The B17 Galley Uncle

Posted on January 17th, 2009 by by admin

During World War 11 large numbers of American air craft were ferried across the Atlantic Ocean to be allocated to Squadrons based in England. This is the story of Boeing Flying Fortress B17 number 42-31468 – code named ‘Galley Uncle’. The plane left its base – North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command, Dow Field, Bangor, Maine, U.S.A. on 2nd December 1943. Its destination flying via Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada was to Prestwick, Scotland. On board were the crew Lt. Joseph R. Rudolph, Lt. Aloysius J. Rodeo, Lt. Melvin Skerpon, Sgt. Edward J. Mankowski, Sgt. Earl L. Bir, Sgt. John H. Morton, Sgt. Myril E. Youngs, Lt. Robert M. Phillips, Lt. Earl W. Simpson, Sgt. Willaim C. Simpson and Sgt. Stanley A. Thomas.

 

            On 8th December at 23-30 hours the pilot started the engines, at 23-50 Pilot contacted ‘Bird Tower’, at 23-55 he was instructed to taxi to runway, at 00-15 he was told, ‘You are cleared for take off’. Cruise at 9000 feet and Good Luck. At 00-20 pilot informed Bird Tower that Flourecent Lights have gone out – Will not take off. 00-23.

Bird Tower to pilot – ‘Rodger – Taxi down runway and turn left to parking space.

00-25 Taxied back to parking space for repair to instrument panel lights. 01-45 Pilot calls tower for instructions. 01-48 –Ship taxies out to runway.  02-00 tower to Galley Uncle ‘You are cleared for take off, cruise at 9000 feet, have a good trip’. 02-05 – Take off.

 

            At approximately 10-00 hours word was received that B17 No. 42- 31468 was proceeding on course and gave an estimated time of arrival at Dernacross as 13-30 hours. At 10-49 first call from ship was heard, but the signal was so weak that nothing was heard other than call sign and 11,000 feet. A message advising it to call when over the coast was passed, but no acknowledgement was received. At 12-52 the following message was received, “ MAY Day-MAY DAY”, one half hour fuel, got to have QDM. A first class QDM of 100 degrees was passed. At 12-58 another QDM was requested and a third class QDM of 110 degrees was passed. The aircraft was next heard at 13-29 advising that he had 15 minutes of gas and requesting a place to land on the beam. His position was given as 15 miles from the coast, at 1500 feet. We immediately called St. Angelo and requested then to contact the aircraft on VHF/DF and work the aircraft in. The aircraft was advised to continue in on the beam and QSY to VHF channel “A” and work “Wood Pecker” Acknowledgement was received. VHF received a “MAYDAY” call and remark that the aircraft was on two engines at 13-40 hours. Courses and altitude was given to the aircraft and all were received and complied with. As he approached St. Angelo he lost a third engine and also apparently lost 500 feet as he broke through the cloud directly over the field. Reliable witnesses (Pilots) state that at that time #2 engine was feathered and #4 was operating at full power. The other two engines were backfiring and spluttering. Mortars and rockets were being fired and it is assumed the Pilot saw them as he made a right turn and shortly after transmitted, “I can see you, don’t know if I can make it “. This was the last radio contact. The aircraft crashed in a path headed directly toward the airdrome and resulted either from the loss of the fourth engine out of gas or inability to maintain flight on one engine. Survivors of the crash state that all excess baggage and other material was thrown over board in order to maintain altitude when #2 was lost. The aircraft struck a tree which tore off the left wing at the inboard end of the aileron. The aircraft continued in a straight pass, turning over and hitting on its back, sliding about 50 yards before hitting a large tree, which completely demolished  the nose back to the bomb-bay.

     Numbers 1, 2, & 3 tanks were found completely drained of gas and just several gallons were found in number 4 tank. Fire broke out in#4 engine but prompt arrival and action in using extinguisher, by persons arriving on the scene immediately after the crash, prevented spreading of the fire.

 

“. Findings:

a.       Cause: Undetermined failure of Power Plant, Weather, and running out of gas.

b.      Nature: Emergency forced landing out of gas.

c.       Result to personnel: Seven (7) fatal. Four (4) Major injury.

d.       D. Damage to Material: Complete wreck.

 

Accident Report. Pilot’s Name. 2nd Lt. Joseph Rudolph.

Forced landing.  Ran out of gas.  Cause undetermined .  Reason for running out of gas unknown.  Could be -1. Unpredicted head winds. 2- engines consumed to much for mechanical reasons.  3 – In correct mixture used.  4 – Got lost and roamed around for a while.   5 – Insufficient supply to begin with.

 

A call sign for Langford lodge was given as  ‘Harpcord’. 

 

Extract of log from duty flying control officers log book. RAF station St.Angelo.

9th December 1943  Times in BST.

 

11-25 Transit Galley uncle – engine trouble. ETA. 13-30.

13030 On watch at Kirkwood. P/O

14-35 Nutts corner informed Galley uncle short of fuel.

14-39 In formed Nutts corner that A/C had still not answered our call & would they instruct A/C to call “Wodpecker”.

14-40 VHF/DF Inform us in contact with A/C.

14-45 VHF/DF. A/C reports. “  This is a MAYDAY call, only two engines left.

14-51 VHF/DF To A/C “ Hold Course”. A/C replying – flying at 2200 feet.

14-54 A/C flew over airfield breaking cloud with No. 2 engine feathered, & other engine spluttering. Height 5?600 feet. (Fired 14 Mortar & rockets.

14-59 VHF/DF Based course 015o when sudden bang heard, A/C presumed to have crashed.

!5-03  Reported to F.C.L.C. that A/C engines had died away, & that we believed it to have crashed.(F.C.L.C.)

15-03. R.U.C. reports that an A/C crashed 3 ½ miles from Enniskillen on Derrygonnelly Road. Fire tender & ambulance with M/O dispatched, also Killadeas ambulance.

16-11 M.O. reports they have reached crash, reports 5 alive, 3 dead, 2 still in nose of A/C. Unable to extract them until crane & tractor arrives. Crane sent out from Killadeas & tractor being arranged.

        Signed as a true copy of the log. At Kirkwood. P/C.

                 Duty Flying Control Officer. Norman F. Timber.     RESTRICTED

Australian Airmen who Died While Serving in Ireland

Posted on January 17th, 2009 by by admin

          

 

Sergeant Clifford Gurney Fort. Age 21. Died on 31st July 1942 when Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh based Sunderland Flying Boat number W4025 was shot down in error by ‘friendly fire’ from an Allied shipping convoy. In poor weather it was mistaken for an enemy plane

 

Sergeant Vivian Lewis. Age 21. Died in the same incident. They have no known grave.

 

                                       *   *   *   *   *    *    *    *

 

Sergeant George Wilson Lowther. Age 25. Died on 30th December 1942 when Lough Erne based Catalina number FP239 crashed at Reaghan Hill, Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

             Buried in the Church of Ireland Cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

 

Flight Lt. George Hilton Sansome.  Died on 7th November 1943 when Halifax Bomber number EB 134 based at Rufforth, York, England crashed at Barnderg, Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland.

 

Sergeant Allan Stewart Johnston. Died on 7th November 1943 in above crash.

                       Both buried in the Church of Ireland cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

 

Flight Lt. Anthony Joseph Gallagher. Died on 7th November 1943 in above crash.

                       Buried in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

 

 

                                                     *   *   *  *    *    *    *   *    *

 

Sergeant John George Ley. Age 25. Died on 22nd November 1943 when Lough Erne based Catalina number FP240 failed to return from Atlantic patrol, possibly shot down by enemy action.

