USAAF Flying Fortress 44-8683 “Dear Mom”, Great Whernside

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USAAF Flying Fortress 44-8683 “Dear Mom”, Great Whernside

On 17 May 1945, B-17 ‘Dear Mom’ was on a long navigation exercise, flying a triangular circuit from Knettishall in Suffolk, north to Newcastle, then to south west to Land’s End and finally east and home.

When the weather deteriorated over the Pennines, pilot First Lieutenant Cole may have turned back towards Newcastle but the B-17 struck the flank of Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales. All on board died in the crash. They were;

1st Lt Harry Cole, pilot
2nd Lt Vince Fergusson, co-pilot
2nd Lt James Young, navigator
Sgt Hoyt Dixon, engineer
S/Sgt Dario Battista, radio operator

The aircraft approached roughly from the centre of the view, and hit the slope behind me. Paul climbed higher and found some debris at the impact site. Please see here;

24 comments on “USAAF Flying Fortress 44-8683 “Dear Mom”, Great Whernside
  1. Ian D B says:

    ‘Dear Mom’ crashed the same day as American Mustang 44-72340, which we tried but failed to find last week in Wales.

  2. pasujoba says:

    Great viewpoint from the wreckage pool Ian , and the story comes across graphically , you can imagine them discussing what to do and finally deciding to turn for home and hopefully clear weather. If only they had climbed just a little .
    Its amazing how many nearly clear the top of the hill.
    Roll on July 🙂 Yes indeed cannot wait for the flying legend show

  3. Tech Owl says:

    Looks great walking country – that’s quite a pile of wreckage and you say there was more further up. Nice shot of the Pink Lady which was used in the film Memphis Belle

  4. Lo Scorpione says:

    Always intrigued by the stories you tell about their last moments. It’s sometimes as if you were there with them in the plane…

    Nice how they arranged the debris of the plane into a kind of burial mound at the site. Very well put onto picture, Ian!

    Seen on my Flickr home page. (?)

  5. Keartona says:

    This one really does look in the middle of nowhere!
    Its quite a pile of wreckage.
    (My bw shot was taken along the ridge that runs from Mount Famine to South Head above Hayfield).

  6. Neal. says:

    I saw a flying fortress fly over here the year of the eclipse, must have been one of these two, shame one is grounded.

  7. Deputy Don says:

    I have several photos I took at the Duxford Flying Legends in 2007 of a B-17, which in my ignorance I assumed was 12-4485 Memphis Belle, because that’s what it said on the side. Am I right in thinking this was actually Sally B, then? (As you say, roll on July)

  8. ​favourite waste of time​ says:

    Odd, I thought they would have tried to pile it all together. Is leaving it apart done so that you can see how wide it was strewn?

  9. andyholmfirth says:

    Now this is one I’m sure I’ve been too years ago.You got a grand day up there Ian.Looks like you can see for miles.

  10. mick cooke says:

    greatphoto and great stories to go with them always apleasure to view and read

  11. Ian D B says:

    Thanks very much everyone.

    You know your WWII aircraft Neal. You commented the other day on the P51 having Rolls Royce engines (built under licence in the States by motor company Packard) and can tell a Handley Page Hampden from a Halifax. Impressive.

    Year of the eclipse was 99. My pal and me were in Amiens, France to watch it, once in a lifetime experience. Pity I never took a bloody camera…


    You’re not far out Don, Sally B played the part of Memphis Belle in the movie (as Owled says). The actual Memphis Belle (41-24485) is currently under resoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio.

    Seeing ‘Pink Lady’ take to the sky was a real treat. Creaked and groaned as it taxied up to the runway but looked fantastic flying. It’s sad to think we’ll not see it in the air again.

    Hiya Sonja. The debris is just how it’s been gathered into pools. People walking on the moors might find a scrap of metal and add it to the nearest pile. The two piles (or pools) are a couple of hundred yards apart. I suspect some fragments are from other aircraft; 4 planes crashed on this hill around the time of WWII, so people may find a scrap of aluminium and carry it to the nearest pile in good faith. Better than taking it home with them. I really hate those souvenir hunting ******s. Part explains my desire to photograph these wrecks before they disappear altogether.

  12. Tony-H says:

    The amazing thing (to me) about all these UK crash sites is that they largely occurred during some mundane sortie … training … nav exercises …. temporary deployments etc. So tragic really.

  13. redrocker_9 says:

    That is quite a large pile considering how long ago this was~

  14. *Psycho Delia* says:

    It’s amazing that there’s so much still there..

  15. BillAnd says:

    wow – picture, history, context – simply ‘wow’

  16. Pleasureprinciple2012 says:

    So close after the end of the European War as well. Their deaths would have been the last thing their families would have expected to hear since their boys "were finished with the war" while stationed in Britain.

  17. CORDAN says:

    Sad story. A nice monument to the men who died. I was able to fly in the B-17 Nine O Nine that the Collins Foundation tours. They were a magnificent machine. My Step Dad flew the "Oh Kay" in WWII. He was pilot of the 2nd tour and after he rotated out, the 3rd crew was shot down over Germany. They were taken prisoner. He has some interesting stories of back in the "Day." He’s going to be 90 this year, so not many Vets left I’m afraid.

    Great photograph, thanks for sharing.

  18. Ian D B says:


    Great to hear of your Dad, I could spend all day listening to his stories. He is indeed one of the last Vets. My Dad would be 90 this Christmas. Served in the Royal Navy, North Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleet. He too had loads of tales, and turned out with his medals on for various parades… As the Pogues song Waltzing Matilda goes,

    "And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
    And the old men answer to the call
    But year after year their numbers get fewer
    Some day no one will march there at all"

    Thanks for dropping by.


  19. Steven B Wright says:

    My Father was the tail Gunner of Dear Mom , Elmer E Wright.

  20. Amanda says:

    Hi Ian, just been doing some quick research into Dario Battista. He was born on 12th October 1917 and was from Bernardsville New Jersey. He is buried in the American Cemetery near Cambridge. Plot F, row 4, grave 33.

  21. Amanda says:

    Sgt Hoyt Edward Dixon born 17th July 1922 in Talking Rock Georgia. He is buried in the American Cemetery near Cambridge in Plot D, Row 7, Grave 37. He enlisted in Tennessee. 561st bomb squadron. 388th bomb group. Station 136.

  22. Amanda says:

    2nd Lt Vance Lamar Ferguson was born on 29th June 1922 in Hermitage, Bradley, Arkansas. He is buried in Antoich Cemetery in Hermitage Arkansas.

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