‘The world wouldn’t be the same without them’ - memorial honours Second World War plane crash victims 75 years on
PUBLISHED: 17:05 20 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 February 2020
A poignant memorial service has been held in honour of the American air crew who lost their lives 75 years ago when a Flying Fortress crash-landed into the River Deben.
The Ramsholt Arms pub hosted the service on the river bank today to remember the Second World War heroes who died in the accident.
The B-17 Flying Fortress bomber plane - known as Little Davy II - crash-landed into the river on February 20, 1945, after suffering an engine fault.
A 10-strong crew were on board the plane at the time, with only two members surviving - pilot Frederick Stindt and flight engineer Jewel Haynes.
Hundreds of visitors paid their respects while American family members of the surviving crew delivered speeches at the memorial, recalling their fathers' experiences in the military.
War vehicles, each decorated with the American flag, were displayed by RAF Debach.
Reverend Michael Hatchett led the service, which also included poem readings from Bawdsey Primary schoolchildren and prayers for the crew.
Ramsholt Quay harbour master George Collins, accompanied by the crew's family members, placed a wreath commemorating the fallen on the shores of the Deben.
This was followed by a flypast of aircraft from RAF Mildenhall before the ceremony closed with a rendition of the United States national anthem - The Star-Spangled Banner - by the Woodbridge Excelsior Brass Band.
Janice Vasek, the daughter of pilot Frederick Stindt, said: "I'm overwhelmed by how many people paid their respects.
"It's amazing and has warmed my heart."
Leonard Deniston Haynes, whose father Jewel Haynes named him after a fallen crew member, added: "I'm sorry that the crash happened but the ceremony was wonderful. It was an important piece of history."
Max Durrant, who manages the Ramsholt Arms with his wife Polly, arranges a memorial of the plane crash every year - but was blown away by the huge presence on Thursday.
He said: "We do this to commemorate the airmen that lost their lives. They were incredibly brave men who were defending our country.
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"The world wouldn't be the same without people like them.
"It was amazing that so many people were here to remember them."
Harbour master recalls horrific plane crash
George Collins was just a teenager when he was called to assist with the rescue effort of the Little Davy II crash 75 years ago.
The plane took off from the main runway at RAF Debach at 9.14am on February 20, 1945 heading for the marshalling yards in Nurnberg, Germany.
However, an engine on the right wing caught fire almost immediately after take-off and it crash-landed into the River Deben, just outside the Ramsholt Arms.
The plane was loaded with 6,000lbs of demolition and incendiary bombs, which didn't explode.
Pilot Frederick Stindt managed to steer the Little Davy II into the Deben to avoid colliding with populated land - a move which may have saved the lives of hundreds of people.
Fishermen Arthur Reeve and Arthur Hunt were on hand to swiftly rescue the men from the wreckage.
The cause of the engine fault was never determined.
Mr Collins, who celebrates his 90th birthday in the coming weeks, was working in a nearby field when the horrific incident happened.
He remembered the plane wreckage being left on the shores of the river for around three months after the accident.
It became something of a tourist attraction - with children playing in what was left of the plane.
Mr Collins, who has been the harbour master at Ramsholt Quay for 40 years, says he remembers the accident vividly.
He said: "They were in such deep water that we could only see the end of the plane sticking out of the river.
"The crew were very brave. If they had hit Alderton, there would have been serious casualties."