 

Sergeant Owen Douglas Hodgkison.  Died on 22nd November 1943 as above.

                            Both have no known grave.

 

 

Flying Officer Frank Moss. Age 29. Died on 5th December 1943 when Lough Erne based Sunderland number W6013 crashed at Knockalyd Mountain, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim.  Buried in Church of Ireland Cemetery, Irvinestown. Co. Fermanagh.

 

 

Flight Sergeant Alfred Frank Sherry. Age 20. Died on 9th January 1944 when Lough Erne based Catalina FP193 crashed into Lough Erne near Boa Island.

           Buried in Church of Ireland cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

 

 

Pilot Officer William John Sharp. Age 21. Died on 20th November 1944 when Lough Erne based Catalina number JX 242 crashed at Lough An Laban, Church Hill, Co. Fermanagh. It was returning from Atlantic patrol and was almost at base when it crashed on a hill top.  Buried in the Church of Ireland cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

 

Flight Lt. John Percival Garrand.  Age 32. Died on 14th March 1945 when Lough Erne based Sunderland number ML743 struck a mountain near Killybegs, Co. Donegal.

     Buried in the Church of Ireland Cemetery, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.

Christmas greetings to all who have used my website

Posted on December 18th, 2008 by by admin

I hope you have found it a useful scource of information and that you can use it in future. Joe

Townland Trail

Posted on December 18th, 2008 by by admin

we’ve been doing some digging around and have come up with a list of townlands in the area and their meaning.  its surprising how some of these names were created.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about some of the place names, unusual or not, they are a real demonstration of how interesting this part of the county is.

Townlands – Parish of Inismacsaint – South of the Erne.

   

In some situations there can be a choice of meaning, where this occurs all are given.

Aghamuldoney  = The field of the Muldowney’s

AGHO.  =  A field.

Ardees Upper. = The heights, plural.

Ardees Lower. =  The heights, plural.

Rath.

Ardgart.  =   The high garden. 

Lough Anierin,  Tullynawore.

Barr of Slattinagh. = The top of the place of the slats/rods/ twigs.

Sweathouse.

Barr of Drumgormly. = The top of the ridge of Gormley.

Barr of Drumbadmeen. = The top of the smooth ridge/ the shape of a boat/ a place for ferries.

Lough Naman, Colcarrick.

Barr of Slawin. The top of the slippery slope.

Carricknagrower Lough.

Bolusty More. = The big well tilled land.

Bolusty Beg. =    The small well tilled land.

Brollagh. = The breast of a hill.

Callagheen. = The little church. St. Ninny’s hill & well.

Tober Ninny, Ninney’s Hill, Glennalunn. The glen of the blackbird. (not Glennalough or Glennalong)

Carran Beg. = The small rocky place

Carran More. = The large rocky place.

Carrogolagh. = The place of the slippy/oily stone. The rock of the Gallowglasses.

Carrigan. = A little rock.

Crockroe, Tullraver, Lough Acrottan, Tullyeenta, Laghtmacdonnell, Lough Formal, Lough Avrillen, Lough Naminfin, Carrickwaddyroe, Carrickowenoge, Black Rocks.

Carran West. = The west rock.

Rocktown.

Cashelnadrea. = The raised round stone fort

Rushey Hill.

Corgary. = The rough round hill/or hill of the garden.

Cornadarum. = Round hill of the two ridges.

Cornahaltie. = Round hill of the kiln./Wooded drumlin.

Corrakeel. = The place of the eel weir/ ford/ causeway.

Corramore. = The big weir.

Corry. = The swampy place.

Rath.

Derrynacross. = The oak place of the cross of the prayer station. / The ringed oak grove/belt/band.

Derrynameeo. = Oak grove of the cows.

Drumataffin.  = The ridge of the Mass place.

Drumbadmeeen. = The smooth ridge.

Drumbadreevagh. = The grey ridge.

Drumcrow West. = The hard ridge.

Drumlisaleen. = The ridge of the little fort.

Drumnasreane = The ridge of the bridle.

Drumavanty River. (not shown on map).  = The ridge of the Nunnery.

Farrancassidy. = The place of the O’Cassidy’s (Doctors to the Maguire’s/ O’Flanagan’s.)

Fassagh. = Uncoltivated place/a wilderness.

Raths. Bradoge River.

A Fastery. = A pass through shrubbery/ staplings.

Frevagh. = Abounding in roots. E/g pignuts.

Sourhill.

Garrison.  = A garrison town.

Cow Park.

Garvos. = Rough area.

Glen East. The east glen/valley.

Derrynacarbit.

Glen West. = The west Glen/valley.

Tullyederamone. Tullybelcoo.Tullynanny Lough.

Gorteen. =  A little field.

Gortnalee. = The tiled field of the calves.

Inismacsaint   =  The Island of the Sorrel Plain.

Killcoo.   = The church of Mochua.

Killymore. = The large church.

Killybeg. =    The small church.

Chambered Grave, (Gaints Grave)Standing Stones, Stone Circle.

Knockarevan. = The hill of the skylark/pipit. The hill of the oyster catcher.

Knocknashangan. = The hill of the ants.

Legg. = The hollow’s

Leglehid. = A broad section of land. ?

Rath.

Lergan. = Side of a hill.

Rath.

Loughnachork. = The lake of the marsh.

Lough Erne.   Ernai, a tribe of people.

Lough Navar. = The lake of the men.

Maghoo. = The milking field of the Yew trees.

Meenacloyabane. = Smooth fields of the white stone.

Carricknagrower, Derrylateeve.

Mooneendogue.  = The small black bog.

Rath, Carrickbrisknagh.

Muggalnagrow. = ? A hard place/round hill in a marshy land.

Scotstown, Derrygeehan, Coollum.

Muckenagh. = The place of the pigs.

Roogagh. = Redish land.

Ross. = The point of a place.

Deans lough.

Rosscor. = The round promontory/ The twisted wood.

Rusheen. = The little wood or point.

Scribbagh. = Rough stony scratchy ground.

Trienbeg, Kilgarrow.

Slawin. = The slippery place.

Slisgarrow. = Rough place.

Sruhanure. = The stream of the Yew trees.

Stranacally. = ? Strand of the woods./Stream of the corners.

Tulinoid, Tullygar.

Tievebunnan. = The hill side of the bittering.(herbs/bird like a heron)

Carowen, Glenmore, Lough Namafin.

Tiranagher More. The big land of the fathers. / The land of the entangled woods.

Rath.

Tiranagher Beg. = The small land of the fathers.  The small land of the entangled woods. 

Rath.

Tower More. =  ? Local pronunciation= (Chower)Well/bleach green,

Tower Beg. =  ?   As above

Round Lough, Lough Alabin, Lough Aleater.

Toura = The Kingdom of the Rath people.

Tullygerravra. = The hill of the bushy place. ?

Lough Aguse.

Tullyloughdaugh. = The little hill of the two horses.

Tullymore. = The big hill.

Tullysranadeega. = The hill of the dyke or the trench.

Tullyrosmearean. = The blackberry wood hillocks.

Wealt. = The wooded cliff under the height.

Lough Melvin Islands.  Rosskit Island, Gorminish Island, Bilberry Island, Sally Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Townlands – Parish of Inismacsaint –  North of the Erne.

Aghoonablaney =  The field of the blean or inlet.

Ballagee. = The windy gap.

Lough Nawalskey, Lough Doo.

