Council honours fallen soldiers on 75th anniversary of their deaths
Last weekend, County Council Chairman Brian Roberts paid special tribute to the crew of a WWII American warplane who sacrificed their lives in a deliberate move to avoid crashing into a residential area of High Wycombe and potentially killing hundreds of civilians on the ground.
On the morning of 12 August 1944, the Boeing B17-G Flying Fortress ‘Tomahawk Warrior’ which was on its 25th mission to France, deliberately crash landed in a field in Penn killing all nine crew on board. The plane has been spotted in trouble over a built-up area of High Wycombe with two engines on fire. Pilot and captain Charles Searl desperately sought out an area of open land away from the densely populated area as the full bomb load the plane was carrying would have caused a massive loss of life if it crashed there. Searl managed to steer the plane away from the residential area of High Wycombe, narrowly missing the Lude Farm farmhouse in Penn and crashed in the open fields beyond. All nine crew were killed instantly but there were no casualties on the ground.
At a ceremony at Penn House on Remembrance Sunday, Councillor Brian Roberts presented three ceremonial scrolls, one to the nieces of one of the fallen crew, one to Penn Parish Council and one to David Huntley, who personally witnessed the incident and was the inspiration behind the ceremony.
Brian Roberts said: “We are here today to pay tribute on behalf of the residents of Buckinghamshire and to give our heartfelt thanks to the crew of the Tomahawk Warrior who all lost their lives when their B17 Flying Fortress crashed at Lude Farm in August 1944.
“Their actions, which ended so tragically for them, ensured that many more lives were not lost. As a result of their ultimate sacrifice in finding a safe place to crash, the nine young crew are remembered in the history of Penn forever.”
Cllr Roberts expressed his regrets that it has taken the County Council so long to formally recognise the bravery of the soldiers involved: “Belatedly, on behalf of Sir Leonard Henry West who served as Chairman of Buckinghamshire County Council from 1921 to 1947, it now gives me enormous pride to carry out this presentation and for the surviving families of the air crew to accept these ceremonial scrolls to acknowledge our gratitude.”
One of the scrolls will be permanently displayed as a memorial at the Holy Trinity Church in Penn. The names of the nine crew are read out at every Remembrance Sunday service at the church in Penn.