Republic P-47C 41-6628

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Republic P-47C 41-6628 near Leek

03 October 1944. American pilot Second Lieutenant Quentin J Sella was flying in formation with 3 other P-47s from RAF Atcham near Shrewsbury, when he lost control and nose dived into the ground at Thorncliffe near Leek, Staffordshire.

The flight was to practice battle formation flying, and in close formation the three pilots copied the leader, or in the case of 2nd Lt Sella, copied the airman copying the leader, watching his starboard wingtip, mimicking every move.

However the four Thunderbolts entered dense cloud and upon losing visual contact with the aircraft he was formated on, 2nd Lt Sella appears to have become disoriented in the cloud and lost control, putting the P-47 into a dive from which he could not recover. It is quite possible that he thought he was climbing rather than diving, until breaking the cloud base and realising his error.

2nd Lt Sella tried to bale out, the canopy being found some distance away. But the forces upon him prevented escape, and the Thunderbolt buried itself so deeply into the soft ground that recovery was impossible, and his body remains there today with the wreck of his aircraft.

A cross marks the spot. On it are words alluding to what Cunningham refers to as a “dubiously authorised excavation of the site”;

2nd Lt Quentin J Sella
Disturbed 1st September 1990
May He Now

17 comments on “Republic P-47C 41-6628
  1. P.A.B. says:

    Very sombre story and shot. Part of me thinks it’s a shame he couldn’t be retrieved and interred properly. But who knows perhaps 2nd Lt Sella would, or his family did, feel differently..

  2. Ian D B says:

    Yeah, either way it’s a sad loss. Something more formal should be done to mark the spot though.

    Just wanting to add here an excellent photo of a P-47 (this one is a later mark) from airplaneguy38’s photostream.

    P-47G In the clouds

  3. andyholmfirth says:

    Pretty grim reading this one Ian.WHat’s the story behind the "excavation " ?

  4. C J Paul (chris) says:

    great picture and info ian.
    like the image very much with the mist coming down.
    gives something more to the story and info ture feeling here……
    brilliant picture of the p-47

  5. pasujoba says:

    This is superb , particuarily on black ……must agree Ian , it requires a proper monument .
    Andy … Apparently the site was ‘dug’ in 1990 with the landowner present along with an aircraft archeaology group !, since then ,or perhaps at the time drains were laid , but with little success as the ground remains quite boggy .
    The US authorities have been in touch with the experts on such matters and they have released all info they have .
    We can only hope that the correct action is taken in this case .

  6. gastephen says:

    Very poignant.

  7. Tony-H says:

    A very atmospheric image that complements the sad and sombre piece of history ….

  8. **Hazel** says:

    Another amazing story! The weather is no friend to aeroplanes at times. Very sad!
    Brilliant photo Ian!

  9. mick cooke says:

    great story and a touching photo to go with it , well done ian

  10. RodtheRhodie says:

    Lovely shot, great tragedy

    Seen in my contacts’ photos. (?)

  11. Highy says:

    It’s a wonderful shot, great contrasts.
    Great shame that the site was disturbed, hope the site is afforded the dignity it deserves in future.

  12. Billy Currie says:

    works so well with the dark background

  13. Tech Owl says:

    A suitably atmospheric shot – good find Ian

  14. Mike J Chapman says:

    The same strict rules covering the excavation of aircrash sites that are in place now were in effect in 1990. See

    "It is an offence under this act to tamper with, damage, move or unearth any items at such sites, unless the Ministry of Defence has issued a licence authorizing such activity…" + "A licence will not be issued if human remains are likely to be found at the site…"

    I guess the question here is whether the rules were followed.

  15. jr55 (John Richardson) says:

    Atmospheric shot and a tragic story.

  16. cgullz says:

    very tragic tale, wonderfully captured image with the dark surrounds and the memorial cross so striking. ‘sensory illusions’ they call them: all due to the wee hairs in your inner ear, and the fluid in yr semi-circular canals – they work perfectly in 2 planes of movement [walking on the ground] [unless yr pissed] .. but in 3 planes, well the human body isn’t designed for it really. fascinating stuff, but when yr not taught to fly in cloud or are doing so with very little instrumentation, bugger that i say: recipe for disaster.

  17. Martin says:

    I own the land with this crash site on & am looking to make a better memorial on this site. I made the original cross when my father owned the ground & after we had realised what had gone on up there, with the site being dug under a supposed licence ref pilot Alvin J Foster in 1990, not 2nd lt Sella.
    I have most of the info I need, but who or where would I contact to find out Quentin’s age or date of birth ?? any ideas please !!

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