Sheffield City Council has released moving interviews with two fresh eye witnesses to the Mi Amigo crash of 1944 as preparations continue for a public celebration to mark 75 years since the disaster.
The long-lost interviews, found in the Sheffield Archives, were conducted with two eye witnesses to the disaster over Endcliffe Park which saw 10 American servicemen killed.
The story, which was picked up by BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker as he walked his dog and bumped into Mi Amigo eyewitness Tony Foulds as he tended to the memorial in the park, has captivated the world’s media.
The US Airforce and Royal Air Forces are organising a flypast featuring several of its aircraft in the park on Friday 22 February, with the event being captured live on BBC Breakfast between 7 and 9am. Further details about the flypast, which will honour 75 years since the disaster, will be released soon.
In the new interviews released today, people can hear Ivy Walsh, aged 32 in 1945, who was a tram conductress who witnessed the plane crash whilst on duty on a tram on Rustlings Road and was one of the first on the scene.
CH Hepworth was a police officer who, along with a colleague, had to identify all of the bodies at the City Mortuary.
Mrs Walsh was speaking in 1980 and Mr Hepworth in 1981. The recordings have never been broadcast before
The find has come to light after Sheffield City Council started working with Mr Foulds, who witnessed the crash as an eight-year-old playing in Endcliffe Park and has helped to maintain the memorial to the lost crew for many years.
Since October the council have been working with Mr Foulds to improve access and information at the site in readiness for the 75th anniversary. Trees and bushes around memorial area have been pruned to improve access, the gravel footpath below the memorial has been resurfaced, new flower planters have been placed by the memorial and work to open up site lines around the river bank are due to be completed before the event.
A new interpretation board has been installed which tells the tale of what happened to the Mi Amigo crew on the morning of 22 February, 1944, and following a plea from Mr Foulds the steps leading to the memorial have been freshly tarmacked to make access easier for visitors.
Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “Listening to these two moving testimonies is further evidence of just how that terrible day is etched in the collective memory of Sheffielders.
“Like everybody else, we have been absolutely moved by the dedication shown by Tony Foulds. We have admired his belief that the 75th anniversary of the Mi Amigo should be honoured with a flypast, and cried with him when he was told about the flypast on live television.
“We are thrilled to support the flypast, which will showcase the important part in the city’s history, especially as it comes so soon after we all joined together to celebrate 100 years since the end of the First World War.
“And it comes just after we announced that Sheffield will be a host for the Invictus Games Trials involving many service people later this year.”
Amey Streets Ahead Project Manager Dave Taylor said: “It was a privilege to have been asked to be part of such an exciting project to restore this poignant Sheffield memorial spot. In addition to everything the council and other parties are doing, we have tarmacked and strengthened the steps leading up to the memorial site to ensure they remain accessible to anyone wanting to show their respects for years to come.”
The annual memorial service is on Sunday 24 February at 2pm at St Augustine’s Parish Church, Endcliffe. Prior to the service, a group of USAF personnel, RAFA officers, the Lord Mayor, Lord-Lieutenant, High Sheriff and members of the public hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial site.
Adam Bullimore, editor of BBC Breakfast, said: ““This story has really captured the interest of our audience. Hundreds of viewers have contacted us about it. People seem to have been genuinely touched by the story of the plane and by Tony’s determination to maintain the memory of the crew. It was clear from the start that so many people and organisations wanted to make something special happen to mark the anniversary on the 22nd and we’re thrilled to be part of it.”
Council officers look after all war memorials across the city and work with friends of groups as well. We inspect twice a year for safely and maintenance and clean every four years depending where the memorial is. We work with friends of groups to ensure memorials are suitably maintained across the city.
The Royal Air Force Association Sheffield Branch placed a memorial stone close to the crash site in 1966. After that for 30 years an annual service was held and wreaths laid by USAF, RAF, FAFA and community representations. In 1997 the USAF base at Menwith Hill and the USAF Retirees Association became involved and the memorial site was upgraded. The annual service became a much bigger affair – with the Sea Cadets band, City of Sheffield Pipe Band and a lone piper.