Family and islanders remember WW2 plane crash on Skye

  • Published
Crash siteImage source, Calum Maclean
Image caption,
Wreckage is still visible at the site of the fatal plane crash in 1945

A 75th commemoration has been held to remember nine US airmen killed in a crash on Skye during World War Two.

Fresh from training, the crew were flying a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber from the US via Iceland to RAF Valley in Wales.

The aircraft clipped cliffs and crashed in Trotternish on 3 March 1945.

Relatives of Second Lt Paul Overfield Jnr were among those gathering at a war memorial in Skye which carries the names of the nine men.

The 21-year-old pilot, along with co-pilot Second Lt Leroy E Cagle, navigator Second Lt Charles K Jeanblanc, radio operator Cpl Arthur W Kopp Jr, engineer Cpl Harold D Blue and gunners Cpl John H Vaughan, Cpl Harold A Fahselt, Cpl George S Aldrich and Cpl Carter D Wilkinson died in the crash.

Image caption,
The commemoration was held at Staffin War Memorial

In foggy weather, the bomber crashed on Beinn Edra, the highest point on the Trotternish Ridge in Staffin.

Islanders who tried to go to their aid found the men's personal belongings among the wreckage, including fishing rods and bicycles.

Parts of the wreckage are still visible on the ridge.

The names of the airmen were added to Staffin War Memorial five years ago to mark 70 years since the crash. There is also a plaque below the ridge to remember the loss of the crew.

Image source, Paul Overfield Jnr family
Image caption,
Second Lt Paul Overfield Jnr was among the nine crew

Second Lt Overfield's sister Betty Foote, who is now in her late 80s and living in Florida, is not well enough to attend Tuesday's 75th commemoration but other members of her family were expected at the event.

Recalling her older brother, she said: "During high school he and his friends collected scrap iron on Saturdays for the cause (war effort).

"I was 13 years old and in 8th Grade when Paul was killed. The minister came to the school and took us home."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The crew had flown a Flying Fortress from the US

Former Army chaplain, the Rev Rory MacLeod, led the commemoration at Staffin War Memorial.

Relatives and islanders were to later gather at community building, the Columba 1400 Centre, and family were offered an opportunity to visit Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre in Portree.

The commemoration was organised by Staffin Community Trust, supported by Staffin Community Council.

Second Lt Overfield's cousin Doug Overfield travelled from the US to attend the commemoration.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "We came here today not only to remember Paul and the crew, but also to thank Staffin for the generosity and for everything they have done to remember my cousin.

"We will return to the US with all this information for Paul's sister Betty and how we were taken aback by what they have done."