2010 B-17 Memorial

A memorial to commemorate the ten crew of an American B-17 bomber that crashed in the village in the Second World War was dedicated on Saturday May 15th 2010.

Older villagers remember seeing the bomber “fall out of the sky” on November 19th 1943. Redlingfield Parish Council, with the help of the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association in Horham and 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation in the US, unveiled the memorial near the site of the crash on Green Lane. The unveiling was part of the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association’s big open weekend when former US servicemen and relatives of those who served at Horham airfield during World War Two visited the UK.

The memorial contains a specially-commissioned black granite plaque from Perfitts in Diss listing all the names of the crew. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Douglas C47 (DC3) Dakota ZA947 performed a flypast.

When it crashed near Green Farm in Redlingfield, the airplane exploded, destroying the farmhouse and killing all 10 crew. Miraculously, a heavily pregnant woman and her two-year-old daughter, who were in the farmhouse when it collapsed around them, survived the blast from the airplane that was fully-loaded with bombs, ammunition and fuel.

No villagers were seriously hurt and that girl – Ann Stebbings – joined USAAF veteran Staff Sgt Earl Joswick, who knew one of the crew members – Kenneth Cosby, to lay wreaths as the memorial was unveiled and dedicated on Saturday May 15th.

Earl, a ball turret gunner on the B-17 “Ten Aces" flew 14 missions before he was shot down on July 19th, 1944, and ended the war as a PoW in Stalag Luft 4. Two other veterans, in the UK as part of the 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation tour, attended the dedication, Staff Sgt Frank Martin, tail gunner on "Knock Out Baby", who completed a full tour of 35 missions, was on his first trip back since the war, and 1st Lt Robert Spinnenweber, the bombardier on "Yankee Wolf", who completed a full tour of 30 missions.

Parish council chairman Janet Norman-Philips acted as master of ceremonies and there were speeches by: James Mutton of the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association; the leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, Tim Passmore; the vice chairman of Mid Suffolk District Council, Stuart Gemmill; and the vice chairman of Suffolk County Council, Eddy Alcock. Particularly moving were the speeches by Janie McKnight, president of the 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation, and USAF Lt Col Brent R Vosseller of Lakenheath. Janie’s father-in-law, David T McKnight was one of the first Americans on the scene of the crash. She listed the ten airmen who lost their lives in the crash. Lt Col Brent R Vosseller, a F15E Strike Eagle pilot, spoke with great sincerity and admiration for the B-17 pilot, Kenneth Rongstad, who had weeks before the crash  successful ditched his aircraft “Spare Parts” in the North Sea. Lt Col Vosseller said, as a fighter pilot, the one thing he really fears is ditching in the unforgiving North Sea.

A bagpiper, David Harper, and a bugler, RAF Honington’s director of music, Tom Millford, added to the atmosphere as a crowd of some 200 filled the small lane. In a parade marshalled expertly by John Elliott, the Royal British Legion and the Royal Air Forces Association paraded with Diss Air Cadets and the 95th's own standard.

Thanks to generous contributions, both locally and from the US, the village raised the funds needed to erect the memorial. However, we are still raising funds though to make sure we can maintain the memorial in pristine condition.  If you would like to make a contribution please make any cheques payable to Redlingfield Parish Meeting and send them to Hidcote Lodge, Mill Road, Redlingfield, Suffolk, IP23 7QU.

Many thanks for donations from: the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association in Horham; 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation in the US; Sheila Dettleoff-Oniu nee Whatling who is from Redlingfield but now lives in Texas; Robert & Jean Grimaldi who are from the pilot, Kenneth Rongstad’s, home state of Montana in the US; the Redlingfield Coffee Morning; locals Katie & Drew Abbott, Joan Abbott, Eddie & Edith Coe, John Drummond and Pat Kelly; and in memory of villagers Russell and Joan Coe.

Also many thanks to: local bricklayer, Roy Wilkinson and Barry Ransome from Stradbroke, who built the memorial, with some help from Mike Ager and Graham Abbott; Travis Perkins in Diss, who donated the bricks; and farmers Graham & Patrick Abbott on whose land the memorial is being erected, and who, with help from Allan Chapman and Russell Kerry, also constructed the foundations. And to those who helped on the day: Graham Abbott; Suffolk Police under the supervision of Sgt Jon Eaves; Eddie Hawes; Russell Kerry; David Love; Don Moyes; Philip Mutton; and James Pye. 

Visit our Local History pages for more about the crash and the villages’ involvement with the 95th Bomb Group during the Second Wold War. Click for Richard E Flagg’s memorials' website. The event was covered by local newspapers and both regional TV news programmes and it was also the Memorial Day front-page of The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana, the home town of pilot Kenneth Rongstad. See the Daily Inter Lake article front page front page and inside. Click for the BBC Look East item and for the Anglia TV coverage on Youtube (the reporter has apologised for calling the village Redlington).

If you have any memories or pictures of the crash, or the village itself, please share them with us at pc@redlingfield.suffolk.gov.uk