Belleek. The place of the flagstone Ford. Balleek/ Belick. Bealick/ Belyke.

Ballymaghran. = The place of the MacGauhrans/McGuarans.

Bellanadohy. = The place of the Duffy’s. ? The place of the mouth of the burning. The place of the two houses.

The Gastaigh Stream. To flow.

Bigwood. (Templecarn) = Large wood.

Boa Island. = The island of the badplha.

Blenalung. = The creek or place of the boat.

Brookhill. = The hill of the badger. /The breast of the wood.

Rath, Doonella.

Carrowkeel. = The long narrow quarter.

Deans Walk. From Keenaghan Abbey to Slawin Abbey.

Coole = The bend in the river.

Commons. = Common land.

The Acres. Murray’s old house and field.

Derrin. = Little oak wood.

Carved stones.

Derrychulloo. = The oak wood of the pattern./The festival of Colum. Derryhowlaght = in Fermanagh = the oak tree of the plague graves. There is an old burial ground in this locality.

Tullykeeran, Tullylough More, Curraghbane, Tullytrasna.

Derrynacrannog. = The oak place of the Crannog.

Derrintrig Lough, Lough Nacroagh, Lough Sallagh, Croaghnamadoo. Croaghphillpdoo.

Derrylougher. = The oak place of the lake.

Derryrona Glebe. = The oak place of the reddish land. (Glebe = church lands)

Tullywannin Lough, Derrynalatiey.

Dreenan. = The place of the blackthorns.

Druminillar. The ridge of the eagle/the ridge of plenty.

The White Hill, The Eel Weir Hill, the Deans Walk, Inismaconnell=McConnel’s Island./Sally Island.

Dulrush. = The front hill of the promontory/ the hill of the wood.

Rath.

Fathan = A small stream/brook.  Feadon (it is the border between Fermanagh and Donegal and runs eastward into Keenaghan Lough.)

Finner. = The white place.

Gadalough. = The lake of the thief/ the place of the withes for thatching or making flails.

Pollintague Lough.

Garvery. = Rough land.

Graffy. = Grubbed land.

Old Coach Road. Elliots Forth.

Gubnaguine. = The mouth of the guinea hen.

Keenaghan.  = The mossy place.

Old Abbey and Graveyard.  Pre-Christian burial site.

Larkhill. = The hill of the lark. /Middle wood.

Croaghmore.

Leggs. = The hollow on a hill side/ a stone/flag stone.

Letter. = A wet hillside.

Lowerybane. = The land of the white elm/ pasture land.

Magheramena. = The central plain.

Beggar Lane, Old Coach Road and bridge. Castle Ruins.

Mallybreen. = Breens hill.

Meenatully. The hill of the breeze.

Croaghcam, Tullynagh, Tullygarry, Tullypullin. Meenaghmore Lough.

Mullans. = Mullagh/ summit/ a mill.

Oughterdrum. = The upper ridge.

Church of Ireland ruins, Mine Hole, Rath, Penal Mass Rock.

Portnablahy. = The place of the buttermilk/ a landing place. 

Lough Ahullian

Rathmore. = The big Rath/ Raw hill.

Old Coach Road and Rath Fort.

Rossagole. = Ros guail. The peninsula of the charcoal.

Rossbeg. = The small peninsula.

Rath, Rossegole

Rosscrennagh. = The shaking wood.

Rossharbour Old.  The point of the harbour.?

Rossharbour.?                        As above?

Cave.

Rossmore. = The big peninsula.

Cairn. Old Coach Road and bridge.

Scardens Lower. = A cataract./water fall.

Scardens Upper. = The upper cataract./ waterfall.

Croaghnawalsky, Croaghdoti, Fir Lough.

Stonefort. = The round stone fort.

Tawnagorm. = A blue marshy field.

Tawnawnny. = The green field of the milking cows.

Tawnynoran. The green field of the Yew tree/of the cold well.

Tievalough. = The field at the side of the lake.

Tirigannon. = The land of Gannon. ? (Ceanann).

Tullagh. = A little hill.

Tullychurry. = The hill of the morras/ curragh/ marsh.

Tullynahushoge, Tullymeenagrean

Tullyfad. = The long hill.

Tullylough. = The hill of the lake.

Tullyvarrid = Mangers/ Barrons. ?

Tullyvocady. The mound of the cow field ?

Tullyvogy.  = The hill of the bog.

Black Hill, Long Hill, Lough Nafeala.

Tullynabohoge. = The hill of the hut /cabin where cows were taken to on high ground./ the hill of the youths/ warriors.

Woodhill. = Carrick a cotta.  On the shore near Belleek. A boat or a cot was moored to a rock.

Islands of the Erne.

Inismeely, Round Island, Long Rock, Inniskeeragh, Binghams Rock, Loftus Island, Rossharbour Island, Coghrans Island, Gravelly Island, Buck Island, Sam’s Island, Swallow Island, Kellum’s Bay, Birch island, Eagle Island, Black Bull, Gubnagole Point, Stoney Island, Captain’s Island, Bloomfields Rock, Ned’s Island, Rough Island, Cranogues, White Cairn, Ferney Island, Muckinish or White Island, Rosscor Island, Deadmans/Lonesome Island, Sally Island, White Island, Rose Island, Belleek Island. The last three were combined into two islands during the first Erne Drainage Scheme in 1888. The two islands are now known as the Pottery Island and McBrien’s Island.

 

Belleek is known by it’s old name of Beal Leice the Flag Stone Ford. The north side of the Main Street is in the townland of Finner, the south side is in the townland of Rathmore. An attempt was made by the Caldwell family to have the village named Wellsborough. This soon went out of favour.

 

Townlands on the parish border.

Ballymonagh. = A place of the monks on the south bank of the River Erne, it consisted of several town lands.

Altars. = Penal Mass Rock near Breesy hill.

Battery. = The Fort overlooking the village.

Bunakill = The bottom of the wood.

Camlin = A crooked corner on the river.

Cloghore = The place of the golden stones.

Corlea = The round gray hill.

Derrykillew = The oak place of the Willows/Scollaps

Doobally = A black place.

Ednagor = the hill of the cranes. (water birds)

Gaistaigh = Small brook that flows westwards into the River Erne. Sometimes confused with the Feadon stream.  Gash/Gais a swift flowing current of water/a cascade/rapid. The normally placid Gaistaigh becomes a rapid when in spate it flows through the Pullans ravine where it enters the River Erne.

Knandar. = The place of the thistle heads that blow in the wind.

Laughill = A muddy/mirey/slough place

Lurg = The trail.

Manger. = Long coarse redish grass.

Pullans = A ravine/ little caverns.

Pullinahaugh  = The pool of the Yew tree.

Teetunney = The house of Tunnaigh. Old Abbey and burial ground similar to Keenaghan and Slawin.

Rockfield = A stony place. 

The Ell Weirs on the Erne at Corlea. Corra Bawn, Corra Donnel & Corra Monagh. Near Belleek – Johnstons Eel weir.

 

Johnstons Field. At the back of the hotel. Charles Stewart Parnell made a speech here in 1880 on the land league.

A Belleek ‘priest’ is a short wooden mallet whose offices are required when a salmon is in extremus. A must for all respectable poachers.

 

The great pools or fishing throws on the River Erne from   Belleek to Ballyshannon.

 

1 – The Belleek Pool.

2 – The Rose Isle or Sports throw.

3 – The Monks Ford.

4 – The Point of the Mullan’s.

5 – The Bank of Ireland.

6 – The Black Rock.

