Fitting memorial to fallen airmen

A11 Week 18'MCBH'DP'36th Bomb Squadron Memorial Ceremony in honour of the crew of the Beast of Bourbon which crashed on the 19th February 1945 at Long Marston - pictured is Lt Col Shannon Driscoll of 36 Electronic Warfare Squadron

A11 Week 18'MCBH'DP'36th Bomb Squadron Memorial Ceremony in honour of the crew of the Beast of Bourbon which crashed on the 19th February 1945 at Long Marston - pictured is Lt Col Shannon Driscoll of 36 Electronic Warfare Squadron

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ON its final flight during the Second World War, the Beast of Bourbon crashed near Long Marston, killing three of its young American crew.

ON its final flight during the Second World War, the Beast of Bourbon crashed near Long Marston, killing three of its young American crew.

Last weekend, 66 years after the fateful crash, veterans and survivors gathered in the village to erect a memorial and honour their fallen comrades.

The B24H Liberator with the catchy nickname came down on February 19, 1945, shortly after taking off from Cheddington Airbase. It was on its last flight when it came down just half a mile from the runway.

Squadron navigator John ‘Des’ Howarth was one of the last people to escape the wreckage. “It came down because the weather was bad. We shouldn’t have gone out. It wasn’t pilot error but bad weather and an old plane,” he said.

Des, 88, who lives in Oregon, flew for the 36 Bomb Squadron, a US troop based at Cheddington. He said: “The plane was really old. In fact it was built 10 miles from Michigan where I lived at the time.

“I got out and it went up just after. Had I been seconds slower it would have been me as well.”

The memorial service was part of a weekend of events organised by local enthusiast Chas Jellis.

For the full story and a spread of pictures from the day, pick up the May 17 edition of the LBO.