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Pensioner whose story inspired memorial flypast visits Suffolk airbases

PUBLISHED: 12:48 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 21 March 2019

Tony Foulds at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

Tony Foulds at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

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A pensioner whose heart-warming story inspired a special anniversary flypast to pay tribute to a fallen American air crew has visited two Suffolk airbases to thank those involved.

Tony Foulds was just a young boy when he witnessed the bomber crash in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONESTony Foulds was just a young boy when he witnessed the bomber crash in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

Tony Foulds, 82, from Sheffield, visited RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall last week following their involvement in the ‘Mi Amigo’ flypast last month.

Mr Foulds was just a boy when he witnessed the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash in Endcliffe Park in the city 75 years ago, which claimed the lives of all on board.

The pensioner believes the pilot was forced to steer away from him and his friends, who were playing in the park, and has dedicated decades of his life to looking after a memorial to them.

After a chance meeting with BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker in Endcliffe park, a social media campaign quickly gathered pace and more than 10,000 attended the moving flypast in the park on February 22.

Sheffield pensioner Tony Foulds met pilots who took part in the flypast at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/AIRMAN SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONESSheffield pensioner Tony Foulds met pilots who took part in the flypast at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/AIRMAN SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

The aircraft also flew over the Cambridge American Cemetery, in Coton, just outside Cambridge, where three of the Mi Amigo crew are interred.

MORE: Suffolk airbases take part in moving tribute to Mi Amigo crew

A spokesman for RAF Lakenheath said Tony’s family got in touch after the flypast to see if he could make a visit to thank the people who made the event possible.

Captain Elias Small, from RAF Lakenheath’s public affairs office, said: “After visiting our wingmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, Tony joined us here at RAF Lakenheath.

Tony got a tour of the airbase and a chance to look at one of the F-15 Strike Eagles Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONESTony got a tour of the airbase and a chance to look at one of the F-15 Strike Eagles Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

“It was clear from the moment he arrived just how excited he was, and it was incredible to see the excitement from our team as well.

“Tony has definitely achieved celebrity status with our airmen. Throughout his visit people would stop and ask to take selfies with him.”

After getting an up close look at one of the F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft, Mr Foulds took a tour of the 494th Fighter Squadron, which was the unit from Lakenheath responsible for planning and executing the base’s part of the memorial flypast.

MORE: Suffolk airbases prepare for ‘memorable’ anniversary flypast

Cpt Small added: “His visit culminated in the Panthers’ heritage room where he met the 494th Fighter Squadron’s commander, Lt Col Jaina Donberg, the 48th Operations Group commander, Col Jason Camilletti, and the eight aircrew members who actually conducted the flypast.

“As a small token of gratitude for his dedication to our nation’s fallen heroes, the squadron presented Tony with a commemorative lithograph signed by these eight aircrew members.

“We are grateful Tony took the time to visit with us and for giving us a chance to say thank you in person on behalf of our countrymen whose memories he keeps alive.”

Captain Zach Overbey, 351st Air Refueling Squadron aircraft commander at RAF Mildenhall, said: “It was a very special moment meeting Mr Foulds and showing him our aircraft, we were extremely proud to show him the tanker.

“Right from the start, I knew it was going to be a pretty special event and was very excited to do the flyover, it turned out awesome.

“The tour capped off the whole wonderful experience. My crew members and I were very happy with the event and the turnout from the base.”

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