7 – The Sally Bush.

8 – The Tail of the Island.

9 – The Fox’s Throw.

10 – The Mois Ruah. ( Red Moss)

11 – The Moss Row. ?

12 – The Earl’s Throw.

13 – The Captains Throw.

14 – The Cursed Throw.

15 – Johnston’s Throw.

16 – The Grass Guard.

17 – Reade’s Throw.

18 – The Sod Ditch.

19 – The Eel Weir Throw.

20- Cos-na Wonna. (The foot of the spout/river/torrent.)

21 – Kathleens Falls.

22 – The Pool of Ballyshannon.

23 – The Great Falls.

 

 

 

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Phil Callaghan – US GI Based in Belleek in WW2

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

 

Philip Callahan was born on 29th August 1923, in Fort Benning, Georgia. He joined the American Army Air Force in 1943 and was posted to Ireland where he became a member of staff of the U.S. radio station situated at Magheramena, Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He was after the war was over to marry in the States, Winnie McGee who was a native of the Belleek area. He describes Ireland in the verse of a poem by Lady Dufferin, “They say there’s bread and work for all,

                           And the sunshine’s always there.

   But I’ll not forget old Ireland,

                           Where it’s fifty years as fair.”

            He describes his journey from the States until he arrived at Nutts Corner Air Base on the shores of Lough Neagh., there he was joined by Forrest Osbourne from Michigan a person more senior in years than himself. They were provide with one of the little four wheel drive Jeeps as their transport to place called Belleek where they were to join the staff of the radio station there, this was 1944 and on their journey westwards they met large convoys of American troops going eastwards towards Belfast. These troops had trained in Northern Ireland in preparation for the invasion of Europe and were to cross from Belfast to England.

            The further west they drove the more often they were stopped at check points, Osbourne was never short of a good story and informed the patrols that they were on their way to a top secret radio station of great importance that they had to put into operation. In the narrow streets of Portadown, Co. Armagh they were ordered to pull in by a large, rough looking Military Policeman who shouted at them, “ Hey you! Where do you think that you are going?”  “Pull over and get into line”. We already had one wheel up on the sidewalk of the narrow street squeezed between the convoy and the grey fronts of the town shops. Coming from the opposite direction was an endless line of trucks loaded with infantry men of the American 8th Division. They were headed for England and the battlefields of Normandy.  A few days before our arrival in Ireland, the Americans and British had landed at Normandy and the last of the division’s trained in Ireland were pulling out. Soon there would be no G.I.’S in Northern Ireland except for the Air Corps personnel at Nutts Corner the airfield outside of Belfast.

            Assuming that we should have been heading for Belfast the M.P. ordered us to join the end of the convoy. Phil told him that they were headed for Belleek not Belfast. The M.P. asked them where was that and demanded to see their orders. On checking them he asked how far was Belleek and what was there. Phil told him that there was a radio station and it was on the Free State border. The M.P. sent them on their way and after passing through several more check points they reached Enniskillen.

            Callaghan describes Enniskillen as being on the south – eastern tip of one of western Ireland’s most beautiful lough’s. The River Erne; which drains the lough flows to the sea through the south-western tip of County Donegal. Most of the river lies across the border in the Free State, but all of the 23- mile long lough lies in Northern Ireland. The road from Enniskillen to Belleek winds along the edge of thelough. It is an undulating road and I was soon engaged in Reading the picturesque name places along the road.

            Ireland is a country of contrast, and paradox. One may drive for only a few miles and yet have the un-explicable feeling that a whole continent has been traversed. Distances are more deceptive than in any country in the world. Distances appear great, but actually are short, and the miniaturization of the countryside heightens the deception of special arrangement so that the ever-changing vistas seem to expand in time and space. The little cottages, low stone ditches (in Ireland ditches are really fences), small shops and narrow winding roads fit smugly into green valleys, nestling like pebbles in a furrow between great stretches of rolling moorland and turf bog. The valley of the Erne is no exception and the 23 miles of lake road soon enveloped us with its strange beauty. We drove along lakeside and glens, backed by jagged cliffs and bordered by fields of green for which no verbal description is adequate.

            Belleek is situated on the River Erne at the most westerly point of Northern Ireland. It is a small village of some three or four hundred families, with one wide central street. One approaches the village from the Enniskillen road across a narrow strip of the Free State that juts like a thorn into the ruptured border, where it parallels the river. Strategetically placed on this point of the Free State territory are a pub and small shop. These are advantageously located for their owners, as the citizens of the north were more prone to buy their cigarettes and spirits at a lesser price in the neutral Free State than in the north with its wartime prices. Furthermore, fresh eggs, cheese, bacon and other such delicacies could be obtained without ration coupons.

            We crossed the River Erne by the Roscor Bridge; which mars the start of the river that drains the lake. Above on the hill we could see the antenna poles of the radio station the entrance to the station was on the opposite side of the hill along an avenue overarched with ancient beech trees that rose like whitened pillars from the sparkle of amethyst that was a mantle of dew on the early morning sunlit hedges. I asked Osbourne to stop as we entered the gate way so that I could get a photo of the beech avenue. It was forbidden to bring a camera with me from America and all my kit had been searched on departure. As my Fourth Derby camera was a small collapsible model I had carried in my pockets and it was not noticed. I lined up the viewfinder and clicked a black and white shot f the stately Beech trees against the green hills. The wind carried the tangy smell of a peat fire from a nearby farmstead. Brown and white cattle drifted in the wake of their leader browsing along the shoulder of the roadway.

            When one composes a photograph through a viewfinder he suddenly becomes attached to the scene that he seeks to capture. It is as if the camera were a link between the eye and the esthetic emotions of the inner brain; a connection to the unforgettable scene being photographed. One becomes enveloped in the whole process and the surroundings become a separate world. The camera protects one from the world while, at the same time allowing complete security in the most intimate explorations of its detail. As I dissolved myself into the Irish countryside, I suddenly realized that fate had finally played its most delightful turn-about on me. I knew at that instant that I would never want to leave Ireland; that I would be content to spend the entire remainder of the war in this one spot.

            I was glad I had brought my camera along. Photography, like, golf, is a disease. I would never be happy without the camera. I had paid $17 for my flat folding Fourth Derby; which was the forerunner of the miniature 35mm camera in a photography shop in San Antonio. Although it took 12 pictures on 127 film; it folded so flat that it left no bulge in my pocket under the army tunic. With this camera, I was to explore and record the Irish countryside during every free moment. One of the first things that occurs when a novice takes up photography as a hobby, after he ahs mastered the technicalities of the art, and providing he is sufficiently enthusiastic, is a subtle extension of his awareness for life and the beauties of creation. There seems to be little doubt that awareness and esthetic appreciation is sharpened by the fact that through the frame of a viewfinder one is inspired to record those details of nature that make up the beauties of our world. A competent photographer will never, in the words of William Henry Hudson, “ think meanly of the world”. Perhaps that is why I have never met a person interested in photography that I did not like and respect.

            One of the great hazards of photography is that the camera can become an end in itself and the photographer gets so involved in the technicalities of picture taking that he forgets the picture. In short a camera, like a person, can become a stimulating companion or an outright annoyance. Friendships do not develop instantaneously, they mature and thrive with time, for understanding and knowledge are a part of friendship and depend on time and thought. For a camera to become a friendly companion, a considerable knowledge of its capabilities and technical characteristics is necessary.

