Thursday, April 12, 2012

Commemoration of World War II Tragedy at Glen Chass


Combined Operations in Flight
As memories of World War II fade a little with the passage of time, one tragedy in the south of the Island will be commemorated at the site of the accident in a special ceremony on the anniversary of this cataclysmic event which took place on the 14th April, 1945.

Combined Operations (Collins Liersch)
The B17 American Air Force bomber known as ‘Combined Operations’ was flying from Thurleigh near Bedford en-route to Langford Lodge in Northern Ireland, carrying five crew members and six passengers heading for a holiday. They also carried a number of rationed food items that would be traded for Irish whisky for the mess hall bar.


Emily Rae

Combined Operations - Howard Lecompte
Because of poor weather conditions the pilot, Lt Robert Vieille, was advised to fly at an altitude of 5,000 feet when approaching the Isle of Man, although it was common practice for aircraft to descend for visual contact with the Island before turning north towards Ireland. Descending to an altitude of 350 feet the Isle of Man was immediately ahead of him rather than to the right and attempting to steer the aircraft away from collision Lt Vieille struck the ground with all four engines running, skidded thirty five yards, crashed into a stone wall and dramatically burst into flames. Local residents ran to their aid, but were prevented from helping by exploding ammunition. There were no survivors.

Their bodies were returned to Thurleigh prior to burial in the US Military Cemetery at Madingley, three of whom were later repatriated to the US.

Relatives of the deceased have come together in recent years in an effort to raise awareness of those who died away from the battlefield, just three weeks before V E Day.

Emily Rae
Sandy and Ann Lydon (the pilot’s niece) have been a driving force behind this push for better recognition of the people involved in this tragedy and have previously visited the crash site, their long held wish to place a commemorative marker near the site to honour those who died. The baton was picked up locally by Rushen Commissioner Adrian Tinkler who has now organised a special tribute on the anniversary of the accident, with the unveiling of a simple black, granite slab close to the scene of the disaster.

A number of local people who witnessed the tragedy, together with relatives of those who died, will be at the event along with Lt Col L. Najeeb Ahmed of the US Air Force (Assistant Air Attaché to the UK) with his wife and son. Everyone is welcome to the unveiling at 2.00pm which will be followed by refreshments at the nearby Howe Methodist Chapel, where those involved will be able to exchange memories and stories and further strengthen the bonds between our two nations.

Combined Operations - Robert Vieille (pilot)
(With thanks to Sandy and Ann Lydon, Ivor Ramsden, Steven Poole and Rushen Commissioners)

Valerie Caine © April 2012 (Courtesy of Manx Tails)

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