Boeing B-17G  44-6504

West Hill, Cheviots, Northumberland












Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress preparing for a bomb run


b-17g flying fortress on bomb run


Photo: US Federal Government photo released to the public domain





Aircraft Type and Background


USAAF Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress / 44-6504



(Click here for USAF fact sheet for this type)


Aircraft Type Nickname: "Flying Fortress"; "Fort", and others.



The Boeing B-17 was a four-engine heavy bomber, equipped initially with four 750hp Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines. However, later builds were fitted with 1200hp Wright Cyclone R1280-97 radial piston engines. Later production models were modified substantially by extending the fuselage further to the rear to incorporate a tail gun position.


The aircraft had a maximum speed of just over 483km/h (300mph) and a cruising speed of 257km/h (160mph). Its maximum range (ferry) was 5,472km (3,400 miles).


The B-17G entered service with the US Bombardment Groups in 1943. Unlike earlier models, the B-17G was equipped with Bendix chin turrets housing two 12.7mm (0.5in) machine guns for defence against head-on attacks. The B-17 was used both by USAAF Bombardment Groups and by RAF Coastal Command. 






Aircraft Accident Details


Together with others, the nine-man crew of B-17G 44-6504 had been given a mission to bomb a railway marshalling yard in Ulm, Germany. However, due to deteriorating weather conditions, the mission was aborted and the flight recalled. To prevent mid-air collisions, the formation of bombers was ordered to break rank and head for separate bases in the UK.


On several occasions, the pilot of this B-17—Lt Kyle—requested bearings back to England, but was misled by false signals from German transmitters. This resulted in the aircraft flying too far north of the English bases.


Eventually, while flying close to the Scottish / English border, Lt. Kyle descended through the clouds in an attempt to establish visual bearings. Unfortunately, however, the pilot descended too low to clear the snow-covered Cheviots. The aircraft crashed-landed on West Hill, close to The Cheviot. It then slid across a peat bog, coming to a halt on the hill shoulder. Two crew members died in the crash. The remaining crew members escaped; some with minor, and others with severe injuries.


Three of the survivors—Lt. Kyle, F/O Hardy, and Sgt Schieferstein—staggered down the slopes to a shepherd's cottage, where they raised the alarm.


Still on the hilltop, Sgt Smith and several other crew members had taken refuge in a ditch. Several hours later, as they lay sheltering in the ditch, Sgt Smith felt a dog licking his face. The dog, Sheila* belonged to a local shepherd, John Dagg. Together with another shepherd—Frank Moscrop—Mr. Dagg had been out on the hills searching for survivors. The dog found the airmen first, and its excited barking alerted the shepherds, bringing them quickly to the scene.


When the B-17 crashed, its bomb load was still intact. (They had not been jetisoned at sea). Fortunately, these munitions had not exploded on impact with the ground. However, just as the crew reached the safety of the shepherd's cottage on lower ground, the entire bomb load exploded.  



* Sheila was the first civilian dog to be awarded the Dickin Medal for animal heroism.






Aircraft Crew Casualties


The two people who died in this accident were:

  • F/O Fred Holcombe (Navigator)

  • Sgt Frank R. Turner (Togglier *)

Both airmen were buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.



Those who survived were:


2nd Lt George Anderson Kyle, Jr. (Pilot)
(since promoted to 1st Lt)

F/O James H. Hardy (Co-Pilot)

Sgt Ernest G. Schieferstein (Engineer)

Sgt Howard F. Delaney (Tail Gunner)

Sgt William R. Kaufmann (Waist Gunner)

Sgt George P. Smith (Ball Turret Gunner)

Sgt Joel A. Berly, Jr. (Radio Operator)



* Togglier (In USAAF): Operator of bomb release toggle switch, usually acting under instructions of Bombardier.





Crash Site Photos



Onsite Remembrance Area


The Pilot of this aircraft, 1st Lt George Anderson Kyle, passed away on 20th September 2005. His family returned to the crash site to fulfil George's last wish to have his ashes spread at the site. When visiting this site, please treat it with respect.



These photos from Graham White were added on 1 July 2011


BELOW: B-17 Turbine compressor / generator.


b-17 compressor


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: B-17 compressor supercharger—reverse side.


b-17 compressor supercharger - rear


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: Fuselage structure.


fuselage structure


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: B-17 heavy structure.


b-17 heavy structure


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: Engine nacelle bulkhead—front.


nacelle bulkhead


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: Engine nacelle or bulkhead—internal.


nacelle -  internal


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: B-17 Possibly, gun turret ring. (Circular structure with roller bearings.)


B-17 gun turret ring


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: B-17 undercarriage leg.


b-17 undercarriage leg


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: Part of a wing structure from the B-17G.


wing structure from b-17


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



BELOW: B-17 engine nacelle—side view.


B-17 engine nacelle


Photo © 2011 Graham White,
 Borders Gliding Club



Enlargements of the above  photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery. To view these photos, please select




from the drop down Album Menu in the Photo Gallery.










Earlier Photos


BELOW: Bobbie 'the wreck-hunter' stands guard over part of the Boeing B-17g's remaining wreckage on West Hill, The Cheviot.


