The Lowestoft Journal



Air Show provides emotional pilgrimage


11 August 2006

ONE of the most poignant moments at this year's Air Show brought history to life.

Among the visitors who enjoyed the flight of the Boeing B17 Flying Fortress on day two was a woman from the USA who was making an emotional pilgrimage.

For Dolores Moor, from Mesa, Arizona, was returning to the place where he brother died, flying one of the second world war bombers

Staff Sgt Douglas Seavert of the United States Army Air Force was killed in action 61 years ago. He was radio operator aboard the B-17G Fortress, which crashed into flames at Carlton Colville on March 14, 1945.

Mr Seavert and 2nd Lt Robert H Portsch, of Bloomfield, New Jersey were on their 14th mission, en route to Hannover in Germany.

They were part of the 836th Bomb squadron, 487th Bomb Group that were flying from Lavenham in West Suffolk - but they never made it to their destination.

For after experiencing problems with the left inboard engine over Holland, the crew aborted the mission and turned back.

The B-17 flew back across the North Sea, but after just crossing the Lowestoft coast, smoke began pouring out from the engine into the fuselage.

The engine exploded, and the pilot ordered the crew to bale out as he turned the burning aircraft back onto a heading, which would take it out to sea.

However, sadly, the aircraft crashed and exploded in a paddock near Grove Farm at Carlton Colville, scattering wreckage and unexploded bombs everywhere.

Farm buildings were damaged and cattle were killed, but fortunately nobody on the ground was injured. Seven crewman were injured as they landed by parachute in the Oulton Broad/Carlton Colville area. 2nd Lt Portsch was found dead in a tree, with his parachute unopened, while S/Sgt Seavert struck the tail of the B-17 as he baled out.

His parachute was badly damaged and he fell to his death in the playground of Dell Road School, aged just 19.

S/Sgt Seavert was buried in the American Military Cemetery at Madingley, Cambridgeshire and a road on the Saxon Fields Estate - Seavert Close - was named after him in 1988, with a memorial to the event unveiled at Ribblesdale in Carlton Colville in 1992.

But making the journey over to England for the very first time, Mrs Moore visited the church in Lavenham where her brother was remembered, recounted touching tales from where he died and his memorial in Lowestoft and finally visited her brother's grave at Cambridgeshire in a “fitting finale” to a “very emotional pilgrimage” to her late brother.

“It's been wonderful,” Mrs Moore remarked. “I went to Dell Primary School, where my brother's body was found in the playground, and I kept thinking 'Doug do you know I am here now.'

Having been in contact with Bob Collis since 1986, this memorable journey to the eastern region was hailed as a success.

And at the Lowestoft air show, there were more gifts.

For author of the Eighth Air Force Bomber Stories - A New Selection, Ian McLachlan, handed over a signed copy of his book - which includes a chapter all about S/Sgt Seavert.

And Mr Collis surprised Mrs Moore with a piece of wreckage that had been recovered from her brother's aeroplane - a “Window” which is believed to have been used by the radio controller.

In a letter that was presented to Mrs Moore, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said: “We are delighted that you have been able to make the journey to this place of special memory for you.

“Through the efforts of our local historians we have endeavoured to keep alive the memory of Doug Seavert and the other airmen, who died so tragically on March 14, 1945, by establishing a small memorial and naming some of our roads after them.

“I realise this will be an emotional visit for you and on behalf of our whole community, I would like to extend to you a warm welcome to Lowestoft.”

And handing over a quilt with a touching message embroidered into it, an overwhelmed Mrs Moore thanked the “polite” English people who made her trip all the more memorable.

“She is a remarkable lady, and it has been a great pleasure showing her the various places she wanted to visit,” Mr Collis told The Journal after her visit.