Tragic US airmen are remembered at service

Eastbourne mayor Carolyn Heaps at the service
Eastbourne mayor Carolyn Heaps at the service

A SERVICE of Remembrance was held on Sunday (June 5) to honour the 10 American airman who lost their lives when their aircraft crashed into Butts Brow in 1944.

The service is held annually at this time of year to coincide with the US Memorial Day which takes place on the last Monday of March to remember the American war dead.

Sunday’s service was attended by the mayor of Eastbourne Councillor Carolyn Heaps and cadets from Eastbourne Air Training Corps, who placed 10 crosses, one for each member of the crew, by a memorial at the site.

David Smedley, the chairman of Royal British Legion, tells the story of the incident they gathered to remember, “On Monday February 7 1944 B24 Liberator Y-282 of 506 Squadron USAAF, named Ruth-Less, crash-landed here on downland overlooking Eastbourne Royal Golf Course.

“The American bomber had struggled back to the UK from a raid on V1 launch sites at Wattenin the Pas de Calais. Friston aerodrome was reckoned to be a welcome haven for the bomber ailing with trouble to its number three and four engines. Buffeted by strong winds Ruth-Less, piloted by First Lt James Bolin, had to make a second run amid dense fog to the diminutive grassed airfield at Friston as another aircraft was landing at the same time. Eye witnesses in Eastbourne can recall the bomber circling the town almost at roof-top level, as it battled against the elements to land.

“The bomber was 30 feet too low to clear the Downs and struck the hill - nose first. The aircraft flipped onto its back in a horrendous cartwheel motion and disintegrated in a ball of fire. Two crew survived the impact and inferno but both died of multiple injuries and extensive burns within 24 hours. Ten young American airmen died in this accident that was so close to a safe landing at RAF Friston.”

In May 1995 a service was held to unveil and consecrate a memorial for the crew.

A large gathering of officials, family and friends from Britain were joined by 44 airmen from the USA.