An 82-year-old pensioner who has spent the last seven decades faithfully maintaining a war memorial to 10 American airmen who died in front of him broke down in tears today on BBC Breakfast.
Tony Foulds was just eight years old when he witnessed an American bomber plummet from the skies in February 1944.
He watched on with horror as the young airmen waved at him and his pals before crashing into Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, killing everyone on board.
Since then, Tony has dedicated his life to tending to the small, discreet memorial in the park, visiting every single day to talk to his "family".
Now he has finally had his wish granted – for a military fly-by to pass over the park next month to commemorate 75 years since their senseless deaths.
Tony appeared on BBC Breakfast alongside Dan Walker – who first brought Tony’s story to public attention after meeting him in the park on a dog-walk – and Louise Minchin.
He was joined by the US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, who had been touched by Tony’s relentless campaign to get the 10 airmen recognised.
"They’re my loves. I love them to pieces. I feel a little bit… because I’ve missed seeing them today. I never miss [a visit] – it doesn’t matter where I am, if I go on holiday, I always make sure my son goes up and tells them where I am," Tony explained.
"I talk to them, I kiss the plate every time I come, and just tell them where I am, what I’m doing, what the weather’s like."
The octogenarian was left speechless when a live link to RAF Lakenheath popped up on the screen behind him, to show Colonel Will Marshall of the 48th Fighter Wing introducing his squad.
"It gives me great pleasure to say look to the skies on February 22 for a very special fly-by," he told Tony, who immediately teared up and looked utterly shocked.
"That is everything I wanted. They are my family," he told the Breakfast hosts when he finally recovered.
"It’s not a memorial to me. The actual memorial is mine, apart from one day of the year – February 22 – other than that it’s mine.
"They’ll be smiling," he added while wiping tears from his eyes.
The aircrew were flying a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, when they sustained heavy damage while flying over Aalborg in Denmark.
Three of them were mortally wounded, forcing the pilot to attempt a force landing in Endcliffe Park.
Sadly, all 10 of them died on impact.
"It’s an amazing story, I’ve been going around the country visiting these sites – any time you find somebody like Tony, this is really what it’s all about," Woody told Tony.
"It takes amazing people to have an amazing moment. I’m so happy you did this, because now millions of people will know about these 10 men, and all the other men who died on that day, too.
"It was right before D-Day, so they were preparing for D-Day."
"He may be coming because it’ll be a perfect time. His visit hasn’t been announced yet but when it is, you’ll be the first to know," woody promised the hosts.
*BBC Breakfast continues tomorrow at 6am on BBC1
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