The Ickleton Society has paid tribute to the heroic airmen who saved the lives of many in the village during WWII.

In January 1944 Lt. Marco Demara and his crew of the 91st Bomb Group were stationed at the US Air Force base in Bassingbourn.

They were at the start of a mission to Germany when a mechanical fault caused a fire to break out in their B-17 Flying Fortress.

The fire became intense - with oxygen bottles inside the plane exploding so ferociously that the cockpit glass was shattered.

With his legs on fire, Lt. Demara ordered the evacuation of his crew, and - through a team effort - six of them baled out to safety.

As he neared Ickleton, Lt. Demara would have realised the plane was in danger of crashing into the centre of the village.

Despite being on fire, he courageously kept control of the plane long enough to clear the village, and crash-landed into a field south of Ickleton.

Lt. Demara and his valiant remaining crew, co-pilot Lt. Everett Oltman and navigator Lt. Billy Lowery, were all killed as the plane exploded on impact.

Staff Sergeant Jim Baine, who was ordered to bale out earlier, did not survive the jump. 

Debris from the crash was strewn over the ground for a square mile, and none of the four engines were in a quarter mile of any of the others.

Several older residents in the village remember the crash. One recalls waiting in the street for the school bus and witnessing the crew baling out the plane, which then flew low enough to see the pilot on fire in the cockpit.

Another remembers his father being told by his Home Guard commanding officer to race to the church and ring the bell to summon help to the crash site.

Rachel Radford, chair of the Ickleton Society, said: "But for the courage and sacrifice of the crew there would have been many lives lost and casualties in the village.

"We gratefully remember Lt Demara and his crew."

Lt. Marco Demara was born in Amarillo, Texas, was 26 years old when he died, and had been married for just 18 months.


He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (the third-highest military decoration for valour in combat) by the US War Department.

The citation states that he was credited with "saving many innocent lives".

A survivor of the crash stated that Demara was "an excellent pilot and a no-nonsense officer" and he was "not surprised that Lt Demara steered the plane away from the village. That’s the type of person he was”.

The three airmen, along with Staff Sergeant Baine who died parachuting out of the burning plane, were buried at the American Cemetery at Madingley, Cambridge.

The Ickleton Society is the village's amenity group. Formed in 1981 to promote residents' interests, the society maintains and contributes to the village's historical archives, monitors and responds to planning and development issues and organises social functions and excursions throughout the year.