the Clitheroe Youth Forum took place on Burn Fell.

The special services were led by the Rev. Andy Froud, Vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe and was attended by Major Nicole Nicholson US Marine Corps who came up from RAF Scampton, Wing Commander Ruari Henderson-Begg from RAF Spadeadam, Major Hodson representing Slaidburn Parish Council, Kevin Cheetham, the Royal British Legion Standard Bearer from Burnley, Ted Davidson Scots Guards, a WWII veteran who was involved in the D-Day landings on Gold beach, plus representatives from Brennands Endowed Primary School, Slaidburn Young Farmers, Slaidburn Silver Band, Piper Michael Lonsdale and local residents.

The first service was held on the top of Burn Fell at the actual crash site. This required the young people, VIP’s and Standard Bearer climbing some 750ft in misty wet weather; conditions similar to those when the B-24 Liberator bomber “Come Along Boys” crashed back in 1945.

Four USAAF airmen lost their lives and this was recognised by the singing of the United States National Anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” instead of “God Save the Queen”.

A memorial stone commemorating Lt. J Fields, Lt. O Casto, Sgt. E Lyon, T/Sgt. T Massagatti was unveiled, blest and wreaths placed.

The second service was held at the Lower Farm where another memorial stone was unveiled and blest. In addition to the four USAAF airmen lost on Burn Fell, this stone also commemorates Sgt T. Nawrocki (Polish pilot flying with the RAF), Sgt W. Coveney RAF, P/O J. Gilmer, New Zealand RAF and Lt H .Perry, USAAF.

Commenting on the poignant services, Clitheroe Youth Forum Leader Mr Mel Diack MBE, said: “The Youth Forum were honoured to have Major Nicholson and Wing Commander Ruari Henderson-Begg in attendance; their presence helps the young people to understand that these airmen gave their lives for us to live in freedom and that the Act of Remembrance will be carried on throughout future generations.”

He added: “These services are part of the Clitheroe Youth Forum’s ‘We will remember them’ project, which commemorate the 25 airmen who lost their lives in crashes in the Ribble Valley and Trough of Bowland.

“The Forum member wish to thank the Rev. Andy Froud for leading the services, Steve and Sue Hartley for allowing access to the farm and adjoining land, Pat and Geoff Garnet for opening up their home and providing refreshments, and to the Mountain Rescue Team for their presence.

“A final Act of Remembrance is planned for September at Langden Brook, when it is hoped that relatives of those who lost their lives here will witness the unveiling of a boulder commemorating all 25 airmen.”