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Commonwealth Plots in Irvinestown County Fermanagh and related info..

Discussion in 'War Grave Photographs' started by James S, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    I visit these two plots on a regular basis , they contain mostly aircrew from overseas who were killed in the course of training and operational flight from Castle Archdale and Killadeas from 1941-1945.

    A number of aircrew from the Uk were returned home for burial at the request of their famalies and the majority of those buried here are Canadian and Australian.

    In real terms the 70 odd men here represent only a fraction of the total number lost from the bases , several crews simply "failed to return" whilst others fell prey to the alert guncrews of the U-boats they attacked.

    There are two unknown aircrew one an NCO the other an officer , there are a number of airmen who were never recovered from the Lough and some of those buried here were not found for several months after their deaths.

    The first crew to be buried here died as a result of a Catalina crashing in March 1941 , the first operational flgiht by a cat. in RAF livery.

    The last burial is in 1946 was that of an unknown officer which a local fisherman found close to Gay Island.
    His rank was identified by the remains of his uniform and his left shoe.
    I remain hopeful that someday some of the missing may be recovered or be found and that some may join their comrades.

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    A few of those buried adjacent to the cross of sacrafice.

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    The men buried at the back of the Church of Ireland.

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    The small plot in the local catholic Cemetery.

    I will add some detail to these tomorrow.

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    The unknown officer buried in 1946.

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    Pilot Officer Hebenton who died on 20th February 1944 near Troy Enniskillen , the metal attached to the poppy is from his plane.
     
  2. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    At 11.55 hrs. 12th August 1944 Sunderland NJ175 , 422 RCAF lifted off from Lough Erne and headed out towards Donegal Bay bound for the Bay of Biscay.
    As she headed out her starboard outer reduction gear failed and the propellor broke off and lodged in a float.
    (The propellor on the pegusus could not be feathered - the prop "windmilled" and broke off - 422 lost an aircraft to the same fault in Sept 43 and no doubt other aircraft were lost as well).

    The Sunderland was ordered to fly out to Donegal Bay and to ditch there , this was impossible - the fullyloaded aircraft was unable to maintain height , loosing airspeed and was becoming increasingly difflcut to control. (Three engines could not sustain a fully loaded aircraft so soon after take off ).
    In an attempted to get the weight down an attempt was made to jettison the depth charges , they managed to get rid of some but the rackgoing out further reduced the airspeed and complicated the situation , they managed to start jettisioning fuel just before the force landed
    on a piece of bogland which looked level and with great effort Devine managed to get lined up on it and put his aircraft down.
    The aircraft broke up on impact and burst into flames , local people ran to the scene and asisted the injured aircrew get some of their colleagues out.
    Attached the crew of Cam Devine which crashed at Corlea near Belleek.
    The injured and the dead were taken to the Sheils hospital at Ballyshannon , the injured were treatedfor their injuries many of which were serious.

    The forcelanding occurred in Eire / The "Free State" and the Irish authorities quickly contacted Castle Archdale to say what had taken place and allowed the RAF / RCAF to enter the republic and to remove the remains of the aircraft - ensuring that muntions and machine guns were all accounted for.
    The Irish Goverment frequently allowed the RAF to enter the republic to recover crashed aircraft and aircrew - few of whom were interned and if so for a short period only before being allowed to return to Britain.
    The Irish Army intellignece whilst assisting the RAF on one hand were careful to make notes and observations on the Allied forces - their equipment , standard of training , how they conducted themselves and any information disclosed regarding their base , operations and future intentions.
    Within these reports are some excellent snippets of information and occasionally some disinformation ( either accidental or deliberately ) sown by the RAF officers. (In earlier ones).

    The injuries to the crew Killed F/lt E.C. Devine ( Pilot ) aged 22.
    ( Buried Irvinestown Church of Ireland ).
    P/O. J R Forrest W.Op / AG.
    ( Buried Irvinestown Roman catholic Churchyard).
    F/O. R T Wilkinson Pilot aged 22.
    (Buried Irvinestown Church of Ireland).

