Hear rediscovered Sheffield interviews telling of Mi Amigo wartime air disaster

Sheffield City Council has released moving interviews with two eye witnesses to the Mi Amigo crash of 1944 ahead of events to mark 75 years since the disaster.

Friday, 1st February 2019, 1:06 pm
Updated Friday, 1st February 2019, 1:08 pm
The Mi Amigo crew, who all died when their plane crashed at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

The long-lost interviews, found in the Sheffield Archives, were conducted with witnesses to the disaster at Endcliffe Park when 10 US servicemen were killed.

The airmen were on their 15th mission of a 25-raid tour of duty, attacking a German-held airfield in Denmark.

The wreckage of the Mi Amigo

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Their plane was badly damaged by German fighters and got into difficulties over Sheffield on the way back to base.

The crew of the B17 bomber all died when it crashed into a wooded hillside behind what is now the park cafe. It is believed the pilot was looking for a safe place to land.

Pilot Lieut John Kriegshauser was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross.

Tony Foulds, who witnessed the crash as an eight-year-old, is convinced the pilot avoided where he and his friends were playing.

Memorial unveiling and tree planting in Endcliffe Park to honour the American aircrew who were killed when their World War Two bomber crashed in the Park on it's way home from a mission on 22nd February 1944. After unveiling the memorial, Major General John H. Bell (Commander 3rd American Air Force) plants the tree - 30th November 1969 Flying Fortress. Mi Amigo.

While walking his dog in the park, BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker bumped into Mr Foulds as he tended to the memorial to the crew and decided to help him get a flypast for the 75th anniversary.

The US Air Force and Royal Air Force are organising the flypast on Friday, February 22, which will be shown live on BBC Breakfast between 7 and 9am.

In the interviews released this week, people can hear Ivy Walsh, who was a tram conductress and saw the crash whilst on a tram on Rustlings Road. She was one of the first on the scene.

Ivy, aged 32 in 1945, tells how the plane almost touched the top of the trolley.

US and UK military personnel at a previous remembrance service for the Mi Amigo in Endcliffe Park

She said: “We ran down to see if we could do anything but it was all in flames, we couldn’t get close enough to it, there were explosions.”

CH Hepworth was a police officer who, along with a colleague, had to identify all of the bodies at the City Mortuary. He speaks about the gruelling work.

Mrs Walsh was speaking in 1980 and Mr Hepworth in 1981. The recordings have never been broadcast before.

Sheffield City Council has been working with Mr Foulds to improve access and information at the site in readiness for the 75th anniversary.

Tony Foulds with Couns Mary Lea, left, and deputy leader Olivia Blake at the Mi Amigo air crew memorial in Endcliffe Park

Trees and bushes have been pruned to improve access, the gravel footpath below the memorial and the steps to it have been resurfaced, new flower planters have been placed by the memorial and work to open up sight lines around the river bank are due to be completed.

A new interpretation board has been installed which tells the tale of what happened to the Mi Amigo crew on the morning of February 22, 1944.

Coun 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.”

The annual memorial service is on Sunday, February 24 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 will hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial.

Tony Foulds, back row, with Friends of Porter Valley and Sheffield city councillors and Arthur the dog

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.

The crew of the Mi Amigo - Flying Fortress - that crashed in Endcliffe Park in 1944
Mi Amigo wartime Sheffield air crash eye witness, tram conductress Ivy Walsh, in 1943, third from right