Some of them might already have been thinking about those precious minutes of abandon between the school bell and the fall of darkness. In the streets nearby, there were bakers and bar-keepers, a dentist and a clergyman and many more who would all tell their stories in the days to come.
For now, though, none of them can have imagined what they were destined to see. Big Week went well for the th. They deployed , tons of munitions for the loss of seven aircraft. Even the Alborg sortie, with a zero bomb-count, could be judged a success, since it prevented the interception of the raid on Rostock. Two planes didn't make it back from Denmark. Mi Amigo also took heavy damage, but Kriegshauser resisted the Focke Wulfs' efforts to isolate his craft from the main formation. The plane was still airborne when the Germans fell away, with ammunition and visibility compromised.
She was by now well out over the North Sea, heading west in dense cloud. Observers from neighbouring aircraft later gave a consistent, if detached, account. For whatever reason, Mi Amigo could not effect radio communication. More than one of her engines was misfiring, and her skin was in tatters. She was having difficulty maintaining altitude, and soon began to fall behind. There was no effective way to assist a bomber in this situation. Its crew could not bale out over water, since they would die of hypothermia within minutes if they entered the sea. The first battle was simply a matter of regaining land, and after that it would be down to luck and the skill of the pilot.
The squadron leader did all that he could, by assigning one plane to try and nurse Mi Amigo home. That done, he lead the rest back to Chelveston at full speed. Mi Amigo was now almost alone. An hour before, the clouds had probably saved her. Now they became her nemesis. A tight escort was impossible because of the risk of collision. The nursemaid lost the stricken B17 some five hundred miles off the English coast, and, after a few minutes of tentative patrolling, the search had to be abandoned.
Mi Amigo , it was assumed, had lost her struggle, and had plunged into the cold sea. Mi Amigo did not crash for another four hours. What happened in the intervening time will never be known. We can only try to piece together John Kriegshauser's dilemma from the known facts. At some point, she went off course, her flight ending a hundred miles north of her home base. This suggests that her navigational equipment was disabled, and possibly that the two crewmen in that area of the aircraft the navigator and the bombardier were incapacitated.
The condition of the rest of the crew is unknown, though the fact that enemy fighters appear to have been able to sit on her tail and strafe her engines might mean that the tail-gunner and ball-turret gunner had also been lost. Kriegshauser must have been aware of another aspect of his crew's welfare, too.
The six men behind the cockpit of a B17 were exposed to severe cold when flying at altitude in fact they wore electrically-heated suits for this reason. Waist-gunners in particular sometimes literally froze onto the aircraft's fabric, and so injured men who could not support themselves were prone to suffer a horrible death. Mi Amigo 's pilot may well have been faced with a dreadful choice. For the reason above, he would have wanted to fly at low altitude in warmer air. The damaged engines, on the other hand, might have denied him the power to ascend, so that the height he started with would be all he could ever have.
We can surmise that the approach to the English coast was a slow, and perhaps irresistible, descent. The condition of the engines may also explain why Mi Amigo flew so far inland around a hundred miles without apparently trying to make a landing. The weather conditions give a further clue. Though it was still daylight, cloud cover was complete down to about feet. Kriegshauser probably judged that he would have insufficient power to abort a blind approach, and so chose instead to fly on for as long as he could, hoping that the cloud would clear.
This is the Ordnance Survey grid reference of the place where Mi Amigo came to earth. It's also the partial name of Kemplen's exhibition. There are playing cards, a perfect symbol of the lives of young men wiling away hours on the very brink of fate. It was just before five o'clock in Endcliffe Park. Youngsters chased their football in the failing light. They heard her before they saw her.
Some accounts say that the aircraft tried to put down in that tiny green space, but that the pilot pulled up the nose when he saw the children, and hit the hill instead. Some say that it circled, that it rolled, that it clipped the trees even as it broke the cloud. Some say that the engines stuttered at the last. This can't all be true, and yet none of it really matters.
Mi Amigo Flying Fortress airmen remembered in Sheffield
All that can be said for sure is that photographs prove that the aircraft was pointing down the hill when it crashed. If Kriegshauser's last act was to save the footballers, he carried it out by bringing the plane down too soon, rather than by over flying the field. Mi Amigo shed her tail, and slewed to a halt among the trees, her wings and fuselage more or less intact. Fire broke out internally, but for the first couple of minutes the astonished onlookers were able to draw close. The children were shooed away, since at least one man's corpse was thrown clear, though no public record identifies him.
Some observers describe cries from within.