            I jumped back in the jeep and we headed up the hill. At the top, a wooden gate barred the way and beyond, we could see the long tarpaper barracks. We went inside and were greeted by Master Sergeant Huddleston, the NCO in charge. The barracks was long with a concrete floor and 2 small, round, tub-like coal stoves at either end. It appeared almost empty, for there were only 10 bunks init along opposite walls. Large French windows that opened out looked across a flat grassy cow pasture. From the line of windows on the opposite side there was a sweeping view of the Irish moorlands across the border. The boundary of the border to the north of the barracks was marked by a small lough; called Keenaghan Lough. Nestled atone end of the lake was a whitewashed Irish farm cottage known as Barron’s Cottage and at the opposite end, where a small creek drained the lake, was the McGee Cottage. It was in this latter cottage that my future wife grew to womanhood.

            The Sergeant introduced us around. “ This is Rocky Costallano”, he said, “ And, this is Rocky Grassano.” These 2 Americans, both from New Jersey, were by coincidence called Rocky and became known about the countryside as Wee Rocky and Big Rocky. They were both short, stocky, good- natured, and of extremely dark Italian extraction. Un like myself, they were radio operators, but pulled maintenance shifts at the range station with the rest of us as there was little use for operators at an automatic range station. Our main duty was to see that the station stayed on the air 24 hours a day, 12 months a year. The fifth radioman besides myself, Osbourne and the 2 Rocky’s was an ex-truck driver called Jonas. Jonas was his last name, but that’s all I ever knew him by. There were 4 MP’s stationed with us in the barracks. They were Air Corps MP’s but, in spite of their occupations, were quite congenial. The most serious and “regulation happy” was Sergeant Summers, their NCO; the others were PFC Davidson, a small bi-spectacled, quiet man from Ohio, PFC Furgerson, who always shined his shoes with spit and polish, and big John Craft, a six-foot-four, slow speaking country boy from New Mexico. Of all I liked Big John the best for although he gave the impression of being slightly slow, he was by far the most intelligent of the MP’s including the sergeant. (When big John retired in the States he returned to Ireland and lived the remainder of his life in Bonahill, just across the border from the Radio Station, he died and is now buried in Ireland). Another G.I. not mentioned by Phil was young Bill Mackeeno.

            The jeep we had driven was being assigned to the station. We ate at Cleary’s Hotel in Belleek as we had no cooking facilities and received per diem for our food. It was a 3-mile trip to the hotel. At shift changes, we would pile into the jeep or ride one of the many bicycles we had obtained from the RAF to town.

            The road to Belleek parallels the River Erne and winds through the countryside past numerous thatched roofed Irish cottages. The average Irish farmstead consists of small, enclosed fields set off from one another by white stone ditches (fences). Farm – yards are picturesque and the moods of a visitor to one of these hospitable cottages may vary according to the weather.

            On a bright day the winds blow from Donegal Bay, 8 miles to the west, and whispering through the Scottish pines, sets the lapwings to flight along the lough shore. The black- and – white birds, wheeling and landing and taking flight again and again, hang on down – curved wings suspended against the deep purple moorland peaks of the Blue Stack mountains far to the North. Nearby the mountain called “Breezy” by the locals of the valley, soaks up the blue from the sky and its heather-covered sides become atone moment, burnt umber and at another purple or deep vermillion.

            Chickens skuttle about the farmyard, picking at undistinguishable specks along the hedge-grows, or in the pile of neatly stacked turf blocks piled along the windward side of the cottage. The cottages themselves appear to have grown up from the rocky ground. They are invariably of three rooms; the kitchen and main gathering room for the family being in the centre, with a bedroom at either end, A huge stone fireplace covers most of one wall and a hook for the pot and kettle swings out from one side. The main fuel is turf, called peat in Scotland and England.

            Where the moorland bogs reach down to the edge of the greener valley, long trenches gash the heather covered hills. It is from these gashes that the turf is cut each summer and stacked in small piles to dry. The turf is cut in bricks about a foot long and left in the bog for the summer winds to cure. In late summer it is carried by donkey cart to the cottage and stacked in a huge pile. Thoroughly dry, turf burns with a hot, fast fire and it takes a considerable mountain of it to keep the cottage warm throughout a long, damp, cold winter.

            The bringing in of the turf is a chore performed by all the male members of the family, and it is not uncommon to meet a young Irish lad of 11 or 12 tugging at a stubborn donkey as he leads it pulling the orange 2-wheeled cart down a narrow lane. This gayly coloured orange cart can be seen parked in almost every farmyard or hidden away in the stone out-building that borders every cottage. Another feature of the yard is the potato pit, where piles of potatoes are buried under mounds of clay to protect them from the elements. Of all the rugged and earthly elements that go to make up the Irish family farm, the most appealing is the whiteness of the cottages set against the soft yellow ochre of their thatched roofs. In the areas along the coast of Donegal, where the wind blows hard, the roof is held down by criss-crossings of hemp rope that are pegged in place around the eves. The doors of these cottages are of the half and half type, called Dutch, so that on sunny days the top portion is almost always open and the housewife can be seen sweeping with the bissim, as the heather stick broom is called, or performing other house-hold chores.

            It the mood of such cottages on a bright day is one of charm, brightness, and colour, it is inevitable that the cold gray clouds that blow from the North Atlantic can change the mood to the other extreme, When the winds blow from the north, they bring with them the rain and cold fog that rolls across the moorlands and valley, and shrouds the countryside in a monotonous dismal grey that consumes the colour of the land as night consumes the day. The grey may last for weeks and the firm dirt farmyard becomes a slippery quagmire. The farmers appear in tall Wellington boots with the corduroy trousers tucked in the tops. The eaves drip water, the turf stacks drip, the bushes and hedge-grows drip, and the very character of the entire countryside changes from the brightness of an artist’s palette to the greyness of a castle dungeon. I am convinced that the often melancholy and nostalgic literature and poetry of the Irish are influenced by their changeable climate, as indeed are their own personalities.

            After my first few months in Belleek, I soon relied entirely on my bicycle to get around. I visited the cottages close by and spent long hours talking to the old Parish Priest, Fr. Lorcan O’Cairain, who was a botanist and Irish historian of considerable ability.

            He lived in Magheramena Castle by himself and was retired from pastoral duties. The station was on the Castle grounds and, like all good Irish Castles, this one had its own special ghosts. He told me of how an Irish lass; dressed in green, was supposedly murdered and each Friday appeared at an upper window with a candle. The room was kept continuously locked, but in spite of this the Green Lady of Magheramena was often seen walking around the castle grounds. Often on dark, windy nights on the way back from visiting John Gormley and his family, who owned the farm next to the barracks, I would cast a glance at the window in the east room that faced the lane. Some times I could even imagine I was a light in the window. I could easily understand why the Irish boys and girls that went courting down the main road seldom ventured up past the castle and along the lane after dark. Magheramena on a dark, windy night could be a frightening experience right out of an old English ghost story.

            During my shifts at the radio shack I often sat at the doorway, drinking in the view down the Erne valley. The transmitters were American, but the diesel engines that gave us power were lend – lease from the R.A.F. There were two of them and each day we had to switch from one to the other. This was done, by cranking a huge flywheel, until the engines caught. After a few coughs and puffs, one cranked faster and faster until the flywheel finally took hold and kept running. It was a very fatiguing process. The engines were cooled by rainwater that we trapped from the roof and into large drums. The water in the drums was usually warm and we stripped in the middle of the generator room and poured it over ourselves for our shower. There was little chance of visitors during bath time as the transmitter shack was surrounded by a tall barbed wire fence; supposedly to keep the I.R.A. from blowing up the station. War or no war, the Irish were not overly sympathetic towards the English and even in Northern Ireland the men were not drafted into the war. The feeling that our station might be attacked by the Irish I.R.A. was a farce, however, and I was personally acquainted with several Irish lads who formerly belonged to the I.R.A.  They would not have even considered attacking an American radio installation.

