Bachelor’s Baby – Penmaenmawr

7 Jan

On a windswept plateau in the hills above Penmaenmawr is a memorial stone dedicated to five American airmen and their mascot, a terrier called Booster.  They were killed when their B-24 Liberator bomber crashed here in low cloud exactly 70 years ago today – the 7th January 1944.  The aircraft, named ‘Bachelor’s Baby’ by its crew, had left their base in Palm Beach, Florida a month earlier and had taken the “southern” route to Britain, via Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Brazil then across the Atlantic to Dakar, Marrakech and onto RAF Valley on Anglesey.  The plane was then due to fly from RAF Valley to RAF Watton in Norfolk where the American Air Force had a base.

On that fateful afternoon the Liberator took off from the R.A.F. station on Anglesey with orders to follow a B17 ‘Flying Fortress’ which was to act as their escort to their new base in eastern England.  Heavy cloud and drizzle meant that they lost sight of the B17 and to make matters worse the magnetic compass was malfunctioning.  The clouds broke for an instant and they realised that they were too low and despite the best efforts of the pilot, Adrian Shultz, the plane struck a ridge, crashed and burst into flames.  The plane was carrying a huge cargo of ammunition and on impact it started to explode.  The surviving airmen struggled valiantly to help their comrades who were trapped in the burning airframe but sadly for some it was too late.

The bomb aimer, 2nd Lieutenant Norman Boyer managed to make his way down to a local farmhouse near Rowen and raised the alarm.  However local men working at the quarry and PC Hughes-Parry of Llanfairfechan had arrived at the crash site after seeing and hearing the plane in difficulty overhead and on arrival administered first aid before carrying the injured all the way down the mountain to Graiglwyd Hall in Penmaenmawr.  They were treated here by a local doctor before being taken by ambulance to hospital in Bangor.  Before being transferred to hospital Sergeant Harold Alexander, a gunner on the aircraft, pleaded with one of the quarrymen, Ellis Lewis, if he would go back to the crash site and bury their mascot – Booster.  Mr Lewis did as he was asked and buried the little black and white fox terrier on the windswept plateau next to the burnt out aircraft.

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One of the survivors was the plane’s navigator 2nd Lieutenant Julian Ertz.  Before the war he played American football for his high school and later for Temple University in Pennsylvania. He was known to his fellow crew members as the “singing fullback”.  However after treatment at hospital in Bangor and then at American military hospitals he returned to America in a full body cast after breaking his back in the crash but recovered enough to finish studying law and become an attorney.

In 1980 a memorial was dedicated to the crew and today virtually nothing remains of the aircraft, just a scar of exposed rock and soil on which the commemorative plaque stands and where no vegetation grows.  Today, 70 years since the crash, as gale force winds howled across the hillside and the incessant rain beat down we laid a simple cross in memory of co-pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Davis; engineer, Staff Sergeant Samuel Offutt; gunner, Sergeant William Lorenz; gunner, Sergeant William Nichols; Technical Sergeant Nicholas Cennemo and Booster the fox terrier. Lest We Forget.

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