Tony Foulds was just 8-years-old when he witnessed the USA B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed “Mi Amigo”, of the 305th Bomb Group, swerve away from a group of children in the park and crash into the nearby woods.
Foulds has maintained a memorial in memory of the ten who lost their lives that day and said that he feels “guilty” for causing the aircraft to swerve away from the field they were planning to make a crash landing in.
Few in Sheffield were even aware of the memorial until recently. The park is a popular destination for runners, dog walkers and families to enjoy a day in the sun, but the fact the memorial is tucked away in the woods means it is it out of sight and many were unaware of it.
Despite this, the whole story came to the forefront of media attention not just in Sheffield, but the world, when BBC Breakfast frontman Dan Walker started spreading knowledge of Tony Foulds’ story. Within weeks, Walker had arranged a flypast from various fighter jets to commemorate the fateful crash on that day in February 1944.
Foulds told Dan Walker of The BBC: “I actually love them like I do my own son and my own daughter, and I will never ever let them down.
“My son has promised that when I go, he will come.
“This means so much to me, so much to me.”
The flyover itself was exceptional, and the scenes of Tony Foulds on the giant screen that was erected on the park to livestream BBC Breakfast brought a tear to the eye of more than one person in the gathering crowd, which grew by the minute.
Foulds said on the tannoy system: “That crowd has doubled since ten minutes ago. It is a good job I am charging you a fiver each on your way out!”
The 82-year-old was in a cheery mood, and he had every reason to do so, as this is something he has been yearning for during the last seven decades he has spent maintaining the memorial.
Foulds was not the only one in a cheery mood. The crowd, with a range of ages, from locations all over the country and even some from America, was full of cheer and enthusiasm as they were waiting in the early-morning Sheffield sun.
Samuel Matthews, 8, enjoyed the final day of his half-term holiday at the flypast.
He said: “It was really cool to see the planes do lots of patterns and shapes.”
On a more serious note, the flypast educated him of the real reasons for the aesthetic plane patterns.
He added: “I think that the people in the jet trying to save all those children and risking their lives instead of trying to save theirs and ending the child’s.”
Richard Bancroft, 79, said: “I have never seen so many people in this park before.
“I’m ecstatic, it has put Sheffield on the map like never before.”
Now, there are calls for Foulds to receive an honour such as an MBE for his services, which JUSnews reported earlier today.
The MBE is only at the petition stage, but Foulds has been awarded with his name of the ‘Heart of Steel’ monument at Meadowhall in Sheffield.
At a time where the country seems in disagreement over most things, the flypast brought the community of Sheffield together for the better, and completed the lifelong dream of one very special individual, Tony Foulds.