Holyhead Christmas Tragedy

28 Jan

On 22 December 1944, 7 US air force B-24 Liberators were returning from a mission to ‘jam’ enemy communications using their special on-board radio transmitters.  They were destined for RAF Cheddington in Buckinghamshire but on reaching the airfield found it had been closed due to adverse weather.  A contingency plan was in place and four of the aircraft landed at RAF Atcham near Shrewsbury while three were diverted to Anglesey; and RAF Valley.

The three planes were placed into a holding formation while they awaited final landing instructions from RAF Valley. Shortly after 5-30 in the evening the pilot of B24 42-51232 (known as Marker Jig because of its call sign) reported that two of his engines had cut out and that he had given the order for the crew to evacuate.  All ten crew successfully parachuted out of the aircraft and a few minutes later the Coastguard reported that a plane had ditched into the sea off the North Stack of Holyhead Mountain.

A huge search commenced with military personnel and local police from across Anglesey joining in.  Soldiers from Ty Croes artillery range joined RAF and American ground crew in the search on land while boats under the command of HMS Bee searched the dark waters.  The pilot, Harold Boehm, was found in Holyhead and his co-pilot was picked up in Trearddur Bay but there was no sign of the other 8 crew members and to this day they are still listed as missing presumed drowned.

An American air force investigation concluded that the engine failure was due to the aircraft running out of fuel and that the crew had bailed out of the plane without flotation equipment.  The remains of this aircraft are designated as a Protected Place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.  In 1993 a memorial was erected in the Breakwater Country Park near Holyhead.

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