The Death of a Heavenly Body

The story of the World War II B-17G aircraft collision.

Reviewed by Janet Penn

A new ebook in the Canvey's Secret War series produced by SeeHistory (www.seehistory.org.uk) delves into the story of the two American B-17 bombers that collided over Canvey Island in 1944. We have been given permission to reproduced here the opening paragraphs of the ebook with a link to the whole ebook at the bottom of the page, just click the back button to bring you back to this page. There are first hand accounts from some of the crew and details from official reports plus background details of the mission.

The casualties are either buried or commemorated at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial which you can find and search on Findagrave here.

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Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Death of a Heavenly Body' page
Canvey Island is rich in history but few islanders seem to be aware of its somewhat diverse heritage. Even the wartime roles of the island during both World Wars and later in the Cold War period seem to be forgotten and would in the most part be lost if not for the dedicated efforts of amateur historians and researchers. Otherwise the island's past is seemingly lost to memories or at best buried away in hidden archives.

The single wartime tale that some locals are vaguely aware about (if only because it is often mentioned as part of the island's annual memorial ceremony), is that of the mid-air collision of two American B-17 bombers. One of the aircraft having crashed at Canvey Point onto the salt marshes. This event occurred on the 19th June 1944 and forms an epic story with a somewhat frightening if thankful outcome that still lingers in the memories of some of the island's more elderly residents.

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Note
You will need Acrobat Reader on your computer to access this ebook.

The ebook is the © of seeHistory.

Canvey Community Archive publishes it in good faith but does not accept responsibility for its contents.

The Death of a Heavenly Body (3187k)
The story of the World War II B-17G aircraft collision.

This page was added by Janet Penn on 28/08/2010.
Comments about this page

A group of us recovered some of the wreckage back in 1999 we made two trips back to the site it was mentioned in the evening echo

By Ray Milbourn
On 11/04/2011

I remember that day so well, even though I was only seven at the time. Mum and I were in our garden and saw the two planes collide.One plane continued its journey but the other began to lose height. The next moment we saw parachutes opening and watched as they came floating down. I can still see my Mum waving her arms about and shouting "Come down here boys, come down here". It was many years later it happened to come into a conversation that my elder brother Alan and I were having - and he told me that on the day of the crash, he and a friend cycled to Canvey Point and saw the crashed aircraft.

By Irene Bailey (nee Woodhouse)
On 11/04/2011

As a former member of the now disbanded Essex Aviation Group, who had Museum premises at Duxford, in Cambridge. I have over many years visited this crash site, my colleague and school friend Alan Jasper made contact with a number of the aircraft's crew, to inc Lloyd Burns the pilot. Alan visited them on several occasions at their homes in America and was able to get first hand accounts of what happened on that fatal day. Many items from the aircraft have been removed from the site, and being constantly immersed in Thames salt water does not do much for its preservation. The photographs showing the recovery of large sections of the B17 I remember very well, because on this occassion I accompanied my friend and the curator of Blake Hall, Airscene Museum, Rodney Aspinell, where the engine and other items were cleaned and placed on display. I have one item which I treasure from this crash site. A stainless steel manufacturers label marked with the legend B17G, which was found in the folds of one of the aircraft's exhaust system. I have many happy memories of this site as it was the very first crash site I ever visited as a member of the Essex Aviation Group. We went on to excavate many more sites, and the remains of the aircraft were very respectfully cleaned and displayed as a fitting tribute to the crews and a memorial to their sacrifice. We are so lucky being born of a generation that has not witnessed or lived through a world war, and we should remember always that these young boys died in order that we can live in the relative peace we enjoy today. Thank God we had them then, God bless the living and the dead.

By Trevor A. Williams.
On 19/06/2011