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Notes On The Sharon Belle Research Album 

 Research by Derek Ratledge 

Article presented by Audrey Forgham

                                                                               

  Derek Ratledge, a one time resident of Astwell, has kindly given the village the album he has compiled detailing his research into the crash of the B17, the Flying Fortress bomber “Sharon Belle”, which crashed at Astwell in 1943. The project was long and difficult and it is to his credit that so much has been discovered.   Helmdon is indebted to him.
 
The story has been documented on the website by two articles and three press cuttings as follows:
Articles
No: 47
30th November – A Memorable Date To Remember
No: 60
Another Day To Remember (The American Air Force Crash At Astwell Castle Farm)
Press cuttings
Names of US Airman at Village Memorial Unveiled: We’ll Not Forget Brave Of 1949 Northampton Chronicle & Echo 4 November 2009
British Honor Men Killed In WW1 Crash Cincinnati Enquirer 8 November 2009
Crash Airmen Finally Named Northampton Chronicle & Echo 24 November 2009

So, given all this information, it is not the intention here to revisit the story of the tragedy. However, Derek, after dogged persistence, managed to contact some of the families of the doomed airmen so as to tell them about the memorial on the village green next to Helmdon’s own village war memorial, (later joined by the a memorial plaque placed in the church of St Mary Magdalene), and this, together with official information, has resulted in mini-biographies of the men.

The victims of this fateful air crash were –

 

Captain
Richard W. Pugh Co .Pilot
1sr Lt.
William M. Holland Pilot
F/O
Leighton D. Patterson Navigator
2nd Lt.
William S. Munro Bombardier
T/Sgt.
Thomas D. Glaspell Engineer
T/Sgt.
Billy B. Freeman Radio Operator
S/Sgt.
Dean Lanfear Waist Gunner
S/Sgt.
Charles E. Slayton Waist Gunner
S/Sgt.
Harry A. Scott Ball Turret Gunner
S/Sgt.
Henry P. Brannon Tail Gunner
 

Crew of the Sharon Belle (click to enlarge)
The crew of the Sharon Belle

92nd bombardment group  327th bomb squadron
Back row, left to right:
Richard Pugh, Billy Freeman,  ? , Wm. Holland, Thos. Glaspell
Front row, left to right:
?,  ?,  Harry Branson, Charles Slayton

(NB There is another photo of the Crew at the end of the article)


Captain Richard (Dick) W. Pugh (1918–1943)
Army serial no: 15067055
Duty Co-Pilot

The son of Attorney and Mrs Elliott Pugh, Dick was born in California on 15.05.18. At the time of enlistment in 1941 he lived in Hamilton County, Cincinnati, and was a graduate of Withrow High School. He had three years at Ohio University and was an actor in civilian life.

He was the squadron commander and the assistant operational officer, and on that fateful mission, the duty co-pilot.

Since leaving the US in 1942 he had participated in numerous raids over Europe and two secret missions to the US before returning to action in December 1942. While at home in the US he told a Thames Star reporter that his crew had destroyed two enemy planes and had bombed Cherbourg, Lille, and other parts of France. He also told of escorting Mrs Roosevelt over his bomber. He completed 22 missions and was looking forward to a long leave.

During his service he was awarded the European-American-Middle-Eastern campaign medal with l bronze service star, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, a World War11 victory medal and a World War11 lapel button. He was commended for aerial achievement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff and General Ira C. Eakon, commander of the Eighth Air Force.

He was single, without dependents.

He is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO 82-206, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.

We were happy to welcome his great niece, Beth Pugh, when she attended the service at Helmdon war memorial in Helmdon in 2009, and again in 2018.
 

 
1st Lt William Murray Holland, Jr. (1920-1943)
Army serial no: 18058400
Duty Pilot


William was born on 11.05.20 in Live Oak, Texas, the son of William & Mabel Holland. He was majoring in agriculture and left Texas A&M University after one year to join the war effort. He sometime worked as a salesperson. He was the captain on this occasion whilst carrying the squadron commander Richard Pugh as co-pilot.

He was single, without dependents.

William is buried at Gussettville County Cemetery in Live Oak and received a posthumous Purple Heart.

We were happy to welcome Sherry Holland Appell, her husband Mike, and her son Todd, when they visited Helmdon in 2009, attending the 11 November memorial service in Helmdon church and the war memorial.
 

 
F/O Leighton D. Patterson (1921-1943)
Army serial no: 19122535
Duty Navigator


Leighton was born in 1921 in Idaho, the son of Melvin & Verna Patterson, and at the time of his enlistment he was living in San Joaquim, California. He graduated from Caldwell High School, studied agriculture at the College of Idaho for three years and had worked in the manufacture of automobiles.

He was engaged in more than 25 missions during his service.

He was single and had no dependents and planned to be a pastor after the war.

He received a posthumous Purple Heart.

 
2nd Lt William S. Munro, Jr (1923-1943)
Army serial no12039494
Duty Bombardier

William (Bill to his family), son of William and Marion Monro, was from Delaware County, New York. He had three years at High School, and was an architect in civilian life. He was single without dependents.

William is buried at Jefferson Barracks Memorial Cemetery, St Louis, MO 82-86, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.

 

T/Sgt Thomas Dale Glaspell (1918-1943)
Army serial no: 39381577
Duty Engineer


Thomas (called Dale by his family), the son of William and Bessie Glaspell, was born in Waitsburg, Washington, and at the time of his enlistment lived in Eureka, Walla Walla County, Washington. A graduate of Prescott (Washington) High School and Lamar (Washington) grade school, he was an engineer in the American Air Corps (2), entering the service in 1941 as a mechanic.