Bobbie the wreckhunter at Boeing B-17G on West Hill


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink



BELOW: More of the wreckage from the B-17.


Some of the wreckage from the bomber


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink



BELOW: Another view of the wreckage. Little of what remains onsite can be identified easily.


Another view of the remaining wreckage


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink



BELOW: Main body of remaining wreckage.


Main body of remaining wreckage


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink



BELOW: A small section of one of the four engines.


Small part from one of the engines


Photo: © 2009 Steven Spink


(More of Steven's photos in the Photo Gallery)




NOTE: The photos taken below show the state of the wreckage at 1995. Some of the parts shown in these pictures have since been removed from the crash site.


BELOW: Fuselage and wing panels strewn down a gulley. 


b-17 fuselage and wing panels strewn down gulley


Photo: © 1995 Gary Nelson 



BELOW: The remains of one of the four Wright Cyclone radial engines from the B-17G.


wright cyclone engine from b-17


Photo: © 1995 Gary Nelson 





USAAF Memorial


The propeller blade behind Kim, the German Shepherd, was cemented into Braydon Crag, about 300 yards north of the crash site, as a memorial. However, it was subsequently removed from this location by souvenir hunters.


This propeller blade was a memorial erected by The Reivers in 1969 to all of the American Airmen lost in the Second World War. It also originally had a brass plaque attached to it. It was unveiled by a satellite link (quite a novelty in those days) from America where the surviving airmen had been joined together in a reunion. The memorial was draped in the American flag and one of the airmen threw a switch (which had been recovered from the crash site ) and the memorial was unveiled on Cheviot as there was a fly past by the USAAF. A short service was held on Cheviot at the unveiling finished by a lone bugler playing the last post.


The Reivers were choirboys from St Michaels Church in Alnwick led by Billy Dunn who first discovered the crash site. The group decided not to proceed any further with the excavation to respect the dead servicemen at the site. However it is sad that others chose to ignore this and subsequently looted the site destroying this special monument and the archaeological potential for research and future generations. (Additional details here (PDF document))


[This information was kindly provided by David Hopper (former Reiver).]


propeller blade marking memorial at Braydon Crag, 300 yards north of crash site


Photo: © 1995 Gary Nelson 


(More of Gary's photos in the Photo Gallery)



Photo Gallery


For additional, larger, photos, please select


from the drop down Album Menu in the Photo Gallery.




















Crash Date / Site


Country: England


england national flag


Accident Date: 16 Dec 1944


Accident Site:

West Hill (717m / 2,353ft)

(The Cheviot)


Region: Northumberland (Cheviots)


Nearest towns or villages:

Wooler [map], Westnewton or Kirknewton (on B6351)


Nearest large town:

Wooler (E)


OS Grid Ref. N/A


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition:

Over the years, substantial amounts of wreckage have been removed from the crash site. Very little wreckage now remains. However, some fragments may still be found at the site. (The wreckage photos below were taken some years ago.)



Air crashes on or near The Cheviot:


RAF Vickers Warwick HG136 crash at West Hill, near Cairn Hill, The Cheviot, in 1946.


Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress 44-6504 crash at West Hill, The Cheviot, near Braydon Crag, in 1944 (The aircraft on this page).


RAF Vickers Wellington Mk.IA IC Z1078 crash at West Hill, The Cheviot, in 1942.


RAF Short Stirling Mk. III EE972 crash near Broaden, The Cheviot in 1944.


RCAF Avro Lancaster Mk. X  KB745 crash above Goldscleugh, The Cheviot, in 1944.


RAF Hawker Hart K6482 crash above Goldscleugh, The Cheviot, in 1939.


RAF Supermarine Spitfire P8587 crash at Bellyside Hill, The Cheviot, in 1943.


RAF Handley Page Hampden L4063 crash at Windy Gyle, The Cheviots, in 1940.





Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: 44-6504


Operator: USAAF (303rd Bomb Group (H); 360th BS)


Operating Base: Molesworth Air Base (RAF Molesworth)


Base Location: Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, England


Current Airport Status: Operational USAF / USAFE Base (Non-flying base. Flying facilities closed in 1973)


Current Base Name: Joint Analysis Center (JAC) / Joint Intelligence Center.

(See this link also.)





Related Links



Accident Specific Links

303rd BG (H) Combat Mission—Recalled (Detailed account with sequel to crash / PDF Document)

George A. Kyle Crew—360th BS (Accident Summary and crew photo).

Bamburgh Castle Aviation Artefact Museum, Bamburgh, N of North Sunderland. (One of the engines, in superb condition, can be seen at this Museum.)


USAAF & Related Links

303rd Bomb Group (H) (Hell's Angels)
303rd Talk—303rd Bomb Group Talk Forum
303rd Bomb Group—World War II (DVD)

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (Fact Sheet)

Joint Analysis Center (JAC)


Other Links

American Air Museum, Duxford

B-17 Flying Fortress at Wikipedia

B-17G at Aviation Enthusiast Corner

B-17G at Air to Air



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