A SPECIAL US flag has been presented to Ivor Ramsden of the Manx Aviation and Military Museum at Ronaldsway by the North American Manx Association (NAMA).
The story behind this presentation dates back to a tragic air crash that occurred in 1945, cited as the worst air disaster in Manx history, and marked each year by a pilgrimage up North Barrule.
On Monday, April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the end of the Second World War, Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress number 43-38856 – one of 13,000 built at the Boeing factory in Seattle – was organised to take a group of servicemen from nine different units on a week’s leave to Northern Ireland.
The men chosen for the leave were the support servicemen, the ground crews, armourers, mechanics and fitters.
Some of these men had been at Ridgewell in England since June 1943, and, for most, this was their first real break since that time.
The weather that day was reported as clear, but, as anyone who lives in the island knows, the peaks are often shrouded in cloud and mist.
It is unclear as to why the experienced pilot, Captain Charles ‘Chuck’ Ackerman, descended for safe altitude, but it is possible he wanted to do a bit of impromptu sightseeing.
Whatever the reason, that morning the B-17G, which took off from Ridgewell, flew into the side of North Barrule, killing all 31 onboard.
The men were buried on April 27, 1945, at the American Military Cemetery at Madingley, near Cambridge.
In 1995, Maughold Commissioners and the Manx Aviation Preservation Society erected a memorial plaque and flagpole at the crash site.
Every year since, Mike Corlett of Laxey leads fellow members of the Manx Aviation Preservation Society up North Barrule where they fly an American flag over the spot for a week to commemorate the tragedy.
Mike visited the crash site as a boy, soon after it happened in 1945, and remembers the scene of devastation on the hillside with broken and burnt parts of the aircraft spread over a wide area.
Mike said: ‘The scene where all those men died left a lasting impression on me.
‘I hope that our flying the flag will continue for many years and become a tradition.’
Kevin Wilson, secretary and past president of the 381st BG Memorial Association, said: ‘A sincere thank you to Ivor, to the people of the Isle of Man and their descendents in America for remembering the men of the 381st Bomb Group killed at North Barrule on 23 April 1945.
‘It was a particularly hard loss for the group, losing many combat veterans and ground support personnel so close to the end of the war and during an R&R flight.
‘Families of some of these men still regularly attend the 381st annual reunions.
‘We do not forget them and share your remembrance.’