WWII Crew Honored Nearly 70 Years Later

Members of the village of Helmdon and the 422nd Air Base Group at RAF Croughton, United Kingdom, recently honored the crew of the “Sharon Belle,” a World War II bomber crew whose B-17 fatally crashed in 1943. On Nov. 30, 1943, residents of the village watched the aircraft crash and explode after barely missing the village. It wasn’t until 2007 that the village learned more about the 327th Bombardment Squadron, VIII Bomber Command, from RAF Poddington, according to a US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa release. “I felt like I needed to find out about the people that were killed that day because I figured their family would like to know where those boys had died,” said Derek Ratledge, who was 8 at the time of the crash and instrumental in discovering the crew’s origins. On Nov. 2, 2013, nearly 70 years after the crash, the village and the 422nd ABG gathered in the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Helmdon to honor the crew in a ceremony. The ceremony included an honor guard presentation and a memorial service. (501st CSW report)