Like this page?
Send it to a friend!
A B17 plane
Fog of war
Details of a crash over Greenham in 1944 which killed 16 American servicemen are just emerging now thanks to documentary film maker Sean Caveille. He told BBC Berkshire about Shadows, screened in December 2008.
For most of us, the name Greenham Common summons up images of women protesting against nuclear weapons in the 1980s.
Now documentary film maker Sean Caveille is hoping to open people's eyes to an event in Greenham Common to do with its Second World War history.
Boeing B-17G formation bomb drop.
On 15 December, 1944, 16 men were killed after two Allied B-17 bombers collided over Greenham Woods while flying through cloud and fog. The event was not reported at the time and has never been commemorated - until now.
On the 64th anniversary of the crash on 15 December 2008, relatives of the 16 men who died over Greenham gathered at Newbury's Royal British Legion Club to remember their loss, and to attend the premiere of Shadows, a documentary detailing the events of that fateful day.
Among the audience was the daughter of one of the pilots, who never knew her father because the collision happened before she was born.
Boeing B-17s radar bombing over Bremen, Germany.
Documentary maker Sean Caveille managed to track down Patrick Painting, an eye-witness to the original incident who four years later stumbled across debris from the crash buried in swampy land close to Greenham Common.
Patrick said: "On 15 December 1944, a group of B17s took off from Thurleigh in Bedfordshire, designated to raid Germany.
"On their return, the whole of England was covered in cloud, so they were told to break up their formation and diverted to different airbases.
"Greenham Common was also covered in cloud, as they flew over at 3,000ft their plane was hit by another B17, killing 16 men.
"I remember seeing a parachute, the pilot and co-pilot were able to bail out. All the other men on the B17 died."
Four years later, then aged 16, Patrick had developed an interest in planes which led to him joining the Newbury Model Aircraft Club along with his friends John Smith and Charles Allen.
Soon after the crash of 1944, Charles had spotted part of the B17 lying outside his house with the tail and part of the fuselage, so the group decided to explore the area and see if they could find remains of the crashed aircraft in Bishop's Green.
Patrick said: "Charles knew where the crash site was, and he found the engine in the swamp. It had crashed down through an oak tree and buried in the soil, but the propeller was sticking out."
Interest in the story was rekindled in 2003 with an article in the Newbury Weekly News asking people for information about the mysterious crash.
Sean Caveille told BBC Berkshire why the story had captivated him.
He said: "It something that captured my interest.
"It has to be remembered that people died. It is a fascinating story but it's also a memorial to these people."
Sean will continue to research the incidents of 15 December, 1944, and hopes to show his documentary in schools and on TV.
last updated: 02/02/2009 at 10:21