    Surviving crew members. Sgt Allen ( Navigator).
    Severe head injuries , burns to hands and legs.
    Sgt Jeal. ( Flt/Engineer).
    Fracture to spine , extensive burns to his hands and face.
    Sgt Colbourne (A/G).
    Head injury , fractured right leg.
    Sgt Platsko. ( 2nd Pilot).
    Head injury.
    Sgt Oderskirk.(W.Op/ AG).
    hand and facial injuries.
    Sgt.Clarke (FME/AG).
    Compressed fracture of the spine.
    Sgt Singer ( A/G).
    Fractured left arm.
    P/O A. Locke.
    (W.Op/AG).
    Head injury.

    Mr. Joe O'Loughlin from Belleek along with Mrs Briege McCusker a local historian have been instrumental in erreting a solid and lasting memorial on the site of the crash , this has been visited by members of 422 RCAF Asscoiation who have been regular visitors to Ireland in post war years.

    The members of the crew who died were formally handed over to the RAF at Belleek , on the "Border" , the Irish Army from Finner camp providing a guard of honour.

    The photo below shows the crew.
    Standing.
    F/E Sgt Jeal , A/G Sgt. Colburne , A?G Sgt Singer , F/E. P/O. R C Parker.
    Seated. W.Op /AG Sgt J Forrest , Nav. F/O Allen , CApt. F/Lt. Devine , 2nd pilot Platsko , W.Op /AG Hawkins.

    (F/O Hawkins was not on this final flight , he had been replaced by P/O Locke.)

    Something tells me that locke had the misfortune to be on the 423 Sunderland which crashed on Knocklayd Mountain outside ballt castle ( Co. Antrim) 0n 5th December 1943 - this aircraft was en route to Wig Bay for a major service and apart from the crew to take her over had a number of men 2hitching a lift" on their way the bright lights of London on leave. 11 aircrew died in the crash) .

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    The dead from the crash buried in Irvinestown.

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    Parts of the aircraft I found in the mid 1980's.

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    The track which leads from the small road to the site of the crash and the memorial stone which was dedicated by Chuck Singer who survived the crash.
     
    Paul Reed likes this.
  3. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The photgrapgh below is off Frank Paige DFC .
    Frank was the skipper of a 422 RCAF crew which force landed in Clew Bay just off Clare Island on 24th May 1943.
    They had been on patrol from Bowmore ( On Islay , off the West Coast of Scotland ) and were diverted to land at Castle Archdale.
    Although there was radio contact with the aircraft some of the messages were incomplete and unclear.
    The aircraft may have been in difficulties but for whatever reason she put down off Clare Island with the loss of all on board.
    Frank Paige had previously served with 407 RCAF in the Channel and was awarded the DFC :
    "H.M. the King, on the recommendation of the A.O.C. Coastal Command, has graciously been pleased to make an award of the distinguisher Service cross to P/O. Franklyn Ernest paige for the fortitude he displayed , although severly wunded , in bringing his aircraft and crew back safely to his base after successfully attacking an enemy merchant vessel"
    "One the morning in May 1942 , this officer was the pilot of an aircraft which participated in an attack on a convoy off the enemy coast. regardless of a fierce defensive barrage, which in the full light of the morning was extremely accurate, Piot officer Paige pressed home his attack. Although seriously wounded by a splinter from a shell which smashed through his instrumenet panel , this officer corageously flew his aircraft back to base"
    Frank's younger brother "Bill" was lost in May 1944 when his lancaster collied with another aicraft as they waited in the circuit to land at Coningsby, he was an air gunner.

    Frank had only been with 422 for a short time - approximately two weeks before he was lost.

    Frank's logbook shows a flight to every flying boat base in 15 Group and those he might have to divert to - just to "get to know them.

    About twelve years ago his brother and sisters dedicated a memorial stone to the crew on Clare Island , also buried in the same graveyard a Petty officer from HMS Mashona which was sunk by the Luftwaffe in the wake of the Bismarck episode.

