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”;

IN MEMORY OF
2nd Lt Quentin J Sella
USAAF
KILLED 3rd OCTOBER 1944
Disturbed 1st September 1990
May He Now
RIP

Edit 14 September 2020
As can be seen in the comments section below, a great deal of further work has been done by researcher Amanda and by the land owner Martin and his wife Micheala. The latter have made a beautiful plaque and memorial stone which will be completed for the anniversary of the crash on 03 October 2020. The photos here of the stone are courtesy of Martin and Micheala and the stone with the cross in the foreground courtesy of Amanda.

The photo of Second Lieutenant Quentin J Sella is provided couresty of Quentin’s younger brother Joe, via Amanda. It is used with kind permission.

It is great to see the work these people have done to remember 2nd Lt Sella and to make efforts to contact his family and provide a new memorial. Thank you all!

Ian

30 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. andyholmfirth says:

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

  3. 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

  4. 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 .

  5. gastephen says:

    Very poignant.

  6. mick cooke says:

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

  7. 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.

  8. Tech Owl says:

    A suitably atmospheric shot – good find Ian

  9. 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 http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personne...

    "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.

  10. jr55 (John Richardson) says:

    Atmospheric shot and a tragic story.

  11. Martin says:

    Hi.
    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 !!

    • Alan Tomkinson says:

      Martin, If you google the pilots name : Quentin J Sella it should direct you to web site “Find a Grave Memorial” where you can find his details.

  12. Amanda says:

    Hi Ian,

    Do you have an update on this site. Would be happy to help to try and find a date of birth for 2LT Sella. Would like to visit the site if that is possible. Do you know if it’s accessible or on private land?

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Amanda, there is a footpath which goes right past this place but it is on private land. I’m afraid I have no more info about it but I have marked it with the grid reference (SK 02095 57789) on this map if you want to visit. I think you can park on the road?

      049

      Ian

      • Amanda Cockcroft says:

        Hi Ian, thank you for your reply. Do you have any contact information for the land owner? Would like to help this pilot get a permanent memorial.

        • Ian D B says:

          Hi Amanda, how ignorant am I? Just saw the comment above by Martin, he is the land owner looking at doing the same, he may have more up to date information?

          • Martin says:

            Hi Ian / Amanda, its Martin the land owner. Last year I had a granite plaque made & hoped to have it on the site for the 75th anniversary of Quentins death. Unfortunately the weather had other plans!! I now hope to mount this plaque on a dry stone memorial this summer to mark the end of the war!! You can contact me on glover51@yahoo.co.uk if you would like to meet up & visit the site to discuss the memorial. Cheers.

          • Ian D B says:

            Great stuff, will do, thanks Martin!

  13. Amanda says:

    Hi Martin and Ian,

    Firstly Martin thank you for the invitation. I will send you a email. From a quick ancestry search Quentin was born on 10th April 1922. Will continue researching him.

  14. Amanda says:

    Went to try and find the site today. Difficult to park on the road near where the memorial is (would not go onto private land without the owners consent). Lots of farms near the field so not sure which farm the land belongs to. Continuing with the research on Quentin.

  15. Amanda says:

    Amazing news! Thanks to ancestry I have managed to find a relative of Quentin and they have emailed me. Just waiting to hear from Martin as it would be a lovely gesture to show his family an up to date photo of his marker.

  16. Amanda says:

    Went back to the area today and was lucky enough to find Martin and his family there. His wife Michaela has just sent a picture of the beautiful new plaque that has been made. Very fitting for a brave pilot. Martin has been doing his own investigation into the crash. Thank you Martin and family for the warm welcome.

  17. Martin says:

    Hi Ian.
    Its Martin.
    Just sent you an email with a picture of the plaque attached. I will send you another of the finished monument once done. Let me know if you haven’t had the email.
    Cheers Martin.

  18. Amanda says:

    Received an email from Quentin’s youngest brother Joe. He was 9 years old when Quentin died. Joe wrote that his brother loved music and worked for a travelling band before he enlisted.

    Ian, are you on Facebook?

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Amanda, I do use fb occasionally but not with reference to this website, just family and work stuff. I do keep meaning to set up an fb page linked to aircrashsites tho. Someone else asked me about this recently, so maybe I should…

      Good to read you are in contact with the family of 2 Lt Sella.

      Ian

  19. Amanda says:

    Hi Ian, I have just sent you an email. His brother has given permission for you to put a photo of Quentin on your site.

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