Pensioner breaks down as Dan Walker helps flypast tribute dream come true
Tony Foulds, 82, has spent much of his life tending to a memorial to 10 airmen whose plane crashed in front of him as he played in a park in 1944.
A pensioner who has spent much of his life looking after a war memorial to 10 airmen broke down in tears as he was told there will be a flypast to honour their memory – after a social media campaign by BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker.
The broadcaster was walking his dog in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, earlier this month, when he bumped into 82-year-old Tony Foulds.
Mr Foulds was just eight when he witnessed the B-17 Flying Fortress, the American plane which was carrying the men, crash in the park on February 22 1944, killing all 10 of them.
Just met an amazing man in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. Tony Foulds was an 8-yr-old playing in the park when a US plane crashed in Feb 1944. He has diligently maintained the memorial ever since. He was planting new flowers. Almost 75 yrs of service. What a man. I’m in bits 😢👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/DpdDmSZ0F3— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) January 2, 2019
The aircraft, nicknamed “Mi Amigo”, was returning from a bombing raid, and the then-schoolboy believes it deliberately steered out of the way of him and his friends.
Ever since a memorial to the men was erected in the park in the 1970s, Mr Foulds, who suffers from a severe tremor that makes his hands shake uncontrollably, has devoted much of his time to keeping the area clean and planting flowers.
He told Mr Walker the touching story, and explained how it would be his dream to see a military flypast at the park to pay tribute to the men.
The presenter then started a Twitter campaign to pay tribute to the men, telling users about Mr Foulds’s story and saying: “He doesn’t want a medal. All he wants is a fly-past on the 75th anniversary on the 22nd Feb 2019. Can anyone help?”
An exciting announcement from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall for the 75th anniversary of the U.S. B-17 crash in Sheffield that claimed 10 American lives.— RAF Lakenheath (@48FighterWing) January 22, 2019
“Look to the skies on 22 February for a very special flyby” - Col. Will Marshall#GetTonyAFlypast pic.twitter.com/3WbkV8akGV
On Tuesday, Mr Foulds broke down in tears as Colonel Will Marshall of RAF Lakenheath, which houses a US Air Force unit and personnel, told him live on BBC Breakfast: “It gives me great pleasure to say: Look to the skies on February 22 for a very special flyby.”
The pensioner, who was visibly emotional, said: “That’s everything to me. That’s everything I wanted.”
The special tribute will take place on the 75th anniversary of the crash, and Mr Foulds said on BBC Breakfast: “They’re my family, my family.
Right... I’ve been back to talk to Tony. He doesn’t want a medal. All he wants is a fly-past on the 75th anniversary on the 22nd Feb 2019. Can anyone help? Who has contacts in the Royal Air Force or Red Arrows?— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) January 2, 2019
“It’s not a memorial, to me. The actual memorial is mine, apart from one day a year when it’s the 22nd [of February]. Every other time, it’s mine.”
He added: “It’s the tribute they deserve.
“It was only when I was in my teens that I really understood what a terrible thing had happened, and what an enormous sacrifice the young Americans made.
“I could have not been here, if the lads hadn’t given their lives.”
Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the United Kingdom, appeared alongside Mr Foulds on the show, and said: “It is an amazing moment, and, Tony, it takes amazing people to have an amazing moment.
“Now, millions of people will know about these 10 men, and all the other men that died on that day too.”
💕💕 We challenge you not to cry!— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) January 22, 2019
Hear Tony's full reaction to the moment we told him that #BBCBreakfastGotTonyAFlypast ⬇️
Thanks to @USAmbUK, @48FighterWing and EVERYONE who's been involved and backed this. pic.twitter.com/7zZD7A7qKk
Mr Walker said: “I was so moved by Tony’s story that we had to help.
“We were inundated with messages of support and the video has been seen three quarters of a million times.
“Within 48 hours I had spoken to the US embassy and top-ranking officials at both the US Air Force and the RAF.”
He added that the story has “struck a chord” with many people, and said the Breakfast team had been working “flat out” to make the flypast happen.