An attempt to transform a run-down monument into “the nicest memorial in the UK” was launched by two Sheffield people last week.
Julie Forrest, 56, was spurred into action when she noticed 82-year-old Tony Foulds clearing up the area around Endcliffe Park’s “Mi Amigo” monument.
The monument marks the spot where, in 1944, an American bomber plane crash-landed, killing the entire crew.
Mr Foulds, who was only eight years old at the time, was present at the crash, and was playing with friends on the park’s green when they spotted the damaged plane circling above them.
Because the group of children didn’t move to make way for the plane to perform an emergency landing in the park, Mr Foulds believes they forced the pilot instead to crash-land into the trees nearby.
Ever since, he has been plagued by feelings of guilt and responsibility for the deaths of the 10 men on board.
He said: “They had a choice – they could have landed in there and risked hurting us, but they didn’t.
“As long as I live, I shall never forget that.”
So when he rediscovered the monument in its neglected state two years ago, Mr Foulds vowed to dedicate hours of his time every week to ensuring it was well-maintained and tidy as a mark of respect.
Upon hearing his story, charity shop volunteer Julie Forrest put together a campaign to raise money for the maintenance of the memorial, hoping to raise cash so Mr Foulds would not have to pay for it out of his own pocket.
Mr Foulds said Sheffield City Council expressed little interest in helping him maintain the memorial, so he has taken on the task himself.
He said: “Next Summer, anybody who sees it – it’ll be a mass of colour.
“I have every intention of making it the nicest memorial in the UK.”
He plans to re-paint the memorial itself and smooth over the rugged surrounding road with asphalt, so the pathway is safe when the US military pay their annual visit to show their respect for the Mi Amigo crew.
Mrs Forrest said: “I said I’d put the word out for any help – be it helping by donating time to clear the place of leaves, or helping to plant the tubs up, or donating money to buy the plants and tubs he wants.
“I’d love for his wish to come true to have the best-kept memorial in the country.
Both Mrs Forrest and Mr Foulds hope to raise £500 from the campaign to assist with the upkeep of the memorial.