He was wounded in action in action on August 12th 1943 and spent 32 days in hospital. After a few days of rest he returned to active duty. He had two oak leaf clusters, one Air Medal, and a DFC for staying at his post for two hours after being wounded.

It was not uncommon for there to be transfers between members of a bomb squadron, and Thomas was on loan the Sharon Belle for this particular mission.

He was single, without dependents.

Thomas is buried Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO82-206, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.
 


 
T/Sgt Billy B. Freeman (1920-1943)
Army serial no: 15068394
Duty Radio Officer

Billy was born on 04.02.20 and was from Kenton County, Kentucky. In 1941, after four years at East Night High School, he enlisted as a private. In civilian life he had worked with tinsmiths, coppersmiths and sheet metal workers.

He had completed 22 missions and was looking forward to a long leave back in the US. He received three oak leaf clusters to the Air Medal and had been commended for aerial achievement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General George Marshall, army chief of staff and General Ira C. Eakers, Commander of the 8th Air Force.

He was single, without dependents.

Billy and is buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, KY, A–1208, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.
 

 
S/Sgt Dean Landfear (1921-1943)
Army serial no: 13072415
Duty Waist Gunner


Dean was born in 1921 in Pennsylvania and at the time of his enlistment he was living in Trumbull County, Ohio. He was the adopted son of Ford and Myrtle Landfear. He attended High School for four years.

There are varying reports as to Dean’s marital status at the time of his death. The official report records him as single but a descendant has said that there was a newspaper report the he married and that his wife was named Georgena or May and that they had one son, Dan, born six days after the death of his father.

Dean received a posthumous Purple Heart.

 

S/Sgt Charles E. Slayton (1918 – 1943)
Army serial no: 14061823
Duty Waist Gunner and Radio Operator

Charles was born 23.11.18 in Tennessee and at the time of his enlistment he was living in Walker County, Georgia. After four years at High School, in civilian life he was employed as a sales person with the Mercer Pie Co. When on duty in England he met and married Josephine Hall from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, at Apsley. They had one son, Dan, born six days after the death of his father.

It was not uncommon for there to be transfers between members of a bomb squadron, and Charles was on loan to the Sharon Belle for this particular mission.


He was buried at Jefferson Barracks Memorial Cemetery, St Louis, MO 82–206, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.


 
S/Sgt. Harry A. Scott (1912 – 1943)
Army serial no: 36061698
Ball Turret Gunner

Harry was born in Illinois and at the time of his enlistment he lived in Clark County, East St Louis, Illinois. He had two years at High School and had held semi-skilled occupations in civilian life, including the building of aircraft.

His niece, Amy Sloop, says that he volunteered for that fatal last flight.

He was single, without dependents.

Harry received a posthumous Purple Heart.

 

S/Sgt Henry (Harry) P. Brannon (1917 – 1943)
Army serial no: 39082464
Fort Tail Turret Gunner

Harry (known in the family as Paul) was born on 15.06.17 in California and at the time of enlistment he was living in Cutler, Tulare County, California. He was educated at a grammar school and in civilian life he had worked in unskilled occupations in the building of aircraft. He was on loan from the 303rd Bomber squadron.

He was awarded the DFC and the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters which were given to his mother. He was also decorated with a Silver Star (the army’s third highest decoration for gallantry in action) for dispersing enemy fighters, twice emptying his gun and reloading in the heat of the battle, as “he destroyed one fighter and probably shot down another”.

A letter from his Lieutenant stated “for me Henry will always be the greatest tail gunner that ever stepped into a fortress. I’m proud that I can say I flew so much with him.

It was not uncommon for there to be transfers between members of a bomb squadron, and Henry was on loan tothe Sharon Belle for this particular mission.

Harry was single, without dependents.

He is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO 82-206, and received a posthumous Purple Heart.

We were happy to welcome Lynn and Ron (the great nephew of Harry) who visited Helmdon from California.



 

The Crew of the Sharon Belle (click to enlarge).
The Crew of the Sharon Belle (click to enlarge).

 

The Sharon Belle crash site (click to enlarge)
The Sharon Belle crash site

at Astwell, between Helmdon and Wappenham, Northamptonshire.


"Mutilation and complete disintegration - 10 combat  crew members killed in action when aircraft crashed at Astwell Castle (farm) between Wappenham & Helmdon near Silverstone, Northamptonshire, a few minutes following take off on an operational flight (aircraft B.17 - never left England) three five hundred pound bombs exploded approximate time of crash & explosion is set at 08.10 hours 30th Nov.1943."


Editor’s notes:

1.
These notes have been taken from recollections as well as from official papers so their accuracy must be treated with caution.
2.
There was no US Air Force at the time of World War II. In 1941 The US Army Air Corps (USAAC) became the US Amy Air Forces (USAAF). It was not until 1947 that the US Air Force was established as a separate branch of the US military. That is why the ranks in the US Air Force are the same as those in the US Army.
3.
The Purple Heart was the medal all American servicemen were awarded when wounded or killed in action.
4.
The editor would be grateful for any other information which helps to commemorate these brave men. Please email editor@helmdonhistory.com.
5.
The Sharon Belle Album is in the possession of the Helmdon history website. If you would like to look at it please email editor@helmdonhistory.com.                    2020                                                                E.&O.E.

   

 
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