WWII air crash memorial unveiled near Harleston

It was a wartime tragedy that became etched in the memory of a young boy who witnessed a crash between two B-24 bombers.

Peter Kent was finishing a day's lessons at school in Harleston when the two American aircraft collided in April 1945, causing the deaths of 22 airmen.

More than 60 years after the fatal crash, a permanent memorial has been unveiled to the crew of two bombers from the 446th Bomb Group, which was based at Flixton during the second world war.

A ceremony took place at the weekend where a wooden cross and plaque to the 22 USAAF airmen was blessed near to where the collision happened.

The two B-24s were returning from an attack on Regensberg in Germany just before the end of the war when they were involved in a mid-air crash over Redenhall, near Harleston, whilst circling their base that was three miles away at Flixton.

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Mr Kent, who grew up in Harleston, said he was at school in Jays Green when the crash happened at about 3.45pm.

'We were in school and we heard the bang and we tried to go and see what had happened, but the road had been closed and we were told to go away.'

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'Being 12, war was a great adventure to us and we tried to get bits of aluminium and perspex from the field. It was only when I joined the army that I learnt of the realities of war,' he said.

Mr Kent, who now lives in Pulham Market, decided to create a memorial to the American airmen after spending months researching the crash site and the men who lost their lives.

A memorial to the 456 airmen killed in action and to those serving for the 446th Bomb Group between 1943 and 1945 has been established at Flixton, but Mr Kent said he wanted to do something for the Americans that died in the field off Cooks Lane, Redenhall.

Mr Kent, who went on to serve with the Royal Norfolk Regiment in Singapore and Hong Kong, said: 'It started in November when I did not think I would make Christmas and I had a heart operation and decided to do something about it after that.'

'I am an army man myself - 22 men were killed and nothing was done about it and I decided to do something about it. I started last year and a lot of people have given me a hand and it stirred up a lot of memories,' he said.

The memorial unveiling was attended by officials from the US Embassy and members of the American 446th Bomb Group Association on Saturday, who presented a plaque to Mr Kent. The site, off Green Lane, Redenhall, includes an oak cross and flag post.

The 446th Bomb Group's last raid from Flixton was flown two weeks after the crash on April 25 1945, by which time they had clocked up 273 combat missions and dropped 16,800 tons of bombs.

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