Monday, April 27, 2009

Liberator Memorial Latest

My thanks to everyone who turned-up at the Westgate war memorial in the pouring rain this afternoon for the remembrance service for the crews of the two Liberator bombers. I was amazed at the number of people present, Thanet councillors, Mike Roberts, the deputy-chair of Thanet District Council, Margate Charter Trustees, members of the British Legion and service men and woman's association, Laura Sandys, members of the cadet corps and the RAF


Two gentlemen who were among the first at each of the crash sites, Mr Smyth from Westgate and Mr Chapman from Margate, also shared their memories of that evening and how they helped in the efforts to rescue survivors.

Particular thanks to John Pritchard, Cllr Ella Pritchard, Cheryl Ezekiel and our Mayor Brian Sullivan for helping bring this event together so quickly. I even heard from the Sgt Gallahan from the US Air Force at Lakenheath this afternoon, who was most helpful and supportive and I'm hoping that we can build today's ceremony into a larger event next year with support from the US Embassy.

Dr John Pritchard has sent me some more photographs, the first being the crashed Liberator bomber in St Mildred's Bay, Westgate

The other photos being two of the crew members, John Ross and Marvin Gurwit.

Interestingly, Mr Smyth, who was sitting in the Swan pub when the Liberator hit the rocks between St Mildred's Bay and West Bay, tells me that the pilot, Jacob Weinheimer, was unharmed and thanked him for helping save his crew. However, it was the co-pilot, Lt George C. Marshall, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross. This strikes me as very unusual, as the commander of the aircraft would normally receive the higher award. However, I'm wondering, alongside historian John Pritchard, whether Lt. Marshall, might have been related to General George Marshall, the famous architect of the Marshall plan? A little more research may be required.

2 comments:

Tony Beachcomber said...

Simon,

Did the Westgate B24 crash land on the rocks or on the sand. If it landed on the sand there is every chance something could be found in the sand with a metal detector, even after all this time.
On the other B24 crash site at Palm Bay there is a huge crater under the sand due to the fire when the aircraft hit the cliff, the crater is constantly buried. When we metal detectored the Palm bay site we found fire damaged .5 ammunition and pieces of aluminium. I knew of a Westgate resident who found a dog tag on the Palm Bay site in the 1970's and the name on the tag was George Haffner and the chances are he still has it.
There is every possibility that over the years people may have found small items on the beach and kept them.
I know the Westgate area on the low water mark used to turn up 20mm cartridges. These are obviously not American and were spent cartridges from where allied fighters use to aim at a floating target nearby the South East Margate bouy to adjust their gun sights before combat.
The entire Thanetcoast always turns up aircraft pieces and I found a piece at Ramsgate this weekend which I posted on my blog. About two weeks ago some guys came down from London to sweep the Whitely site close by the old Nayland beacon, they didn't find anything but I gave them a Air Ministry dimmer switch, a piece of a strut and a pulley found previosly on the site to make their journey worthwhile.

DrM. said...

Tony

Mr Smythe tells us that he crash site was more or less to the front of the "Turret" on the clifftop at St Mildred's Bay car park. This is now rocks. As you can see West Bay in the photo, it's a reasonably straight forward exercise to find the camera owner.s point of view to within a reasonably short distance.