War veteran flies over for re-dedication of memorial near East Northants airbase

War veteran Doug Ward (centre) at Saturday's event
War veteran Doug Ward (centre) at Saturday's event

A 94-year-old war veteran was among the guests at the re-dedication of a memorial for American servicemen.

Doug Ward of the 305th Bombardment Group Association flew in for the special event in Chelveston on Saturday.

Doug Ward

Doug Ward

It is 10 years since the memorial was built to honour the 305th Bombardment Group (BG), which was based at RAF Chelveston from 1942 to 1945.

The 305th BG flew B-17 ‘Flying Fortresses’, completed 480 missions and lost 158 aircraft.

At least 769 personnel were killed in action between 1942 and 1945.

The memorial is made from stone from the area and the former windsock mast from the main hangar supports a B-17 weather vane.

Some of the guests at Saturday's event

Some of the guests at Saturday's event

Saturday’s event also coincided with Memorial Day, a federal holiday in America for remembering those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.

Mark Hunter, clerk for Chelveston Parish Council, said: “10 years on, we thought the memorial could do with a bit of TLC so we had it steam cleaned and some repairs made, and we thought we should make a bit of an occasion out of it.

“A lot of the veterans from 10 years ago are sadly no longer with us, but there are children and grandchildren around.”

About 35 family members attended the event, as well as 20 USAF personnel from the 305th Air Mobility Wing from McGuire Air Force Base in the USA, chairman of Chelveston Parish Council Cllr Ray Daniells, chairman of East Northants Council Cllr Colin Wright and the council’s deputy leader Cllr Glenn Harwood MBE.

An honour guard was provided by the 423rd Air Base Group from RAF Alconbury.

As well as the re-dedication, there was a service at the village church and the naming of two rooms at the training facilities for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service on the airbase site.

The rooms have been named after Lt William Robert Lawley Jnr and Lt Edward Stanley Michael, who were pilots in the 364th Bomb Squadron.

They each received the Medal of Honour for similar actions on February 20 and April 11, 1944.

In each case a B-17 was badly damaged by fighters after it had bombed a target in Germany, crew members were wounded and the pilot was critically injured.

But recovering in time to pull the aircraft out of a steep dive and realising that the wounded men would be unable to bail out, each pilot flew his plane back to England and made a successful crash landing.

Mr Hunter said they were really pleased with how the day went, and added: “The American airbase was a big thing in it’s time, back in the 1940s, and it is still important.”