Military aircraft will roar over the city's skies this Friday February 22, as part of a unique flyover of US and Royal Air Force aircraft – to mark 75 years since the Mi Amigo disaster.
Sheffield man Tony Foulds has never forgotten the sacrifice of the crew of the badly damaged B-17 Flying Fortress - known as Mi Amigo - who were killed when the craft plummeted from the skies and crashed into Endcliffe Park in 1944.
The Mi Amigo aircraft was returning from an intended bombing raid over Europe in which it was left badly damaged after being attacked by the Luftwaffe.
Tony was one of a group of school children who witnessed the tragedy that fateful day. The story goes that the crew was attempting to make an emergency landing on the field in the park, but after witnessing a young Mr Foulds and his friends on the grass the aircraft instead diverted and crashed into trees nearby, killing all ten crew on board.
The story of how Tony, now aged 82, has dealt with deep-seated guilt over the crash and spent several decades tending to the memorial to the brave crew has captured the hearts of the nation in recent weeks.
Now a grandfather-of-four, the pensioner’s dedication led to an international social media campaign, with tens of thousands of people tweeting under the hashtag #TurnUpForTony. As a result of this, improvements have recently been made to the Endcliffe Park memorial site, with the addition of an information point, and newly tarmacked steps.
The news of the flypast was the icing on the cake for the Lowedges man, who broke down in tears when it was confirmed last month, saying: “That is everything I wanted. They (the Mi Amigo crew) will be smiling now.”
Buses for Sheffield and Stagecoach Supertram are offering free travel for service personnel and veterans in honour of the occasion this Friday, and Sheffield City Council is advising people to plan their journeys to Endcliffe Park carefully so they can arrive in time for the flypast, which will be broadcast live by BBC Breakfast to an audience of millions.
While final aircraft participation will be driven by weather and mission requirements, the US Airforce is anticipating a unique variety of aircraft from U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force installations including RAF Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall and RAF Coningsby.
Due to airspace regulations, these aircraft will not fly in one combined formation together but will still put on a fantastic show of airpower in tribute to the fallen crew.
The BBC will be broadcasting live from the park from 6am to 9.15am on Friday, and people are encouraged to arrive at the park anytime from 7.15am.
A memorial service will take place from 8am, with a Bugler playing one verse of Amazing Grace. There will be a reading from St John’s Gospel by a Royal British Legion and a bugler will play the Last Post and Reveille, followed by the flypast at 8.45am.
The best viewing area will be in the large field close to the Endcliffe Park café, where a big screen will be set up to relay events to the crowd.
The annual memorial service will be held on Sunday February 24 at St Augustine’s Parish Church in Endcliffe at 2pm. Prior to the service, at around 1.15pm, 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 site.
Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is going to be a truly memorable day in Sheffield’s history and we are looking forward to welcoming our friends from the US to pay tribute to this remarkable crew who gave their lives so bravely during the Second World War.
“Sheffield owes the Mi Amigo crew a huge debt of gratitude for their sacrifice 75 years ago. We have honoured their memory for all these years and this flypast will be a fitting tribute. It’s also a tribute to Tony who has tended the memorial for all these years.
“We want as many people as possible to see the flypast and help make sure it’s a day to remember.”
Visit http://bit.ly/flypastsheffield for details.