Captain John Pershing Perrin 1918-44

Captain John Pershing Perrin 1918-44, DFC, Air Medal and 3 Oak Leaf clusters

Captain John Perrin died on 4th July 1944 having crashed his P-51D Mustang Fighter into land close to Home Farm and Sleepers Spinney. This area now forms part of the Primepoint Business Park 

John Perrin came from New Jersey U.S.A. and flew with the then United States Army Air Force (later being the USAF in 1947). He had been flying fighter sweeps in P-47 Thunderbolts prior to being killed and was an "Ace" having destroyed 5 German aircraft. On American Independence Day 1944 he was delivering a Mustang Fighter from base workshops at Warton, Lancashire to Steeple Morden in Cambridgeshire when it appeared to catch fire. So as to miss the Tillington Manor Primary School, (then known as Holmcroft Primary), at the North End of Stafford together with Houses in First and Second Avenue he stayed with his stricken plane.

His story is included in the syllabus of the World War 2 at the school and was recorded by the BBC TV News on the anniversary of the event in 2005.

Captain John Pershing Perrin was just 25 years of age when he was killed. Memorial stone Stafford Post Article

Flying into history

The scene is set at ProLogis Park Stafford. A bugler plays a mournful tribute, a Mustang flies overhead and hundreds of people are united in remembrance of an heroic WWII pilot. ProLogis PR consultant Debbie Munro recalls the efforts which led to a unforgettable Fourth of July

The request was straightforward enough – they wanted some money for a good cause. Creswell Parish Council was trying to set up a small memorial to a young US pilot who had died within its boundaries during the Second World War. Would ProLogis like to contribute, on the basis that our new Stafford development was just
yards away from the crash site? Yes, of course, we said we would be delighted to offer support and looked forward to an invitation when the unveiling took place. Little did we realise that this modest request would set in motion a project of international proportions. The Perrin Memorial would connect business and community, reach out to the relatives of a war hero, re-unite American and British allies and provide a lasting memorial to a significant local event.

Stricken aircraft

Decorated pilot Captain John (Jack) Pershing Perrin, of the United States Army Air Force, was just 25 when he died on Independence Day 1944. He was delivering a brand-new Mustang fighter plane to an airbase in England when it developed problems approaching Stafford. Instead of ejecting to safety, Jack stayed at the controls of his stricken aircraft long enough to steer it away from the town and outlying schools and villages, before losing control and crashing into what was then a wheat field, in Creswell. It is thought that his actions may have saved hundreds of lives.

Stafford town has a plaque dedicated to the young pilot, but the village of Creswell had nothing to remember him by. For some years, the parish council had been pondering a way of commemorating Captain Perrin’s sacrifice. ProLogis had already named the estate road “Mustang Drive” in his honour but now councillors were hoping to go a step further. They planned a memorial at the edge of a spinney near the new warehouses at ProLogis Park Stafford, near Junction 14 of the M6. Through discussions with Clerk to the Parish Council Tom Doubtfire, it was suggested that a modest donation be made to get the memorial fund underway. However, once we started to look in depth at the history of the wartime incident and heard about the number of local people willing to offer their services, it became obvious that Captain Perrin deserved a memorial.Unforgettable day

An unforgettable day

 At the time of the first meeting with the parish council in March, none could imagine just how big an event it would turn out to be. Its organisation not only utilised ProLogis’ PR resources on both sides of the Atlantic, it also relied on the generosity and co-operation of numerous other parties, including local residents, companies and schools, the US Embassy, the RAF, local authorities, the police and the church. Amazingly, the whole thing came together in just four months, culminating in an unforgettable day in 2007, when a stunning memorial stone was dedicated and unveiled to the young war hero, exactly 63 years to the day after his fateful crash.

