Operator: USAAF 303rd Bomb Group (H); 360th BS
Accident Date: 16 December 1944
Accident Site: West Hill (The Cheviot)
Aircraft Accident Details
Together with others, the nine-man crew of B-17G 44-6504 had been given a mission to bomb a railway marshalling yard in Ulm, Germany. However, due to deteriorating weather conditions, the mission was aborted and the flight recalled. To prevent mid-air collisions, the formation of bombers was ordered to break rank and head for separate bases in the UK.
On several occasions, the pilot of this B-17—Lt Kyle—requested bearings back to England, but was misled by false signals from German transmitters. This resulted in the aircraft flying too far north of the bases in England.
Eventually, while flying over the Scottish / English border region, Lt. Kyle descended through the clouds in an attempt to establish visual bearings. Unfortunately, however, the pilot descended too low to clear the snow-covered Cheviots. The aircraft crashed-landed on West Hill, close to The Cheviot. It then slid across a peat bog, coming to a halt on the hill shoulder. Two crew members died in the crash. The remaining crew members escaped; some with minor, and others with severe injuries.
Three of the survivors—Lt. Kyle, F/O Hardy, and Sgt Schieferstein—staggered down the slopes to a shepherd's cottage, where they raised the alarm.
Still on the hilltop, Sgt Smith and several other crew members had taken refuge in a ditch. Several hours later, as they lay sheltering in the ditch, Sgt Smith felt a dog licking his face. The dog, Sheila* belonged to a local shepherd, John Dagg. Together with another shepherd—Frank Moscrop—Mr. Dagg had been out on the hills searching for survivors. The dog found the airmen first, and its excited barking alerted the shepherds, bringing them quickly to the scene.
When the B-17 crashed, its bomb load was still intact. (They had not been dumped at sea). Fortunately, the bombs had not exploded on impact with the ground. However, just as the crew reached the safety of the shepherd's cottage on lower ground, the entire bomb load exploded.