            One day in July, as I sat in the warm sun by the door of the radio station, my attention was held by a specimen of the beautiful red and yellow small tortoise shell butterfly, as it danced across the green turf and landed unerringly on the Yellow blossom of a solitary plant. Overhead a giant R.A.F. Sunderland Flying Boat banked gently over the station and with its silver wings flashing in the sunlight, headed straight down the river for Lough Erne 10 miles to the east. Soon the crew would be sipping tea in the mess. Perhaps I would even run into some of them for a few rounds in an Enniskillen pub that evening. As I watched the butterfly, and listened, to the drone of the Sunderland fading to the east, I was struck by the homing ability of both the man made machine and the butterfly. Besides wings, I thought, they have in common some thing called antennae. It is hard to find out exactly when the term antennae was first applied to the tread-like appendages of insects. I believe they were named for the radio antenna and not the other way around. They had originally been labeled feelers. It may have been their resemblance to the wires Marconi was stringing about on Salisbury Plain; that prompted some early entomologist to label the insect feelers antennae. The derivation of the word antennae is Latin. It comes from the Medieval Latin term antenna, meaning sail yard. Marconi’s experimental antennae farm must have resembled a sail yard, with wire strung in all directions. The radio range station in Ireland certainly resembled a sail yard with long loops of wire crossing one another.

            The R.A.F. Sunderland submarine patrol depended on the range station, and the Flying Fortresses arriving from the States picked up the beam several hundred miles out at sea and followed it to Prestwick, Scotland. A break- down of this low frequency radio station might spell disaster for an air force. Over the ocean, on a dark and stormy night, it was the difference between a safe landing and being lost at sea. Just as unerringly as the aircraft located my station, the small tortoise shell butterfly had homed in n the lone yellow flower. True the butterfly probably saw the yellow flower and headed straight for it, but seeing it is after all, electromagnetic communication. Yellow is just as much a frequency as is 300 kilocycles, the frequency of the air force radio range station. The difference, of course, is that the wave -length is only 0.57 microns long (a micron is 1/1000 of a millimeter). Whereas, the 300 kilocycle wave is about 3,000 feet long. Quite a difference in wavelength, and between the two lie 35 to 40 octaves of the electromagnetic spectrum.

            Despite the fact that the butterfly probably located the flower by sight, what about the antennae? Of what use are they in locating host plants and other insects? More especially, what about night-flying insects such as moths? Do they find their host plants and mates by visible radiation? Had my tortoise shell used his antennae, perhaps to identify the plant by some electromagnetic radiation generated by the plant? My interest as a schoolboy had always been birds, but as I speculated, I added insects to my list of subjects to be studied when the war ended and I returned to college.

            The night shift at the station began at 7.00pm. This is long before the sun sets in such northern latitudes, Belleek being at 54o 30” north, putting it close to Newfoundland latitudes on our continent. In early summer it is usual to see skylight as late as 11-30 p.m.  Often in the late spring and summer, I would hear a peculiar sound filling the evening air over the station. I searched the sky for the source of this sound, as it was so regular that I soon came to associate this faint drumming of the late evening sky’s with spring in Ireland. I was certain that it was a bird, but had not the remotest idea as to its identity. Like the wind through the beeches and the looming bulk of the castle, it too had a certain “haunting” connotation. When I enquired of old Mr. Gormley as to the source of the drum-like whispering noise, he informed me that it was a “heather bleater”.

            It was weeks later when I finally located, in Londonderry, a book on British and Irish birds. During the war such books were out of print and difficult to obtain. It was an atrocious book entitled “ A Bird Book for the Pocket”, a misnomer by any criterion, for it did not fit into even my big fatigue uniform pocket. In the preface the well-meaning author-artist stated; that “In my drawings a just general effect has been aimed at rather than feather accuracy”. The British are known for understatement, but this in fact was true. His drawings were inaccurate to the degree that all his birds resembled rag dolls suspended lifelessly, with no visible support in the centre of a vast expanse of empty page.         Here and there, however, were little bits of useful information and from the book I learned that the “heather bleater” is the local Irish name for the common snipe, the snipe that closely resembles our Wilson’s snipe. I had never heard this sound from the American snipe, but later learned that it is produced during mating season. During its flight at evening from the surrounding ditches and boglands the snipe climbs high into the air and, falling in steep oblique dives during its display flight, produces the almost bleating huhuhuhuhu – by the vibrations of its widely spread outer tail feathers.

            My living in Ireland had become much more primitive than life in the United States. We lived well on cabbage, tea, meat, eggs and bread; but, could obtain none of the foods in war- time in Ireland that we were used to in the States. There were no plumbing facilities and to keep warm, we had to constantly attend our barracks fire. One might say our standard of living was low and yet, by my own estimate, it was the ultimate paradise that I had settled in. I was close to the land and the people that worked the land. Surrounding me were miles and miles of wild moorland, mountains, bogs and isolated loughs nestled like sparkling diamonds in a purple mantle of heather, bog myrtle and antler moss. The curlew and red grouse inhabited the peat bogs that stretched for miles and miles above the cliffs that bordered the shore of Lough Erne. It was possible to hike all day and not meet a single person or see a house. At evening, returning home, the ever present drumming of the “heather bleater” above would remind me that the hills of Ireland, the Irish and Scotch never call them mountains, had indeed become the “hills of home.”

 

 

 

 

                                    CLEARY’S  HOTEL.

 

            Cleary’s Hotel is located at the end of the broad Main Street of Belleek. The main street approaching from the east appears to dead-end at a large, imposing, cream-coloured building with several wings and steeply sloping gables. This is not Cleary’s Hotel, but rather their competitor’s Elliot’s Hotel. Cleary’s is on the south side at the end of the street where the road takes a sharp turn around the corner and passes on towards the pottery before turning right again and crossing the ancient stone bridge that, in those days, humped across the swiftly flowing River Erne. The bridge was exceedingly narrow and impractical as its sides were constructed with high stone balustrades. There was room for only one car at a time to pass. As with many things impractical, the bridge was exceedingly charming and contributed greatly to the scenic beauty of this exquisite town. Alas, as with most things, both charming and impractical, it was also later destroyed and replaced by a concrete monstrosity. At the time, however, one could speculate as to its ancient origin, for the stone balustrades along its side were constructed such that there were three triangular niches off each edge. This type of construction is found in only the most ancient of bridges and the side niches serve the pedestrian as safety step-asides during the inevitable emergency, when the helpless foot traveler was caught in front of the galloping horses of the stagecoach or local militia.

The card advertising Cleary’s Hotel stated that it was both tourist and commercial, and was “most central for fishing, shooting and visiting all the local places of interest”. It further stated, “ visitors who come once will call again and recommend it to their friends.” With this statement, I was inclined to agree, if not for the comfort of the Inn, which varied with the coldness of the day, then most certainly for gentle and kind people that owned and managed the establishment. If one were to list all the virtues that a traveler or visitor to a strange land might wish its inhabitants to possess, then certainly leading any such list would be the virtue of kindness.

