Captain Priscilla Corry Gotto served in the Mechanised Transport Corps during World War Two. Born in 1917, she was the younger daughter of Charles Corry Gotto and Ethel Millar Gotto (née Pinion) of 20 Adelaide Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Charles was a former Irish international hockey player. Priscilla had 2 brothers also serving in the forces.
Miss Gotto was a driver with the Mechanised Transport Corps under the Ministry of Supply. Her unit consisted of 5 female volunteers all of whom wore battledress and held officer status. In November 1944, she had enjoyed a week of leave in London and was due to return to visit her parents in Belfast, Co. Antrim.
Death in Shropshire
Priscilla died on 25th November 1944 aged 27 years old as a result of an aviation accident at Clee Hill, east of Ludlow, Shropshire. Gotto was a passenger on a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress. The bomber was bound for Langford Lodge, Co. Antrim en route from RAF Stansted, London via Burtonwood, Lancashire. The crew lost their bearings in bad weather including sleet and snow showers. Pilot 1st Lieutenant George C Johnson descended below the cloud base to find the plane surrounded by high ground. While climbing again to 1,300 feet, the wing clipped the edge of a quarry on Clee Hill, near Ludlow, Shropshire. The plane spun out of control before impacting on the hillside. After the crash, rescuers took the bodies to an American Hospital at Leominster, Herefordshire.
Also on board were Major Kenneth T Omley and Lieutenant Colonel Hartford H Vereen. Staff Sergeant Francis O Hull was Flight Engineer and Corporal John E Bean was Radio Operator. There were no survivors of the crash. Most of those on board died in the accident while Corporal Bean died later en route to the hospital. Both American Officers’ graves were first in Lisnabreeny American Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Down. After its closure, repatriation to the United States of America took place.
Priscilla Corry Gotto’s grave is in Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Her headstone on a family plot bears the inscription:
75th Anniversary Memorial
On the 75th anniversary of the incident, historian Chris Ross unveiled a memorial at the former Lisnabreeny American Cemetery in Belfast, Co. Down. He hopes to relocate the memorial to the Shropshire hillside where the Belfast woman lost her life. The project received the full support of Priscilla’s nephew David Gotto. He laid a wreath next to the memorial tablet after the reading of a specially commissioned poem by Maria McManus.
I am aware that a memorial plaque already exists on Clee Hill which commemorates all Allied and Axis airmen who crashed there, but this tablet highlights the contribution of a woman volunteer and the link between the US and British forces who worked, lived, laughed and died together during a cloudy day on a Shropshire hill.
If you can help Chris Ross with his mission to erect a permanent memorial to Priscilla Corry Gotto in Shropshire, you can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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