Wincanton marks the 80th anniversary of the crash of Old Faithful

THE 80th anniversary of the crash of the famous Old Faithful American Flying Fortress bomber – which exploded over Snag Farm in Wincanton in 1944 – was marked by Wincanton residents and the town council last Sunday (June 23).

The event was marked at the War Memorial Hall which included a minutes silence, wreath laying and reading of the names of the men who died and placing of crosses. This was followed by a parade to the Memorial at Bayford Hill.

In attendance were LTC. Chris Distifeno and Mrs Patricia Distifeno of the US Army Defence Attache, the Army Air Corps and Royal British Legion as well as Col. Lucy Giles CBE, Col. Colin Thomas from the British Army, The Watts Family, Reverend Andy Barton CF, Wincanton Silver Band, Wincanton Memorial Hall, Wincanton Fire Cadets, and Wincanton Youth Groups who took part in the parade.

The parade through the town Picture: Graham Hiscock of Camelot Photographic

The aircraft, believed to be named after the famous song by Gene Autry, had taken part in a bombing raid in Toulouse when it took the full force of enemy flak resulting in the loss of one engine.
The crew seemed to head off to neutral Spain just a few miles away however they faced a dilemma as if they went to Spain the aircraft would be impounded and the crew detained for the duration of the war.
Both American and British aircraft were being lost in great numbers and pressure was put on crews to bring back the aircraft wherever possible.

Old Faithful Band leading parade Picture: Graham Hiscock of Camelot Photographic

The pilot, 2nd Lt. Peter Mikonis appeared to have then swing the aircraft around and flew the badly damaged plane 900 miles to England.
The crew almost made it back safely but witnesses say the aircraft was flying very low and seemingly attempted to land at airfields near the Dorset coast but for some reason they couldn’t so they then chose RAF Zeals in Wiltshire as an emergency landing place – not realising Zeals was the other side of high ground.
Local eyewitnesses say the plane was heading for a populated part of the town when the crew tried to bank the aircraft right. They said the aircraft was full of holes and almost falling apart.
In banking right, the aircraft exploded over Snag Farm in Wincanton and all nine crew members were killed.

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