The Liberator Crew Memorial Unveiling at Cheshunt
By Dave Hewitt
The Liberator Crash
The crew of the B-24 Liberator steered the stricken aircraft away from the town. On August 12 1944, a B-24 Liberator from RAF Wending was on its way to perform a bombing mission when it is thought that a mid-air collision sent it tumbling from the sky with a full payload of explosives. Headed for the heart of Cheshunt, the crew bravely remained on board to steer the aircraft clear of the town.
Then 15-year-old fire-fighter Ernie Havis attended the scene. Haunted by the experience of retrieving the bodies of the airmen, he resolved to recognise their courageous act. Broxbourne resident Lee Williamson donated the funds to build the memorial. Now 80 years old, Mr Havis spoke to BBC Three Counties Radio about the events of that day. A memorial service to unveil the stone at St Mary’s School, off Lieutenant Ellis Way in Cheshunt, was held on the 22 January 2011 at 11.00am at St Mary’s School.
Lt Ellis was the pilot of a B-24 that came down with engine trouble on the 12th of August 1944. All of the crew perished in the crash, not far from where the new school has been built. It was rumoured that it was originally in collision with a 389th B-17 from Nuthampstead, but this was found to be untrue.
The Crew of the B-24 Liberator
Pilot 2nd Lt Ellis, John D.
Co-Pilot F/O Stalsby, Samuel C.
Navigator 2nd Lt Cox, Robert B.
Engineer T/Sgt Jankowski, Stanley F.
Radio Operator T/Sgt Holling, John H.
Gunner S/Sgt Hultengren, Clare W.
Gunner S/Sgt Minick, Frank Jr.
Gunner S/Sgt Cable, Jay V.
Gunner S/Sgt Shaeffer, Jack D.
Gunner S/Sgt McGinley, William C.
With thanks to event organiser David Parnell for allowing me to film this moving event.
Information from Paul Webb
It was my father George Webb that called out the fire service on that day, he was on his way to work (aged 15) when he heard the Liberator coming down, it was blipping its engines and crashed nose down into the field within 50 yards or so of my father. He and another chap that came out in pajamas tried to get to the plane and check on the crew, but had a small river between them and the plane.
At this time ammunition was starting to go off but the plane was still pretty much complete. They ran heading towards a small bridge with the intention of running back along the other side of the river to get to the Liberator when there was a tremendous explosion and they dived to the ground. When they got back up, all that was left was a large hole in the ground where the plane had previously been.
My father then ran to a phone and called the fire brigade and then continued on to work, he can still remember these events as if it happened yesterday, had it not been for that river being between him and the Liberator when it crashed, he would have got to the plane and been killed when it exploded . . . and I would not be here writing this report.