            The stranger deprived of kind and hospitable treatment by unthinking locals soon becomes both suspicious and cynical. The Irish, renowned both for their hospitality and ability to converse on most any subject, produce very few cynics among their visitors. Because of the harshness of the Irish rural life, one might expect harsh treatment, but the opposite is the usual in Ireland. The Irish are often moody, gay at one moment, melancholy at another; but those moods are softened with a lively humour and love for all their fellowman. If love is the real basis of Christianity, then Ireland is surely one of the most Christian of countries.

The Cleary’s, being no exception to the traditional Irish character, were more than patient with the ten “Yanks” that invaded their small hotel. The family group consisted of Des Cleary, the proprietor; Mary, his wife and his partially crippled sister, Amenda. They had s on 3 years old, Jimmy, who followed the “Yanks” about, forever turning over their tea, or otherwise acting precisely as a 3 year-old is expected to behave. The final member of the family was Bridget; although to all outward appearances a maid, she had spent her entire adult life with the Cleary’s and was, to be more precise, a member of the family. Jimmy was the “apple of her eye” and, consequently, could do no wrong.

            Bridget represented the last of a disappearing type of European women, for which there is no comparable replacement in our modern world. She was faithful, hard working and born to the land as if her body had been moulded and cut from the rocky Irish hillsides. In truth, her apparel, often smeared and dubbed with the black soot of the turf fire, or her brogans covered with the manure and bits of heather from the pasture where she tended the cows, attested to her closeness to the land. During the late summer haying season, she could rake, stack and thatch the ricks of hay to the shame of any man. Some of my friends thought he dirty, but bred of the city, they mistook the war paint of man’s eternal agricultural battle for uncleanliness. In fact, there are two types of dirt- dirt of the soil, without which man cannot survive, and dirt of character, which the selfish and hard of heart wallow in. Bridget was, in fact, not unwholesome but, to the contrary, saintly in her unselfish devotion to others. Because she was simple of heart and spoke with the ancient brogue of the Donegal hill country, some also considered her somewhat less than intelligent. Again, nothing could be further from the truth; she knew the techniques of her hostelry and agricultural trades and seldom wasted time on the useless or unnecessary.

            We ate on the second floor of the hotel at a huge oaken table, in a room that served both as a sitting room and dining room for the establishment. Against the outer wall, between two windows overlooking the bridge and river, was the fireplace. The chairs with their backs to the turf fire were, by any measure, the ideal spot. The cold chill of an Irish winter can only be overcome by toasting one’s backside at the turf fire. In the early years at the turn of the century, and prior to the war, Cleary’s was filed with Scottish or English fishermen on their fortnightly holiday. The River Erne was renowned for both its trout and salmon fishing. During the war, however, times became hard and only an odd commercial traveler would stop at the hotel. Invariably, at dinnertime, they sought to seat themselves by the fire and just as invariably, would shuffle through the door with the tea and intervene to reserve the favoured chairs for the Yanks.

            “ Sure I’ll be after seeing ye sit in this place, sure I’ve forgot entirely to tell ye, this one’s Mr. O’Callaghan’s place at tea time.”

In Ireland teatime comes often, and for some reason no between meal repast in the world can equal Irish bread and tea at tea time. At the end of the day we usually ended up in the Cleary’s kitchen around the turf fire. Amenda, because of her crippled condition, held the place of honour closest to the fire and from her seat directed a communication system equal to that of the Air Corps, covering the happenings of the entire area from Belleek to Ballyshannon across the border in the south. Although she never moved from her chair, she could at any moment tell you exactly who was courting who; at any crossroads for miles around. Besides keeping tabs on the behavior and idiosyncrasies of her countrymen and women, she was also the matchmaker for the” Yanks.”

            “Sure I have a nice wee lass for you Mr. O’Callaghan”. “She’s after asking who’s the tall Yank all the time”.

Amenda could also give details of the history of Belleek and she often told us about the better days when her father was the manager of Belleek Pottery. The fame of Belleek china is world -wide and it is considered by connoisseurs of good china to be superior to any of the more delicate varieties of chinaware. It is produced from a special clay and hand-made at the potter’s wheel. Egg -shell thin, it is actually translucent, but is as tough as china twice its thickness. Because of the fame of the pottery, Belleek has a reputation and renown that belays its small size.

            Des and Mary who owned the Hotel were ideally matched, Des tended the pub and Mary supervised the running of the hotel and the cooking. Although I drank little, Des always kept a wee bit of wine on his shelf, which I preferred to the Irish whisky or Guinness. I spent little of my time in the pub, but Des and I were god friends and I could always get a late night glass of Port after closing hours. Des had a tremendous sense of humour and a kept sixth sense for which of the police to let in after hours. Certain members of the R.U.C. (Royal Ulster Constabulary) were not above a wee nip after the closing hours and many a good yarn came from them around the turf fire.

            Of all the Cleary’s, Mary was my favourite. She had been a nurse prior to her marriage to Des, and had a quick wit and high respect for learning and education. She came from a farm not far from Enniskillen and her younger sisters, Kathleen and Bridget, often took the bus to Belleek for a visit. On one such journey I was invited to visit them at the dry goods shop they ran in Blacklion,

            The little town of Blacklion lies just across the border from the northern town of Belcoo. Separating the two towns is a short, wide river that connects the Upper and Lower Lough MacNeans. The river and lough’s mark the border between County Fermanagh in the north and County Cavan in the south. We had been warned of the dire consequences if we crossed the border into the Free State. Since it was a neutral country we were told we would be immediately arrested and interned. My conversations with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Irish Guards, the southern police, several of whom I knew from around Belleek, led us to understand that nothing what-so-ever would be said if we crossed in civilian clothes. The Irish themselves laughed at the idea that we thought that they might intern one of us if we strayed across the border. Officer Leithram of the R.U.C. even volunteered to lend me a pair of his pants and a tweed coat if I would join him for a round of the pubs in Ballyshannon, four miles from the border. One dark and windy night we made a trial run with no disastrous consequences.

            The following week I set out alone to bicycle the 18 miles to Belcoo. I carried Officer Leithran’s borrowed clothes along so I could change and cross into Blacklion to visit Kathleen and Bridget. The road led south through the town of Garrison on Lough Melvin. I tarried too long, however, at Fonzy McGovern’s pub in Garrison for Fonzy, a rather well-to-do, devil-may-care Irishman, was in a talkative mood. The sun was casting its long rays across the desolate moorlands above upper Lough MacNean when I rolled down the last hill into Belcoo. It was growing dark and a strong wind whipped around the corners of the shop-lined street. By the time I pulled the corduroy pants over my OD pants and changed my flight jacket for the tweed coat, it was pitch dark. The sun sinks quickly in the winter at such latitudes. Because of the war, Belcoo was blacked out, but across the river I could see the lights of Blacklion shinning brightly. Blackout orders were strictly enforced by the R.U.C. in the north and in one town, Pettigoe, where the border runs down the middle of the Main Street, one side of the town was blacked out, in total darkness, while the opposite side, in the Free State, was glittering brightly. This was one of the paradoxes of the war; that one side of a town could be at war while the same people on the opposite side of the street were neutral.

I wheeled my bike across the long bridge between Belco and Blacklion. It started to rain and the wind blew stronger and dashed some tree branches against the stone balustrade of the bridge. The continuous and restless roar of water passing swiftly over rocks below and the scraping and whispering of the wind-filled trees enhanced the impression that this was, as the Irish called it, “a smuggler’s night.”

