By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos and research by Jim Corbett
Jim Corbett from the UK is an aviation enthusiast, who researches crashed aircraft sites, having discovered a variety of WW2 Wrecks. Among them, the wreck site of B17G-50DL 44-6504, 303BG/360BS, crashed 16/12/1944 at Braydon Crag, The Cheviot, Northumberland, UK.
Jim Corbett not only unraveled the specifics of the crash, the last mission and explored the crash site, but on top of that he personally met with pilot George A. Kyle and named his son after him.
Here is the story, in Jim’s words:
“This B17 was the first crash site I ever visited back in 1982 and it was always my wish to meet the pilot. I succeeded in doing this and met George Kyle and his daughter in the late 1990’s, and again on my honeymoon to the USA in 2004, we became friends.
On finding out my wife and I were expecting twins, and that one would be a son, we agreed to name him Daniel Kyle Corbett, in honour of George.
On the 20th of September 2005, George Kyle passed away in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale at the age of 82 years, sadly before meeting my son. Before he died George had expressed the wish that his ashes be scattered at the crash site. On the 4th October 2006, George’s daughter, his long term friend and companion, Kitty, myself and the son of the B17 co-pilot (James Hardy), Jay Hardy, were taken by helicopter to Braydon Crag and his final wish was granted.”
Following their training in the USA, George A. Kyle and his crew were assigned to the 303rd Bomb Group, 360th Bomb Squadron at Molesworth England on 25th November 1944. Following a further period of training and familiarization flights George took part in his first mission acting as Co-Pilot to 1st Lt. Robert A. App in B17 44-6504 on 9th December 1944, the target being the airfield of Echterdingen near Stuttgart in Germany.
Two days later George was again acting as co-pilot, this time to 1st Lt Milton C. Butler in B17 44-8318, the target this time a Railroad Bridge at Mannheim, Germany.
Having two missions under his belt George was joined by his regular crew and took charge of his first ship, B17 43-38672, on the 12th December with a mission to the Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery at Merseburg, Germany.
A three-day break followed before George took part in what was to be his final mission.
On the 16th December 1944, George and his crew took off from Molesworth in B17 44-6504 to bomb the Marshalling Yards at Ulm in Germany.
The weather was poor and when the bomber force struggled to form up over the North Sea. With no sign of the weather over the target improving, the mission was aborted and the bomber force was diverted to various RAF stations in Lincolnshire, 44-6504 to North Killingholme.
On the return the Gee and Radio Compass failed and 44-6504 became lost and drifted north. Eventually a fix was made which placed the aircraft over Edinburgh and a compass course was set for home.
At around 13:00hrs the aircraft struck the side of 2,676ft The Cheviot on the England/Scotland border, narrowly missing the rocky outcrop known as Braydon Crag.
Two of the crew, Fred Holbombe and Frank Turner, positioned in the nose of the aircraft, were sadly killed on impact.
Kyle, Hardy and Schieferstein escaped the crumpled cockpit and made their way down the mountain to Mount Hooly Farm. The rest of the crew, Delaney, Kaufmann, Smith and Berly, escaped by their own means and were reunited on the snow swept hill. Two local shepherds rescued them some hours later, when their Collie sniffed them out sheltering in a peat gully.
Two hours after the rescue the bombs, which were still onboard the aircraft, exploded.
Shepherds, Frank Moscrop and John Dagg were awarded the British Empire Medal for their part in the rescue of the crew from the blizzard swept mountain. Sheila, the Collie, was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
The crew were:
2nd Lt George Anderson Kyle, Jr. (Pilot)
F/O James H. Hardy (Co-Pilot)
Sgt Ernest G. Schieferstein (Engineer)
Sgt Howard F. Delaney (Tail Gunner)
Sgt William R. Kaufmann (Waist Gunner)
Sgt George P. Smith (Ball Turret Gunner)
Sgt Joel A. Berly, Jr. (Radio Operator)
Killed in action were:
F/O Fred Holcombe (Navigator)
Sgt Frank R. Turner (Togglier)