Bedfordshire memorial for American Second World War airmen killed in Bletsoe is unveiled

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard

A village community has come together to remember a group of Second World War US airmen who died when their plane crash landed in a field.

Nine men of the 306th Bombardment Group were killed in the crash in Bletsoe in Bedfordshire in 1944.

They had been on a flying mission to Germany to drop propaganda leaflets when their B-17 bomber malfunctioned on the way back to Thurleigh Airfield.

Three relatives of one of the men, co-pilot Floyd Henry, travelled from the US to attend a special memorial event in the village.

Co-pilot Floyd Henry was 24 when he died in the Bletsoe crash Credit: ITV Anglia

Mr Henry's nephew, Michael Collins, knew very little about the crash or his uncle's service during the war.

He said learning more about it had been very special for him and his family.

"It's something that I'll never forget," he said.

"I always, as a young boy, thought of Floyd. We were never told anything from our families because they just didn't want to talk about it," he added.

Mary Laws, who owns the field, was instrumental in a fundraising campaign to create a special headstone commemorating the men.

It was unveiled by Mr Henry's family at a church in Bletsoe as part of a special service.

Mary Laws owns the field where the B17 crash in 1944 Credit: ITV Anglia

Mrs Laws said: "In 1993, when I bought the field, my children had ponies and they rode the ponies up here and they'd come back and they'd say 'Mama, I found a piece of metal'.

"And then one day they found a live bullet. I said 'I think we better put that in a bucket of water'."

After that, she investigated and found out about the crash, and the men who had lost their lives.

A memorial to the men is now displayed at the crash site in Bletsoe Credit: ITV Anglia

As well as the headstone, there is now a display at Mrs Laws' field which will be a lasting tribute to the nine men.

Mr Collins said: "I'm just so thankful. I could say it 100 times. This will be a special place for me now.

"My children's children, and their children will come here for this monument, so they can see and they can meet people that were involved in this."

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