Monday, April 27, 2009

The Foreness Story - A Liberator Crash of 1944

After some research on the internet, I've managed to piece together what happened to the second Liberator bomber that crashed, at Foreness Point, on the evening of 27th April 1944.

You can hear Alasdair Bruce and I being interviewed on BBC Radio Kent about the story here. It's at time 1: 17 :on the play again recording for the show.

I will leave the story up here so it can be found by others in future. The memorial ceremony, led by Mayor, Brian Sullivan will take place at the Westgate war memorial at 5pm today and now looks as if it will be well attended.

Given the bad weather forecast for this afternoon, I''m putting the chances of the flypast I arranged at less than 25% which is very disappointing but there's always hope!

The Foreness crash was a Liberator of the 446th Bomb Group, 20th Combat Wing, 2nd Air Division, 8th U.S.A.A.F, stationed at Flixton in Norfolk. Also known as the "Bungay Buckaroos.

The aircraft was callsign RT - E, Serial # 41-29543 and had flown 9 missions. It crashed while returning from mission to Blainville - Apr 27, 1944. 8 of 10 men aboard were killed.

Another website notes: Sgt. Orval B. Scott, 706th Bomb Squadron, 446th Bomb Group (H), 8th Air Force.was killed in Action 27 April 1944, when his aircraft exploded in the air near Cliftonville, Kent, while returning from a mission to bomb Blainville, France.

S/Sgt. Scott was a gunner on board the aircraft piloted by 1st Lt. Harold J. Larson. The aircraft has two engines knocked out on the mission and was trying to make it back to the field at Manstonwhen the order to bail out was given. Only two crew members, T/Sgt. Carl M. Smith, the Radio Operator, and T/Sgt. Edward Hilgeman, the Engineer, were able to bail out before the aircraft exploded. He was previously awarded the Air Medal.

He is buried at Maple Lawn Cemetery, St. Boyne City, Michigan. He was unmarried and 20 years old.

The mission was a Bombing Raid over marshalling yards at Blainville in Nazi occupied France. Whilst returning from the Bombing Mission the Liberator (serial No.41-29543) was spotted over the Channel coast with 2 engines burning. It would appear that the Liberator was trying to land on the then fields of Palm Bay but gradually lost height and as a result crashed into the Cliff.

Exact details are not known of the circumstances which led to the crash but it would appear that the damage done to the aircraft occurred over France, probably caused by the many German Flak Batteries which lined the coast.

This theory is backed up by the fact that 2 of the 10 man crew bailed out before the crash and where subsequently picked up unharmed.

The remainder of the crew including the Pilot all died in the following crash.

Pictured here, Denning, Hafner, Lanphere and Larson standing beside their aircraft before a mission. The crew flew a total of 9 Missions before the crash.
• 1 LT. Harold Larson K.I.A
• 1 LT. Clifford Denning K.I.A
• 1 LT. George Hafner K.I.A
• 1 LT. Claude Lanphere K.I.A
• SGT. Louis Bart K.I.A
• SGT. Willburn Holt K.I.A
• SGT. Orval Scott K.I.A
• SGT. Melvin Warren K.I.A
• SGT. Edward Hilgeman Survived
• SGT. Carl Smith Survived

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this article. 1st LT Clifford Denning was my mother's sweetheart. I have several letters he sent her from overseas. I don't think she ever got over the loss.
Again, thanks for the information, and I hope to visit his grave in Cambridge when I am next in the UK.


M. Shirley