Monday, April 27, 2009

An American who will always be with us

(Top) Headstone of Sgt (Pilot) Stephen D. Fassino, RCAF
Warwick Bridge R.C. Churchyard, Carlisle, Cumbria

(Bottom) Poster for Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle, Cumbria

On 28 October 1941 Sergeant (Pilot) Stephen D. Fassino, Service Number R/84031, an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force was killed when his plane crashed during a training flight near Carlisle, Cumberland (now Cumbria).

Steve Fassino was 27 years old when he lost his life. He was laid to rest in the Churchyard of Our Lady and St Wilfred Roman Catholic Church, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle. He is an American who will always be with us in Britain.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Sergeant (Pilot) Stephen D. Fassino, R.C.A.F.

Sergeant Stephen D. Fassino, known as Steve, was the son of Anthony J. Fassino and Marie Fassino of the United States. At the time of his death in October 1941, the U.S.A. had not yet been brought into the Second World War (which did not happen until December 1941). However, there were a significant number of Americans such as Steve Fassino who signed up with the Royal Canadian Air Force to join the fight against Nazi Germany.

In October 1941 Steve Fassino was with No 59 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.), No 81 Group, then based at Crosby-on-Eden Airfield. This is approximately 5 miles east of Carlisle, situated just to the south of the site of Hadrian’s Wall.

On the day of his last flight Sergeant Fassino was piloting a single-seater Hawker Hurricane Mk I (Service No V7236). The aircraft suffered engine failure and crashed while Sergeant Fassino was attempting an emergency landing at the nearby Kingstown airfield (about 2 miles north of Carlisle).

Engraved on Steve Fassino's headstone in the Churchyard at Warwick Bridge is the following epitaph:

God Bless you, Steve.
You'll always be with us.
Jim, Steve and Hank.

[It would seem to have been written by his Air Force pals].

(2) Crosby-on-Eden Airfield, Carlisle, Cumberland (now Cumbria)

Crosby-on-Eden Airfield, situated in N.W. England near the Scottish border, was developed during WW2 from June 1940. It opened as a training base for the R.A.F. in February 1941 when it was given over to No 81 Group. Between February 1941 and August 1942 it was the base of No 59 O.T.U. as a single-seater fighter pilot training unit, using mainly Hurricanes.

In August 1942 No 59 O.T.U. moved from Crosby-on-Eden to a new base at Milfield, Northumberland (near Wooler). During the time of No 59 O.T.U. using the airfield there were a total of 81 fatalities - about one a week on average. The first fatality of 59 O.T.U. at Crosby-on-Eden occurred on 31 March 1941 and the final one on 27 July 1942. Steve Fassino was the 39th of these 81 pilots who died during this period. However, only one other of these 81 who lost their lives was interred in the Catholic Churchyard at Warwick Bridge.

A few days after No 59 O.T.U. left, on 6 September 1942, No 9 (Coastal) O.T.U. arrived at Crosby-on-Eden airfield, part of No 17 Group. The main aircraft based at the airfield in this period were Beauforts, Beaufighters and Ansons. When this Unit was disbanded in August 1944 it was used to create No 109 (Transport) O.T.U., part of No 44 Group and still based at Crosby-on-Eden. From August 1944 to August 1945 109 O.T.U. used mainly Dakotas to train crews for transport operations, including towing gliders for the Airborne Divisions.

(3) Crosby-on-Eden Airfield (Carlisle Airport) after WW2

With the war drawing to a close, in August 1945 109 O.T.U. was disbanded. It then became No 1383 (Transport) Conversion Unit (C.U.), part of No 4 Group. This unit was disbanded on 6 August 1946 and Crosby-on-Eden ceased to be used by the R.A.F.

Crosby-on-Eden later became Carlisle Airport. At different times has been used for commercial, passenger and training purposes. Part of the airfield is used by the Solway Aviation Society run by a group of volunteers. The indoor museum includes artefacts and memorabilia about the airfield, the history of WW2, the Cold War, the evolution of modern guidance systems and the Blue Streak Rocket programme of the 1950s and 1960s. There is also a growing collection of historic aircraft which can be viewed as part of the museum tour.

The 'Roll of Honour' of those who lost their lives while serving at Crosby-on-Eden during WW2 is displayed in the Museum. This also provides a few details about how each of these incidents occurred and which I was allowed to consult for my research.



Richard Davison, Jack Wakefield, Mr Mitchell of the Solway Aviation Society

Our Lady and St Wilfred's R.C. Church, Warwick Bridge

Cumbria County Archives

Monday, 27 April, 2009  

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