RAF Bases in Northern Ireland WW2

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by spidge, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    Very little remains of RAF Nutts Corner, apart from the runway, and this shelter which is almost 100% as was original

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    All that is left of RAF Meghaberry

    - almost intact main runways
    - old generator building
    - this building which was a bomber trainer
    [​IMG]
     
  3. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Let me get as far as the weekend and I will do something on the Fermangh War Graves .
    Just need the time to gather stuff together , I should have photos of the graves / headstones but any missing I can do them at the weekend - I generally have our dog down to Castle Archdale every week - she knows the place nearly as well as I do.

    I put this thread on Wehrmacht Awards which contains a considerable number of photos of the Fermanagh bases and of somew of the crews who operated from there.

    Neglected Flying Boat base. - Wehrmacht-Awards.com Militaria Forums
     
  4. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The RAF left four bases in County Fermangh.
    Castle Archdale which started ops. in February 1941 from very humble beginnings ( two elderly Stranraers) growing and developing rapidly into the most westerly flying boat base Coastal had , at its peak accomadating 3-4 squadrons. ( 240 , 209 ,201 ,228 , 202 RAF , 422 and 423 RCAF all flew from the base at various time 423 being the only one to come and stay. Elements of 210 also flew from the base as and when required , 422 when they moved to Bowmore did a great deal of their flyiong from Lough Erne).
    By 1944-45 on site accomadation for air and ground crew was inadequate and some were put up in the unused quarters at St. Angelo and at the sub-station on Rock Bay Boa Island.

    Archdale was no small set up , concrete was poured in a major fashion with out regard to cost , the need was there and it was met.
    The base was under constant development right up to the end of the war - a major dock project being in the finishing stages of construction in 1945 , it remains there today , hardly ever used for the purpose for which it was designed.
    At its peak you could have been looking at close to 1,500 plus being on site when you consider the support network needed to keep the base running a far cry from the two 240 Squadron aircraft sent over from Wig bay in 1941 - the Sgts. mess the open air - the cooking - done on stives and boilers set up in the courtyard .

    The first engine chance done in the open a block and tackle being slung on a tree and the aircraft positioned under it , this was how war was waged at that time - if the resources were not there you had to be pragmatic and solve the problems yourself until things were set in place.
    This was how it was.

    Killadeas was built for the USN who never took it on , instead it was taken over by the RAF in 1942 as an operational base , but in fact more of an accomadation exercise.
    ( The crews slept in Killadeas and the aircraft remainded for the most part at Archdale).
    131 (C) "Operational Training Unit" openned for buisness here in mid 1942 and prepared crews for Squadron service by blending them from individual pilots and "trades" into crews.
    The selection process , probably much the same as that in bomber Command , new intakes into a hanger and told to "sort yourselves out" , men attached themselves to a pilot and half formed crews untilth ey had what they wanted / required.

    As with Archdale the base started from scratch , a blind approach system did not exist and had to be put in place for the needs of both bases - this was done classroom instruction ran hand in glove with practical flying lessons.
    The first batch of crew trained underlined the dangerous nature of the job of four crews two crashed on their final exercise and two failed the course.
    ( No reflection on the instructors).

    One instructor told me that it was not an easy job , the "pressure" was always on - the need for crews was always there and progressing a training programme making up time lost as a result of bad weather , aircraft available for use - it was never easy and novice crews often had to pick up skills in a less than satisfactory time frame .
    The instructors were all men who had been there and done it but accidents there were and losses were heavy often whole crews disappeared , in many wasy it reflected the expereicnes of Bomber Command OTU was no easy passge for all concerned.
    (1943 in particular was a cruel year for losses from May to December and on into January 44 , each month present one or two accidents in which there was loss of life whe you sprad it between Castle Archdale and Killadeas , add to this enemy action and a picture of on going attrition emerges.
    Coastal was not an easy option , many hours of seeing nothing did exist but the potential for a close encouter with the Luftwaffe or the cannon shells from the deck crew of a U-boat existed , engine failure over the Atlantic was almost certainly fatal and ytraining was always an accident waiting to happen right up to the end.

    The satalite station at Rock Bay was openned in 1944 - to accomadate the Sunderland flight which had been added to 131 's inventory.
    The nature of the waterway made it difficult for landings at Killadeas and only instructors were permitted to take off or land there , whilst it was possible to put a cat. down a Sunderland was a differnet kettle of fish.
    Aircrew undertraining - taxied up to the flarepath and waited their turn , priority was given to the operational squadrons.
    Crews going to Boa Island either went by boat or bus round via Kesh , an early morning start to the day.
    By late '44 the base had accomadation on site and crews from 202 Squadron shared the small site with 131.
    It is note worthy that the mess was badly damaged by fire - a party which got out of hand.
    202 Squadrons mascot lived there for a while , a well trained duck !

    The base at St Angelo just outside Enniskillen- a fighter station which was built for local defence when later the attentions of the Luftwaffe went elsewhere - it fell under the wing of 131 OTu which had a small flight of Martinets there for towing air gunnery drogues and some transport aircraft , Ansons and one or two Spitfires.
    The airfeild had two runways which saved a few B-17's making the haul across the Atlantic , one which almost made it crashed near ther Graan Abbey whilst in the curcuit to ladn killing all on board .
    Another lucky aircraft to make it was a HCU Halifax which was utterly lost on a "Bullseye" exercsie , out over Donegal Bay it made a "darkie" call which wa sanswered by Castle Archdale telling them that an aircraft was on the way to guide them back , telling them to turn on their lights.
    A short while later they received a message in an Australian drewl telling them "I can see you darkie , you black bastard" follow me" .
    This they did and the Sunderland led them back to Castle Archdale where the Sunderland crew expected them to land ...something of a problem for a Halifax - the crew noticed this and got sharp shift up to St Angelo.
    Detained there by bad weather itr was clos to a week before they got back to Yorkshire , they found that to get off they had to strip the aircraft down to the bare metal.
    To use one of the runways the "road had to close".

