Glasgow & West Scotland

US couple in 'emotional' visit to uncle's WW2 crash site

Vicki Graham (left) and her husband Barry (right), from Yankton, South Dakota, with Archie Watt (middle) Image copyright PA
Image caption Vicki Graham (left) and her husband Barry (right), from Yankton, South Dakota, with Archie Watt (middle)

An American couple have made an "emotional" visit to a field where a relative survived a WW2 air crash.

Mearl C Waswick was a tail gunner on a B-17 which made an emergency landing in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, in 1943.

His niece, Vicki Graham, 63, and her husband Barry, 65, from South Dakota, visited the field at Braehead farm where the Flying Fortress came down.

They also spoke to Archie Watt, 84, who saw the plane land when he was an 11-year-old boy working in a nearby field.

'Bellyflop' landing

Mr Watt said: "They just came out of the blue. The first I heard was the tops of the trees getting stripped off by the plane passing through them and then it did a bellyflop and landed without the undercarriage coming down.

"We went across and when we got there they were all out. The crew were fine as I remember. It was a perfect landing under the circumstances. They picked the right field. There was hardly a mark on the plane.

"It's very nice to meet the Grahams. I didn't get to know any of the crew but I'll never forget it. It was the biggest fright of my life. Every time I see a plane flying it flashes through my head."

Image copyright PA

The crash also remained a secret in the Graham family for decades until their daughter Carrie wrote a story about her great-uncle, who died in 1999.

He produced a penny he took as a reminder of the crash, which she now wears on a necklace, and told her a little of what happened.

'Very emotional'

Standing at the crash site on Wednesday, her mother Vicki said: "It's very emotional. It was part of my uncle's history and I kind of wish he could have been able to come and see the place and meet the people and meet Archie again.

"He didn't talk a lot about his war. He was a very shy and quiet man.

"My uncle was the only injury. They all got out the top of the plane and when they were getting out one of the guys stood on his face. He didn't tell us that, it was his friend, another crew member.

"He said the people around here were wonderful."

Image copyright PA

The B-17 was heading from Newfoundland to a base in Polebrook, Northamptonshire, via Prestwick, South Ayrshire, when it lost an engine 1,000 miles out in the Atlantic and then ran out of fuel on being diverted from fog-bound Prestwick.

Mrs Graham said the pilot told the crew to parachute out but they stayed with him as he brought the plane down safely.

The couple were driven to the site by Glasgow Taxis, which also arranged for them to meet Mr Watt there.