The guest list was drawn up for a joint Anglo-American unveiling. It was headed by representatives from the US Embassy in London and the Office of the Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, representing the Queen. Two local ministers would take the service, and the voluntary band from RAF Cosford kindly offered to play for the ceremony and marquee reception. The US Embassy also provided a bugler, the aptly-named Staff Sergeant Stafford Kibbey, who flew to Stafford expressly from his base in Germany and whose ancestors originated from the town. The parish council identified a seven-tonne piece of Derbyshire stone for the memorial. This was transported back to Stafford by a local haulier to be worked on by local stonemasons and a master carver.
The carved scene depicted Captain Perrin with his aircraft, linking the outlines of the UK and USA. A Welsh slate plaque was inscribed with the facts of the tragic story

 Stunning aerial display

Flying into historyPreparations were gathering pace. A Mustang aircraft (Ferocious Frankie), identical to the one that Captain Perrin flew in 1944, was hired for a stunning aerial display to close the ceremony. Meanwhile, over at ProLogis HQ in Denver, Corporate Communications Specialist Jessica Neal was busy arranging the publication of a special commemorative booklet. The words had already been written by Stanley Jones, a Stafford man who witnessed the plane coming down as a child. Jessica was also trying to find relatives of Captain Perrin, who hailed from New Jersey.

“We realised we absolutely needed to track down living relatives in the United States to let them know what ProLogis was planning,” Jessica recalls. “I investigated online people-tracking websites, genealogical websites and – via the Association of Professional Genealogists – located a family member.” Now we were in possession of a document that included the Perrin family tree, starting with Jack’s grandparents, and including the telephone number of Jack’s first cousin’s daughter, Denise. “Denise was shocked when I contacted her at first,” says Jessica, “but also very curious. I let her know about the event we were planning in the UK. Her sister Helaine gave me a call the next day.”

Unveiling the stone: Lieutenant-Col Jeff Price,Assistant Air-Attaché to the US EmbassyFirst and last flight 

Their conversation resulted in Jack’s relatives being flown over to England by ProLogis for the unveiling ceremony on – of course – July 4th. Helaine, 43, her daughter Catherine, nine, and her mother Helen Perrin, 75 - the widow of Jack's first cousin Donald Perrin – were presented with a boxed edition of the Order of Service and Stanley Jones’ book, “The First and Last Mustang Flight of a Heroic WWII American Pilot.” Jessica had organised the publication of Stanley’s story, which now included photographs of Captain Perrin and letters he had written home. 
A minute's silence for the fallen airman 
The event even connected the youngest generations, enabling them to begin to understand the united cause which brought soldiers of two continents together. Catherine laid a wreath on the memorial stone and talked to children from the local school the plane had narrowly missed, including two youngsters whose grandparents had been pupils at the time.

Helaine, Catherine and Helen, relatives of Jack PerrinNever forgotten

The day itself went off without a hitch and was attended by more than 200 people, including the Mayor of Stafford, the local MP, RAF representatives and Robert Watson, CEO of ProLogis European Properties. It was featured on radio and television and in the American and British press.
 
“The success of the memorial ceremony is testimony to all the hard work and effort that went into organising this major event,” said Alan Sarjant, ProLogis Senior Vice President Development. “ProLogis worked closely with the local community and others to make sure this young pilot’s bravery was never forgotten. It is a fine example of corporate social responsibility.”
Helen lays a wreath
Chairman of the Parish Council, Cllr Mrs Dorothy Dixon, summed up what the memorial meant to the village. “The people of Creswell have never forgotten Captain Perrin's courage and now, all these years later, we are finally going to be able to repay our debt of gratitude to him, thanks to the generosity of ProLogis Developments.

“The memorial stone is very impressive and will serve as a lasting tribute to Captain Perrin and as a reminder to future generations from Creswell and Stafford of the sacrifice he made for us all.”

Representatives of the Queen,the US Embassy and ProLogis

Wreaths were laid at the memorial stone The band of RAF Cosford

 

 

 

 

 

 To see live action footage of the Captain Perrin memorial ceremony, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIZ99JyiOZ8

 

Stafford Post Article 4th July 2010