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Tragedy in Yelden in 1944

Memorial to USAAF personnel March 2014
Memorial to USAAF personnel March 2014

On 24th March 1944 a tragedy took place in Yelden. A heavily laden B-17G Flying Fortress of 422nd Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group (Heavy) crashed on take-off from RAF Chelveston. All twelve crew were killed. Tragically the plane struck Glebe Farm killing two children, Keith and Monica Phillips, aged 14 and 4 respectively; their parents survived. Also killed were eight other American service personnel from the staff of the 1121st Quartermaster Company who were sleeping in a nearby barrack block. Details can be found at the following website. The crash site is close to the church and today [2015] the family affected is commemorated in the name of a new development of houses nearby - Phillips Meadows.

The USAAF personnel on the aircraft were:

  • First Lieutenant William D Sellers, the pilot, from Birmingham, Alabama*;
  • Second Lieutenant David A Rementeria, the co-pilot, from Canyon City, Oregon*;
  • First Lieutenant Jack E George from Texas*;
  • Second Lieutenant Myer Silber, buried in the United Hebrew Cemetery, Halethorpe Maryland;
  • First Lieutenant Charles Wesley Leake from Markham, Illinois;
  • Top Sergeant Jessie or Jesse H Lehr from Bolivar, Mississippi;
  • Staff Sergeant Kenneth I Mace, buried in Delawanna, New Jersey;
  • Top Sergeant Donald C Parrish, buried at Troy, Michigan;
  • Sergeant Dale E Rishel from Uniontown, Pennsylvania;
  • Staff Sergeant Loyde J Judd from Freeport, Maine;
  • Corporal Joseph N A Grugnale, from Dedham Massachusetts

An asterisk indicates burial in the American cemetery at Madingley [Cambridgeshire].

The Quartermaster Company personnel were:

  • Private Frank J Amato, buried in North Arlington, New Jersey;
  • Private First Class Michael R Arato, from New York*;
  • Corporal Sebastian J Attilio, buried in Fort Lee, New Jersey;
  • Private First Class Arnold N Chipoletti, 30, buried at New Kensington, Pennsylvania;
  • Sergeant Edward W Dell, buried in Lincoln, Nebraska;
  • Private First Class William Loren Dickerson, buried in Largen, Virginia;
  • Nils S Johnson, from Worcester, Colorado;
  • Robert Paul McClain buried in Shelbyville, Indiana.

The Rectory was the site of both the ARP Warden's Post and the First Aid Point [WW2/AR/C/2/253]. Twelve domestic surface shelters had been erected in Yelden in expectation of German bombing in March 1941 [WW2/AR/C/2/89]. For the duration of the War Yelden School, which had closed in 1925, was re-opened for evacuees.

A report on the tragedy was presented to the County Emergency Committee for Civil Defence on 12th April 1944 under the heading "Care of the Homeless" [WW2/AR/C2/231]: "At 11.30 am on the 24th instant I was notified by telephone at this office from Chelveston that an American "Flying Fortress" Aircraft had hit the farm buildings at Glebe Farm, Yielden in this County and in doing so had completely demolished the bungalow occupied by a Mr and Mrs W A Phillips and their two children. I regret to say that the two children were killed. Both Mr and Mrs Phillips were admitted to the Northampton General Hospital with injuries and suffering from shock (Mrs Phillips is eight months pregnant). Without a moment's delay I sent a representative over from this Office to see if there was anything we could do to help and the father of Mr Phillips was interviewed on the spot and he was in a position to help with arrangements. The cattle belonging to the injured man were being looked after by a friend and a neighbour was taking care of some rabbits. There was nothing else left".

"The Officer Commanding the Air Station was anxious to do anything he could to assist the unfortunate people but no immediate assistance was required. Arrangements were at once made for the Clerk of the Bedford Rural District Council to issue new identity cards and ration books to Mr and Mrs Phillips and also for the Assistance Board to issue clothing coupons".

"I have today sent Mr Phillips the following documents for completion and requesting him to send them to the appropriate Government Departments, viz;-

(1) Form PCS4 (Furniture etc)
(2) Form C1 Norification of damage ro land, buildings etc.
(3) Explanatory pamphlet

If we can render further help or advice in the matter, although it may not be strictly within our ambit, we shall certainly do so".