On Tuesday 24th October 1944 a young fighter pilot took off from the USAAF Base at Atcham in Shropshire on a training flight with the 495th Fighter Training Group. He never returned. His P-47 Thunderbolt crashed in a field near Blackbrook Reservoir, killing him instantly.
Until very recently, the identity of the pilot remained a mystery. However, following 20 years of research into the crash by two local aviation enthusiasts, Neil Entwistle and John Collier, we now know the details of the young man who lost his life that day.
Charles ‘Eddie’ Burdick was 24 years of age, and from Schenectady, New York. He was only in England for 1 month prior to his fatal crash near Blackbrook reservoir. His final resting place is in a cemetery in Albany New York where he is buried with his mother and father.
Charles ‘Eddie’ Burdick (Photo courtesy of family collection)
Sadly, like many others, Eddie’s sacrifice, whilst recognised in his homeland, was never acknowledged locally, and the memory of that fateful day has been barely recalled. There were few eyewitnesses to the crash itself, save the Hull family at Botany Bay. The story has been passed along the generations but sadly detail has become hazy through the annals of time. There are no longer any living witnesses to the event.
With the 75th anniversary of the crash fast approaching, the newfound information regarding the victim’s identity, and the wish to preserve history, it seems appropriate to remember the sacrifice of this young pilot with a permanent memorial next to the crash site.
Suitable stone has been obtained within proximity to the crash, and a quote obtained from local sculptor, Graeme Mitcheson. Funds remain sadly lacking, despite generous donations from Mr Entwistle, Mr Collier, and the Hull family descendants still living at Botany Bay.
We would dearly love to have a memorial in place in time for the 75th anniversary of this crash, hence we turn outwards for help.
What would also please us greatly, and hopefully the local community, is to turn the field containing the memorial into a wildflower meadow, mainly containing poppies as the widely recognised symbol of remembrance. This project is already partly underway. We were saddened by the loss of the poppy fields on Tickow Lane to housing estate, and would like to give some of that back to the people of Shepshed. Any remaining funds after the memorial therefore would go towards the purchase of wild poppy seeds.
Thank you so much in advance for your support. This is a cause very close the heart and home for a few people, and we feel strongly Eddie's sacrifice should not go unnoticed.
Addendum: The crash occurred in the field depicted in the drone footage. It borders land belonging to Botany Bay - indeed aircraft debris and the pilot's boot were found on this land. There is a large water trough which Meredith Jones Hull had installed on the boundary wall post crash (for which we have provenance) and upon which he crudely carved the date of the disaster. It is at the site of the trough we propose to install a more lasting and detailed memorial, and this bordering field we are in the process of populating with wildflower - predominantly poppies. It will be visible from the public footpath that runs to the reservoir.