map1952 map1958

From Ordnance Survey Map of 1952

From Ordnance Survey Map of 1958

The Garveston Twelve

On June 4th 1944, preparations were at a critical stage for the D-Day invasion two days away.  At North Pickenham airfield in Norfolk where the 492nd Bomb Group was based, Lt. Raymond Sachtleben and his crew took off in their B-24H Liberator to bomb the airfield at Avord in France.  As the aircraft climbed to its cruising altitude and formation, an incident occurred, probably involving Sachtleben's aircraft and another B-24. While the details are not known, it is generally accepted that Lt. Sachtleben had to perform an evasive manoeuvre to avoid a mid-air collision and the severity of the action being outside the fully-loaded B-24’s abilities, a wing tip separated and the aircraft stalled. It was last seen by the crew of another aircrew falling through the clouds upside down and it subsequently crashed next to a pair of cottages on the edge of the village of Garveston, killing the entire crew of ten.

Upon hearing news of the crash, firemen from the nearby Shipdham airfield raced to the scene to assist in putting out the resulting fire and to rescue any survivors.  While they braved the burning wreckage, one or more of the bombs on board the aircraft exploded, killing two of the firemen, Pvt. Ted Bunalski and Sgt. Monroe Atchley.  Both were posthumously awarded the Soldiers medal for heroism.

According to the official accident report, the true cause of the accident is unknown.

Click this link to view crash site photographs

The Story

The Memorial project was instigated by Michael Garrod during the Parish Council meeting at Thuxton Church on a warm summer’s evening in July 2010. Michael thought it a good idea to commemorate those who had died as result of the US B-24 aircraft crashing on 4th June 1944 before the event was lost from living memory. He as a young boy could just recall the tragic events of that day and was aware that an ever decreasing number of village residents shared that experience.

It was put to a vote and the ‘council’ gave their support.

Volunteers came forward for from both councillors and parishioners present, forming a ‘Working Group’ of Kay Enk, Ken Hamer, Tony Cadney with Michael Garrod as Chairman.

Although working to the Parish Council the rules dictates that all funding is totally independent, no monies were to come from the parish. All the monies were to be held in a dedicated ‘memorial account’.

The first tentative research brought a deluge of information about the 8th Air Force exposing the mammoth task at hand. Slowly but surely a picture developed of the tragic loss of lives by young men who had only been in the UK for less than four months. Each of the memorial team took three individuals from the “12”.

As research progressed the names became ‘people’ with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, school friends, prize givings and graduations. We soon learned that each death brought a network of sadness and distress. In some cases the parents died of broken hearts months after the news of their son’s death. Many a quiet tear was shed as these stories unfolded.

Contacts were made with surviving family members; some were shocked to hear the circumstances of the relatives passing, others were supportive and grateful in the extreme. Torrents of e-mails brought even more details and treasured family photographs some of which feature on this web site.

Garveston vs Garvestone

When we set out on this project we were faced with a dilemma, most are in either of two ‘camps’ those who support the ‘e’ and those that don’t.

However to be historically accurate, we soon found that all official documentation in the WW2 period used the place name Garveston. Further research shows that up to 1955 Ordinance Survey Maps clearly mark the village as Garveston. In 1956 The Norwich area was used as test area for an embryonic experimental post code (zip code). During this time the ‘powers that be’ added an ‘e’ to village name. Mail sorting machines don’t think therefore the ‘e’ stuck.

Memorial Project