398th Bomb Group

Muspratt, Penn Vicar, Dead at 93

Allen Ostrom

Rev. Oscar Muspratt, former vicar of Penn Church, Buckinghamshire, England, died March 8, 2000, at the age of 93.

While only one of many, many vicars to serve the Penn Church during its 900 year history, Rev. Muspratt will be remembered as the one who went directly to Gen. Jimmy Doolittle at 8th Air Force Headquarters to seek names.

These would be the names of the nine members of a 398th crew that perished near his church in 1944. He wanted to honor the men and to write to their relatives in the United States. Gen. Doolittle obliged and Rev. Muspratt followed through not only with the letters, but also had their names inscribed on the church’s ‘Book of Honour’.

In 1990, the 398th Tour to England and Scotland visited Penn, and Rev. Muspratt, and saw not only the venerable book, but also a row of American flags representing each of the deceased crewmembers. The tour also took in the very location where Charles Searl’s B-17 and crew crashed at a place known as Lude Farm. Ron Setter was a boy of 12 living on the farm at the time and he vividly recalled being thrown from his bed when the plane and all its bombs exploded some two hundred yards from his home.

Ron, Peter Halliday and Johanna Sienkiewicz combined to arrange for the 398th travel party to visit Penn. They were part of the Chiltern Historical Aircraft Preservation Group, and combined to do the research on the Searl crash.

Rev. Muspratt, the 55th in an ecclesiastical lineage dating back to 1349, connected the little town of Penn with William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania. He wrote,
‘If the Tomahawk Warriors (name of the Searl B-17) perished defending a church and a parish descended from a founder of the great democracy which, at the time America was itself defending in war, then, don’t you see, the Tomahawk Warriors sacrificed their lives defending an American shrine.’

“My church was the shrine, right here, in the hinterland of England.”

Printed in Flak News Volume 15, Number 3, Page(s) 9, July 2000

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