Some say that they begged for help, and others that they pleaded with would-be rescuers to get away. One young Sheffielder said he tried to pull an airman clear, but the man's legs were trapped and the flames consumed him. Nobody seems to have considered the possibility of live bombs on board. It was only once the fire took hold, and ammunition began to crack and whine, that the huddle of people on the hill dispersed in search of shelter. The inferno, when it came, was shocking in its intensity.
An hour after the crash, as the last natural light faded away, the remains of Mi Amigo were ashes and blackened shards of metal, and all hope had gone. There is an annual service on the Sunday closest to 22 February. Wreaths are laid at the crash site. The service is read in St Augustine's at Brocco Bank. The anniversary is kept by the Royal Air Force Association. Jeff Hawkins was one of the young electrical apprentices at Fred Nichols'.
His account is especially coherent and eloquent. He describes the immediate aftermath but also the scene three days later, when the authorities re-opened the park and children combed the slope for souvenirs. The clearance of debris seems to have been slapdash, for Jeff himself recovered a broken watch, stopped at two minutes past five, and someone else found a misshapen signet ring. The stream at the bottom of the bank yielded a pair of flying goggles.
Charles Tuttle, Harry Estabrooks and Maurice Robbins still lie in the American Military Cemetry at Madingley, Cambridgeshire, along with nearly four thousand of their countrymen who gave their lives in the defence of Europe between and The other seven were interred here briefly, too, but their remains were later reburied in the land of their families. There are at least two h2g2 Researchers, one American and one English, who possess a copy of David Harvey's little book.
This Entry can't add anything to that account, and it might never have been written, but on the evening of 5 November, , the Englishman drove past Endcliffe Park, and there were trails of fire and showers of sparks in the sky above the fateful hill. His letters show that he believed in the cause he fought for and he knew the risks he took. He fought to save his aircraft and his friends until the very last.
Nowadays, the schoolchildren of Sheffield learn about Mi Amigo , and about John's sacrifice, and the sacrifice of many others like him. The city's vitality, manifest in its children, is part of their legacy. It was a terrible war. The destruction wrought by allied bombing should never be forgotten, but the picture sometimes painted of a merciless toll inflicted on German cities is not the whole story. Big Week opened the floodgates, it's true, but the price of ascendancy was paid by thousands of young airmen before it, and by no small number afterwards.
At the time of writing, it's the onset of winter in Sheffield, making the copse on the slope cold and grey and a little eerie. There were no children there today, as the light faded like it did on that evening half a century ago. Mi Amigo was there, though. Her presence can still be felt. How many places like this must there be?
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Nothing about this story, neither the aircraft nor the place, is unique. Nothing about it is even unusual. All of this happened so many times that we become numb to it. But we shan't forget.
Mi Amigo Flying Fortress airmen remembered in Sheffield - BBC News
Let Mi Amigo stand for what we should aspire to and for what we must never repeat, an enigma for all time. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers. Write an entry Read more. Edited Entries Only Advanced Search. An incredulous man went in search of a stone, and was moved to write a book. A doctor who wanted to be an artist pondered the ring-pulls of beverage cans.
All these pieces come together in the terrible and wonderful story of Mi Amigo. Testament This is a letter I hope is never mailed This is such a story. Black Thursday 14 October, was a fateful day in the history of the th Bomb Group. Mustering The newborn B spent the rest of flying around the United States, progressively acquiring the accessories of war. They were Everymen from Everywhere: Harvey David Harvey was not a native of Sheffield, but he had already been a resident there for fifteen years when he chanced upon a story that he found hard to believe.
Naming Superstition and sentimentality combine in the naming of a warplane. Chelveston They called it Big Week, that third week of February Artist In about , a doctor called Tony Kemplen decided that it was now or never as far as his artistic ambitions were concerned. Zero Hour By around noon on that Tuesday in February, , the th were over the coast of Denmark.
USAAF B-17 42-31322 ‘Mi Amigo’, Endcliffe Park, Sheffield
Debrief Big Week went well for the th. Hourglass Mi Amigo did not crash for another four hours. The artwork is diverse, all of it beautifully judged and executed, all of it deeply touching. There is the ten of hearts, each spot a portrait, and almost too much. Chaos It was just before five o'clock in Endcliffe Park.
Legacy There is an annual service on the Sunday closest to 22 February. Bookmark on your Personal Space. Conversations About This Entry Sign in to start a conversation. Dave it has been some time since I heard from you,could you please get back to me. Your email address will not be published.
Notify me of new posts by email. The memorial is surrounded by 10 American oaks planted in , one for each crew member. Detail on the memorial. Ian D B says: February 3, at 8: February 3, at 9: February 4, at 6: February 4, at 7: November 14, at 6: February 5, at February 5, at 9: February 6, at February 6, at 3: February 8, at March 10, at December 30, at 3: November 14, at 3: November 17, at 9: March 3, at