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    I took this of his grave a few years ago , it surrenders more detail than that which conditions allowed for yesterday.

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    Three of Frank's crew are buried beside him , and beside them men from that first catalina crash from 131OTU, they crashed into bogland a few miles from where I am sitting.

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  4. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    James - another amazingly interesting thread from you. Many thanks!

    Were the aircraft items just laying around - they look in exceptional condition!

    The unknown airman is very intriguing!
     
  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The cowling ring I stmbled on it in the gorse it is approx 100yds from the impact point , overgrown and quite forgotten , finding it again - I have never managed to find it again.

    The hull part on a local famers land in a hedgeline.

    The after section of a wing float - a local man was taking it to the dump the next day so I asked for and was given it - it is in my garden shed at the moment.

    The tail piece - safe in another man's garrage , it was a matter of looking and asking as with almost all such locations the ground is a mass of exploded .303and broken perspex.

    In the aftermath of the crash the RAF were allowed to enter the "republic" and removed the engines ( or what remained of them , the gun turrets and munitions.

    The few charges which the crew managed to ditch were blown up by the Irish Army.

    The remains of the burnt out aircraft were quickly gathered by scrap metal dealers and local people - I was told that a few days after the crash "people were carrying away bits of the plane" , some survived in the back of fields or as something which was at the back of the house , most ended up as scrap.
     
  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    This Catalina was heading South when she crashed into a hillside , she was probably east of her intended track .

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    In this photo some of the crew of JX242 , those on the aircraft when she crashed.
    F/Sgt Bowater. (Survived).
    F/Sgt Gelderet. (Killed).
    Sgt Deem . (Killed).
    F/Sgt Marshall . (Killed).
    Sgt Natter. (Killed).
    P/O. Sharp. (Killed).

    Those on the aircarft not in the above photo.
    W/Officer. E. Slack (Killed).
    F/lt. V. Forbes-Lloyd. (Killed).
    F/Sgt G. Trimble. (Killed).

    ( It is possible that this photo may have been taken at Killadeas as they went through OTU ).

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    Wreckage from the aircraft

    One of the survivors walked down the 1,500 feet mountain side after walking perhaps two miles to find it and in bloody awful weather.

    The rescue and removal of the dead was quite a feat in itself and clearing of the site took several months.
    The wreckage shown is some distance from the crashsite it was carted away to a remote part of the mountain and a crater was blown in the bogland , the wreckage was simply heaped in.

    Four years ago a memorial stone was errected by local people to recall the crash and that below the viewpoint at Lough Navar of a 201 Sunderland which crashed on Lough Erne.

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    202 Squadron , the Australian Ambassador, and members of the crews famalies were represented and it was attended by several hundred local people.

    Eight of the crew were killed and two survived.
    ( W/Officer Moore and F/Sgt.Bowater.)
     
  7. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Well Done James and thanks for the info. Excellent thread.
     
  8. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    Gets better and better - really superb stuff, James!
     
  9. dfuller52

    dfuller52 Junior Member

    Hello James,

    Have you come across any info for this fellow, a member of RCAF 110 Sqn who was killed on 07/11/1943?

    He is among a group of war casualties from one high school in Toronto that I am researching.

    I am curious to know what action he was involved in or how he died. Thanks.

    David Fuller
    Toronto
     
  10. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    David,
    W/O Garnder was killed in the crash of a Halifax from 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit based at Marston Moor.
    Successful conversion to four engined bombers would have seen them move on to an operational squadron.
    They were on a navigational exercise when they crashed near Tuam Co.Galway.
    The aircraft was off course and was lost , she crashed near Lavally Lough , there were no survivors.

    A memorial to the crew was errected and dedicated there last year.
    The Halifax was EB134. delivered between 12/4/43 and 21/5/43.

    This gent is buried at the at the rear of the Church of Ireland in Irvinestown.

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