The Phantom Airmen of Birchenough Hill

On a cold, dark and foggy night on the 2nd of January 1945 a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress was on a flight from Burtonwood Aerodrome in Cheshire, flying in an Easterly direction towards Macclesfield. On board the flight were D. Decleene, T. Mands, F. Garry, M. Stravinski and H. Ayer who were to tragically lose their lives in the appalling weather conditions that were being experienced that night near to the end of the Second World War.

A memorial to the lost airmen

The pilot of the Flying Fortress had managed to avoid the hill which Cluelow Cross can be found on, and he also managed to skillfully avoid crashing into the natural pyramid shape of Shutlingslowe hill, but unfortunately he was to low to clear the top of Birchenough hill, the plane belly flopped on the slopes of the hillside, rose back into the air before impacting into the rocks on the summit.

Shulingslowe hill on the horizon

The crew of the Flying Fortress were killed instantly, and even to this day small bits of wreckage can still be found in the area around the summit.

During the 1990s a coach load of former American pilots made there way to the spot where the plane had crashed all those years ago. They erected a memorial and also a plaque to the brave airmen that died at this spot.

However the story does not end there, for over the years there has been many reports of an aircraft passing overhead and then the sound of it crashing in the direction of Birchenough hill even though no wreckage has been found. Also the following story took place in the 1960s and involves the Rose and Crown pub at Allgreave, not far from Birchenough hill where the fortress crashed. The pub was then owned by a Jimmy Panayi, according to him he was late opening up one evening as the weather was quite bad and he didn’t expect many customers.

The Rose & Crown at Allgreave

Before Jimmy went to unlock the door he heard a knock upon it, when he opened it there was a man standing there wearing a sheepskin flying jacket, Jimmy invited the man in but he just stood there and muttered something. When Jimmy invited him in again he said “Please help”, Jimmy thinking there had been a car crash asked him if he was all right, to which he replied, “Some of my buddies have crashed up the road”. Jimmy called the Police and Ambulance service, however on their arrival no trace could be found of the mysterious airman or his buddies.

This is another view of the crash site showing the memorial and the wooden plaque which bares the names of the flight crew. On the horizon you can just make out the G.P.O tower on Croker hill which was built in the 1960s and has attracted U.F.O activity.

The grass seems unable to grow at the impact site even though the crash took place over sixty years ago.


One Response to “The Phantom Airmen of Birchenough Hill”

  1. The B17 was destined for the 398th Bomb Group, 8th USAAF, based at Nuthampstead, Cambridgeshire. The crew were a scratch crew from the 398th to ferry the aircraft from Burtonwood to Nuthampstead. The site was visited in the 1980s by veterans of the 398th Bomb Group, including families of those who lost their lives in the crash. The visit was organised by members of the Macclesfield Historical Aviation Society who also erected the memorial on the site with the plaque. 3 of the crew now lie at rest at the 8th Air Force War Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridgeshire.

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