    St Angelo did produce a confrimed kill - a 235 Squadron Beaufighter shot down a JU-290 in Feb. 44 - a detachment from that Squadron was brought over to provide long range aircover to conavys off the west coast which had been attracting the attention of the Luftwaffe.
    ( I will look out the number of the 290 when time allows).
    The pilot who shot it down was from Belfast , on the spur of the moment his name escapes me, will add this as well.

    That same month a 422 RCAF Sunderland crashed just south of the base - it was engaged on a FAE with a Beaufighter and both had got down to tree top level , the sunderlandf pilot seeing a hill ahead dropped to gain airspeed but in tryin to avoid the small hill he simply fell out of the air and crashed cutting away a section of a hedge line which cover ed a small road and ending up in a field behind Tory Church.
    Local people helped take the injured from the wreckage , one man being awarded a medal for his bravery . ( Mr J Lunnney).
    |Shalto Douglas was visiting at the time , bad day to crash.
    two men died in the crash one on the scene and another shorty afterwards.
    A small memorial stone now recalls the event in the car park adjacent to the scene.
    St Angelo still operates today.

    This is an amazingly quick whistle stop guide to the four bases written as it comes and very incomplete.

    What remainsd today - at St Angelo a local land owber destroyed the unique local defence system stating that he had lost cattle to them , he did this as a preservation order was about to be placed on them.
    Until that time he had it seemed not considered this.
    Shameful is what i call it.
    Fermanagh District Council demolished the control tower which was neglected for years but at a time could have been preserved, it too is gone.
    Around the site and dispersed from it the accomadation areas can still be found , the local maintaince areas are now sites for housing developments ,but a scattering of wartime buildings remain.

    At Killadeas the Manor House is a thriving high class hotel , which enjoys a view which is second to none.
    In the surrounding woodland and at the shore line building remain in a state of decay and slowly all is being reclaimed by nature.
    Much of this is on private land and entery is not permitted.
    Lough Erne yacht Club operates from the maintance and slipway , some of the wartime buildings there are still in use.

    Castle Archdale is a Country Park much used by holiday makes and my dog who knows it almost better than I do !
    The hardstandings now provide bases for mobile homes and holiday houses / prefabs.
    The slipway allows jetskis ( a curse to local wildlife!) into the water whilst in the undergrowth the remainsd of demolished wartime building are steadily being covered by ivy and undergrowth.
    The Ops block is nopw a shop and restraunt , walk around it and you will appreciate it for what it is or rather was.
    the T sheds , gine the nose hangers gone , the outline ofd teir walls can still be found and the metal runner for the doors , the steel supports simply cut off and taken away.

    At Rock Bay one of the pratcise bomb stores remains, the jetty , the paths in and out , platforms for fuel tanks , on the left the road to the accomadation site now leads to a modern home and some farm buildings, on down the road , on Caldragh shore facing the Lough a quadrent watch tower can still be found ( if you know where to look) .
    Sgt Sherry crashed and was killed close to this - it remains on duty the view now obscured by new woodland.
    On Gay Island the watch tower is gone , its supporting legs remain again the Island has been reclaimed by dense woodland and schrub.

    In recent years a series of memorials have been errected by those of us along with local people who repscet and remember what took place here 60 years ago - time and opportunity have corrected events long overdue for remembering.
    Several squadron associations have returned along with men making journeys at the end gome of their lives to lay ghosts to rest and sinmply to see again what they saw as youngmen.
    It has been my very great pleasure to have met and known them , a very unique group of men.

    Within the Lough - two war graves remain - a 240 Catalina and a 201 Squadron Sunderland - ther may also be a number of scuttled catalinas but searches for them have found nothing to date.

    In Donegal Bay there are at least three Sunderlands along with at least two Halifax , and numerous other aircraft , the sea and the Lough have changed little.

    ( The numerous typo errors I will correct this evening , will also add a few photos).
     

    Attached Files:

  5. militarycross

    militarycross Very Senior Member

    Hi Friends
    I am looking to find someone who might take a picture of the Memorial to the 74th Squadron of Imperial Yeomanry in the yard at Christ Church, Dublin. The name on the monument that I am particularly interested in is Sutherland Boyd Pike.

    I have a shot of the unveiling by the Duke of Connaught if anyone is interested in it.

    thanks.

    phil
     
  6. RJL

    RJL Senior Member

    Thought I'd bump this up. Just in case you haven't got these casualties.

    I've RAAF pics from:
    Drumachose (Christ Church) CoI Cemetery.
    Killead Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
     
  7. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Hi RJL,

    Thank you for the offer however my Ireland requirements are complete.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  8. RJL

    RJL Senior Member

    No worries Geoff.
    I've just realised that this thread was actually about Bases too :blush:

    :D
     
  9. Lauren Ashley

    Lauren Ashley New Member

    Hello, My GreatGrandfather is Sgt, Watts from 220 Squadron. Do you have any more information or images relating to this please?
     

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