Final Training Day – St-Cyr-de-Valorges

Day - 2

Memorial to the crew of Worry Bird

Saint-Cyr-de-Valorges

I couldn’t get this location on my main route – so for a final days training, it made an excellent option, St-Cyr-de-Valorges.

On 27th April 1944, The Worry Bird, A B24 Liberator from the Carpetbaggers based in Harrington UK, crashed on the hillside near its drop zone at St-Cyr-de-Valorges during an operation to replenish the local resistance.

The bonus is that I got to ride past the memorial to the Crew of the Admiral Prune on my way home.

Today's Route

At the top of the hill stands an impressive monument to the American aircrew who died in this tragic incident.

On the evening of 27/28th April 1944, the crew from the 36th Bomb Squadron took off in The Worry Bird from the secret airbase at Harrington in Bedfordshire UK. Harrington was part of a network of bases used by the SOE and OSS for clandestine operations across occupied Europe. They were one of 21 aircraft dispatched that night. Their target was to replenish the Maquis in an area codenamed Lackey 3a.

All was going well. One Liberator had dropped its cargo and The Worry Bird began its descent in three circles to a very low altitude. Sergeant James C Mooney, on his first mission, fell through the Joe Hole, whilst unloading the packages out of the aircraft into the night sky. He managed to hold onto the parachute attached to the package but still landed heavily breaking his back. The Worry Bird banked and in so doing collided with the edge of the hill. The Maquis, who were collecting the packages from the first run, saw the plane crash into the hillside a short distance from them.

Five of the crew were killed.

  1. Pilot, First Lieutenant George William Ambrose – Buried in Long Island Cemetery, NY (Purple Heart)
  2. Navigator, Second Lieutenant Arthur Bozeman Pope – Buried in Marieta National Cemetery, Georgia (Purple Heart)
  3. Co-Pilot, 2nd Lt Robert Harry Redhair (Purple Heart)
  4. Bombardier, 2nd Lt Peter Roccia – Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia (Purple Heart)
  5. Mechanic, SSgt Charles Melvil Wilson – Buried in Rhone American Cemetery, Draguignan, France ( Purple Heart , Air Medal)
The Worry Bird broke into four main parts and caught fire at St-Cyr-de-Valorges,

Sergeant Mooney was taken in by a French Woman who, due to his horrific injuries, later handed him over to the Germans. 2 of the aircrew survived, Radio operator, SSgt James J Heddleston, who was thrown clear through the camera hatch and tail gunner Sergeant George Henderson. Both men disentangled themselves from the wreckage and ran. They  were not more than 25 metres from the plane when it exploded.

Both Henderson and Heddleston eventually made it back to the UK. I will write more of their exploits later.

Sgt Mooney was held captive by the German forces until his return to US Military Control at the end of the war in Europe. He was awarded the Prisoner of War medal.

View from the Handlebars

Statistics and Route

Progress

Distance - 69.5Km
Climbing 1169 metres
3 hours 53 minutes in the Saddle
  • Completed
  • To do

Where to Tomorrow?

REST DAY

So, tomorrow is a Rest Day before I start in earnest on Tuesday 10th July from Lyon to Letra. I have however got a quick photo op with the local press in Letra and then it’s an early start and off to Lyon – I hope the trains aren’t on strike!
See you at the start.

Hey - What about you?

Join the conversation.

The story of the crew of The Worry Bird is a real tale of bravery and sacrifice.  Heddleston and Henderson were eventually airlifted out of France by the RAF in the early hours of 31st July. For the operation, the RAF used a Lockheed Hudson. During the war, the Hudson delivered 139 agents to France and collected 221 – all without loss.

If you know anything about the actors in this story please let me know.

SOURCES:

The Bedford Triangle By Martin W Bowman. 2015 Pen & Sword Aviation.

https://valor.militarytimes.com

http://www.americanairmuseum.com

https://www.abmc.gov

http://www.uswarmemorials.org

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