Emotional pensioner watches flypast tribute to US airmen who 'saved his life' as he played 75 years ago

It was the moment Tony Foulds has been waiting for for 75 years.

The emotional pensioner saw his lifelong dream fulfilled in the form of a special flypast to pay tribute to 10 airmen who lost their lives in the Second World War.

The 82-year-old was just a boy when he saw the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, on February 22, 1944.

The pensioner, who believes the pilot deliberately steered away from him and his friends, dedicated his life to looking after a memorial to the men at the park, tending it six days a week and getting his son to fill in whenever he was away.

<em>Tony Foulds dedicated his life to looking after the memorial to the 10 airmen (Picture: PA)</em>
Tony Foulds dedicated his life to looking after the memorial to the 10 airmen (Picture: PA)
<em>Typhoons were part of the flypast over Endcliffe Park in Sheffield in tribute to ten US airmen killed 75 years ago (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)</em>
Typhoons were part of the flypast over Endcliffe Park in Sheffield in tribute to ten US airmen killed 75 years ago (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

After a chance meeting with BBC Breakfast presented Dan Walker as he walked his dog, a social media campaign began to hold a special flypast to remember the men on the 75th anniversary of the crash.

The dream came true on Friday as thousands of people gathered in the part with Mr Foulds to watch the impressive flypast, which included F-15E Strike Eagles from the US Air Force and a Typhoon from the RAF.

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The pensioner, who broke down in tears after the names of the dead men were read out at the memorial, said of the airmen: “If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here with my family.”

“It’s more than bravery, what they did. They saved me, and I mean saved me.”

<em>Tony Foulds, 82, was just a boy when he saw the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, on February 22, 1944 (Picture: PA)</em>
Tony Foulds, 82, was just a boy when he saw the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, on February 22, 1944 (Picture: PA)

Mr Foulds thanked the crowd for coming and joked that he would like to receive £10 from all of them.

In the days before the flypast, he was also able to meet the families of the airmen that lost their lives as the plane returned from a bombing raid 75 years ago, describing them as “lovely, lovely people”.

The phrases ‘#TonyGotAFlypast’ and ‘#RememberTheTen’ were top trends on Twitter in the aftermath of the event, which was backed by Mr Walker.

<em>The flypast became possible after a social media campaign (Picture: PA)</em>
The flypast became possible after a social media campaign (Picture: PA)

Speaking from Tanzania as he prepares to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, the BBC presenter told Mr Foulds: “The last six weeks have been remarkable from my point of view.

“From you and I meeting on a dog walk in the park in the first week of January to me asking how you were – that’s how it all started – you telling me this unbelievable story and saying you’d love a flypast for the 75th anniversary, and here we are now.

“I know you jokingly asked everybody for a tenner who are there at the park today, but it’s not about the money, it’s never been about you.

“Tony, it’s always been about those 10 men who you think saved your life 75 years ago.”

Mr Foulds responded: “Well I know they saved my life, I didn’t just think it. If it hadn’t have been for them, I wouldn’t be here with my family.”

<em>Mr Foulds has tended the memorial six days a week for decades (Picture: PA)</em>
Mr Foulds has tended the memorial six days a week for decades (Picture: PA)
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Taking to Twitter after the flypast, Dan Walker said: “I knew Sheffield wouldn’t let us down. Wow!

“This is the most incredible thing I have ever been involved in.”

He later added: “The next step is getting Tony an honour from the Queen. Please retweet & like this and I’ll use this in the submission.”

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