THAMESIDE AVIATION MUSEUM
THE EXCAVATION OF A B.26 MARAUDER 42-95981 OF THE USAAF 9th AIRFORCE
NEW 26th June 2007
On 8th March 1944 two B-26 Marauder aircraft of the 344th Bomb Group, 494th Bomb Squadron, USAAF, 9th Airforce based at Stanstead, Essex, collided in mid-air over the village of Theydon Mount, Epping, Essex, with the tragic loss of all on-board the two aircraft.
The incident was actually the
first time any lives had been lost by the 344th
Bomb Group History
READS AS FOLLOWS;
"Our third mission was pressed against an airfield in Holland on the 8th March 1944, fifty four planes took of for Soesterberg.
Weather that day over north eastern England was cloudy, the ceiling being quite low. Join-up procedure was difficult because of poor visibility.
During this procedure our Group suffered its first major accident, when two of our Marauders collided in mid-air as one of them emerged from the clouds. Both of these planes plummeted to earth carrying all of the personnel to their deaths.
The others proceeded to the target as briefed, dropping 571 x 100lb. bombs and 49x500lb. bombs, photographic interpretation showing very good results. The Soesterberg mission brought intense flak from enemy ground defences and fourteen aircraft were hit, causing minor damage but no losses to crews or planes."
Assigned to the 494th Bomb Squadron, those who died.
THE AIRCRAFT WE EXCAVATED
1st Lt. John K. Eckert; Pilot.
2nd Lt. Thomas W. Worrell; Co-Pilot.
1st Lt. George E. Bair; Bombardier.
S/sgt. Alfred R Border; Engineer/Gunner.
S/sgt. Lewis O.Thompson; Radio/Gunner.
S/sgt. Edward J. Powell; Armourer/Gunner.
THE CREW OF THE SECOND B.26,
Captain. Jack W. Miller; Pilot.
2nd Lt. Linwood G. Brooks; Co-Pilot.
1st Lt. James A. Hudson; Bombardier.
S/sgt. Abraham B. Butler jnr; Engineer/Gunner.
S/sgt. George D. McMannamy Radio/Gunner.
S/sgt. W.J. Summers; Armourer/Gunner.
THE RECOVERY OF JOHN. K. ECKERT'S AIRCRAFT
THE DIG 1975
On February 22nd 23rd 1975 we undertook the excavation of the Marauder, this was to be carried out over a Saturday and Sunday to allow us to have plenty of time to remove what was buried without damaging or loosing any of the smaller finds, as this was our first twin engine aircraft dig we had carried out, all the others up to that date had been single engine fighters.
But on the first day the Digger failed to arrive at the crash site due to a puncture, so now we were going to have to cram this excavation into just the Sunday so for the rest of Saturday it was back to the spades.
We started bright and early around 7.30 am, we had dug down on the Saturday by hand to a depth of around 4 ft by 6ft wide (1.2m+ 1.6m) and had hit solid aircraft so we new exactly where to dig, Kurt our digger driver an Ex German P.O.W arrived with the puncture now fixed, so by 8 am we started digging.
Items found included; one Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine, 1 Bendix-Stromberg Carburettor, one .5 calibre Browning machine gun, and a mass of wreckage all from one side of the aircraft.
By late afternoon and with the light failing it was decided to shut down the excavation this was done with great sadness as we new we had needed more time to fully go and check the spoil heaps, the hole was filled in and the topsoil reinstated.
CLICK ABOVE FOR THE DIG PICTURES
THE 344th BG HISTORY
Constituted as 344th Bomb Group (M) on 31 August 1942. Activated at MacDill Field, Florida on 8 September 1942. Equipped with B-26 Martin Marauders and served as a Replacement Training Unit. Moved to Stansted, England, January-February 1944. Began combat operations with Ninth Air Force on 6 March 1944 striking the Bernay St. Martin Aerodrome, in France. Beginning in May helped prepare for Overlord by striking vital bridges in France. On D-Day the 'Silver Streaks' led the 9th AF into action attacking three coastal batteries at Utah Beach. Received a Distinguished Unit Citation for three day action against the enemy, 24-26 July 1944 when the group accurately struck targets to assist advancing ground forces at St. Lo. Supported allied forces during Battle of the Bulge December 1944 - January 1945 and flew a total of 266 missions until April 1945. Participated in the following campaigns: American Theatre; Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe. The group consisted of a headquarters section and four squadrons _ the 494th, 495th, 496th and 497th _ all 1942-1945. Combat Commanders _ Colonel Reginald F. C. Vance from 19 September 1943 to 6 November 1944 and Colonel Robert W. Witty from 7 November 1944 to 17 August 1945. Lt. Col. Lucius D. Clay served as C.O. from 18 August 1945 to 15 February 1946, during which time the group served with the army of occupation based at Schleissheim, Germany and until transferred to the U.S.A. on 15 February 1946. 344th Bomb Group (M) was inactivated on 31 March 1946.
Thanks to Nathan Kosky for his help, Nathan is having a book published in May 2000 titled "Stansted Airport" and is a history of this former ww11, 9th Airforce bomber base.
Updated Feb 2005