US bomber flypast pensioner greeted by wellwishers on return to memorial

The day after 12,000 people gathered for a flypast to salute the crew of an American bomber, pensioner Tony Foulds was back tending the memorial to the 10 men amid calls for him to receive an official honour.

On Saturday, Mr Foulds travelled his usual seven miles, on foot and by bus, from his home to Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, where he witnessed the B-17 Flying Fortress Mi Amigo crash in front of him on February 22, 1944.

Any plans the 82-year-old had to perform any essential maintenance to the memorial on the crash site, where he spends six days a week, were dashed by a constant stream of well-wishers hugging him, shaking his hand and asking for selfies as they congratulated him on Friday’s spectacular event.

Many of those stopping to talk to Mr Foulds in the Saturday sunshine echoed growing calls for the pensioner to be honoured by the Queen for his dedication to the Mi Amigo’s crew.

A Hercules (left) and an Osprey
A Hercules (left) and an Osprey took part in the flypast tribute (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Foulds was eight when the badly-damaged bomber limped over the roofs of nearby houses and crashed into a wooded area, apparently to avoid him and his friends who were fighting on the grass.

He has since dedicated his life to the crew, believing he was responsible for their deaths.

However, scores of people who stopped to talk to him on Saturday morning urged him to stop feeling guilty.

One elderly man said to Mr Foulds: “You need to stop this talk of feeling guilty.

“It was the Germans who killed those men, not you. You were a kid. It wasn’t your fault.”

Another shook him briskly by the hand and said: “You deserve a knighthood. It’ll be travesty if they don’t give you one.”

Mr Foulds said: “It’s just amazing. They’ve not stopped just coming up and shaking my hand.

“I had a letter from an American this morning. It said this proves what we’ve always thought, that you Brits do love us.”

I don’t really know what to say. There are so many messages and I’m sorry that I can’t respond to them all. I’ve saved loads of them and will read them to Tony when I come back from Kilimanjaro. You’re all amazing 👏🏻#TonyGotAFlypast#RememberTheTenpic.twitter.com/B8eWwavIMC

— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) February 22, 2019

The flypast, which included fighters from the United States Air Force and the RAF, was broadcast around the world and watched by a massive crowd in the park which has been estimated at 12,000 people.

Clear skies meant that the assembled audience were able to perfectly see the tribute to the men, who were limping back from a bombing raid in Denmark on the day of the fateful crash.

Mr Foulds broke down in tears after the names of the dead men were read out at the salute.

The event to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash followed a campaign by BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker, who bumped into Mr Foulds while walking his dog in the park last month.

Walker, who is currently in Tanzania preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, is now leading the calls for the pensioner to be officially recognised.

He posted on Twitter: “The next step is getting Tony an honour from the Queen. Please retweet & like this and I’ll use this in the submission.”