Half way across the bridge I detected a dark object leaning against the stone balustrade and outlined against the sky. I had stopped and was staring into the darkness, the rain pelting my face, when a voice said, “Halt now, sure who is that crossing this bad night?” The huge bulk of an Irish Guard stepped forward. “What’s your name?” He asked in a quiet voice. “ And are you carrying anything?” “ I’ve got nothing on me”, I replied. “And my name is Callaghan.”  O’Callaghan”, he said. “And where are you from and where are you going this night?”

            “I’m from Belleek”, I said. “and I’m headed for Blacklion to visit friends.”  “I’ll be wanting to see your Identity Card then”. He said as he shone a light in my face. “But, I don’t have an Identity card.” During the war citizens on both sides of the border were issued ID cards. “No ID card!” He roared. “Now who would it be from Belleek on this night with no ID card?” “Sure you will have to come to the station with me. I’m thinking I might have to search you.” But I’m not Irish”, I said. I added with some bravado, “I’m an American from Texas.” Although in the States I usually said I was from Georgia, where I was born, in Ireland I claimed Texas where I had last lived as my place of origin. To the average Irishman, Texas was much more impressive than Georgia or New York, and at 20’ without the more mellow attitudes of age, one tends to seize upon even such an intangible and overly fabled statement as “I’m from Texas”, to gain a measure of prestige.

            “Ah sure “, he said. “You are a Yank”. I hope you will excuse me but have you any identification?” I produced my dog tags and he examined them by flashlight. I was beginning to wonder if I would be interned after all. I had already resolved that if he attempted to arrest me, I would turn and dash back across the bridge to the north. It was pitch black out and he could never catch me. Like the English Bobby, the Irish Guards carried no revolver, so there was little worry on that score. “O’Callaghan”, he said again as he read the dog tags. “ Sure”, he replied. “ There’s no O’Callaghans at all around Belleek”. “ I used to live there myself and never heard of an O’Callaghan at all in Co. Fermanagh.” “But why? I asked again. “Surely I don’t sound very Irish.” “Indeed you do”. He replied. “You sound just like you are from Dublin.” It was then that I learned Dubliners have very little of the thick Irish brogue. “ And who are going to see in Blacklion? Sure I have a sister of mine herself in New York. Would you know her by any chance? Her name is Cathleen Mooney.”  “ I am going over to visit Kathleen and Bridget McManus that run the dry goods shop in Blacklion”. I replied. “Well now why did you not tell me that in the start? Come along and I will show you where the shop is”.  As we walked across the bridge into Blacklion I told him about America and how I had borrowed the clothes from the R.U.C. to cross the border.

            In the next two years I spent as much of my free time in the Free State as in Northern Ireland and I do not recall that anyone ever threatened me with internment. Life in Belleek itself was quiet but not without some excitement. The high light of each month was fair day on the 17th. On that day the farmers from miles around Belleek would drive their cattle into town to sell and buy. On that day also the wide Main Street of Belleek became a quagmire of cow manure and the air odoriferous with the animalistic scents of sweat and Irish whisky. Bartering for beef took the form on unintelligible, for the outsider that is, shouting between two Irish farmers facing one another. To the casual observer, it might resemble a violent argument, which it was not. Time and again during the process, one would slam his fist down into the hand of his counterpart with a vigor that would shake them both to the tips of their Wellington boots. When the final thunderclap of hand-slapping had died away and the deal was set, the two would adjourn to the pub and seal the agreement with a nip from the wee bottle.

            On the fair day the R.U.C. engaged themselves checking cattle for clipped ears. Cattle brought across the border for sale were marked in this manner for customs fees. The price was higher in the North than in the South due to the war. A sly Irishman who could sneak a herd across the border at some desolate moorland crossing could make a killing. The R.U.C. often stopped by our barracks for a wee bit of that “Yank” coffee while absorbing heat around our pot-bellied stove. One day Sergeant Rhynne knocked on the door just as I was getting ready to bicycle into Belleek on a fair day. It was a bright, sunny day for picture taking. He pointed out our barracks window. “ Are those the same cows that were there last week?” He inquired. “Same cows”? I asked. “What do you mean?” “ Are they after being the same as last week?” He repeated. “Sure that black and white one wasn’t in Magheramena pasture last week.” I looked out the window again. “They all look black and white to me.” I said. “How do you expect me to tell one cow from another?”. “ They’re like Japs”. I said. “ You know in the war movies.”- “ They all look alike.” “ Ah sure, now cows aren’t all looking alike. Sure, those aren’t the same ones that were there last week. Sure, you are no help at all”.

The big event of the monthly cattle fair was the dance in Johnny McCabe’s hall, starting promptly at 9 o’clock pm. It usually featured a local ceildigh band consisting of a set of drums and three fiddlers. The ceili dances are the traditional of Ireland and resemble in many respects our square dances without the calling. Square dancing is in fact derived from the Gaelic ceili dances. Some of the dances are quite involved and go by such picturesque names as “The Siege of Troy”, “The Walls of Limerick” and the “Siege of Venice”. They represent in dance and music Ireland’s old and continuous battle for independence from England. Interwoven with the ceili dances were such physically exerting ones as the Scottish Highland Fling and the slower modern Fox Trots of the late 1940’s. The fiddlers were good and considerable energy could be expended during a few dances. Since the hall was small, and none too well ventilated, bodies were somewhat closely packed and the haze from cigarette smoke rather dense.

            The system for meeting and selecting a dancing partner or for lassies flirting with previous or newly won favourities was simple, yet sophisticated beyond any modern folkways of matchmaking. Since the hall was small, its walls could be furnished with only a certain linear arrangement of benches. The mathematical length of these benches seemed to match exactly 50% of the occupants of the hall. After each dance and before calling another, this 50% was taken up mainly by the men of the crowd, thus leaving little sitting space for the remaining colleens {young Irish girls} attending the dance. The arrangement might seem very ungentlemanly to the stranger, but was not intended to be so, for it left the colleens a considerable variety of laps to sit on. Since, obviously, a lap is much softer than a hard oaken bench, the solicitude for the ladies at the dance was evident. The system has several further built-in advantages as a social custom; first, since all the girls were sitting on laps, no one girl could be considered forward and, secondly, it is extremely difficult not to strike up a conversation with a lady sitting on your lap. It was in fact extremely easy to find out exactly who was who about the countryside for the Irish are not well acquainted with inhibitions that make for non-conversation. There was one last advantage to the “system” as I shall call it; since the benches were hard and extremely narrow, one was in continuous danger of sliding off and this eliminated any danger of excessive courting behavour among the precariously perched couples.

There was, however, one disadvantage to the Irish system of matchmaking, and this was that it discriminated against the newcomer, especially a newcomer from across the sea and in “Yankee” uniform. The Irish country people, in spite of their great love of America and Americans, were no different than people of any other country in respect to the soldier. A soldier is, after all, a soldier and well understood to be less inhibited than the average citizens who are not subjected to the unknown and fearful that are a part of the soldier’s lot. People the world over simply do not want their daughters associating with strange men in uniform. If one of our “Yanks” should occupy a bench, it would take a considerable amount of courage for an Irish lass to perch herself on his lap. No one really likes to be different and this would certainly give her a reputation for being forward, for no one can deny that a foreign uniform in a foreign land is different. The consequence of this was that most of us were often seen leaning against the wall of the hall, not wishing to appear ungentlemanly {by our own standards}, and not entering into the merriment at all.

It was several months before I worked out a ”system”. This consisted of buying a ticket to any thing or for any thing being raffled from the lovely colleens who peddled them around the benches. By never missing a dance {I could trade my night shift to Wee Rocky who was married}. I soon got in enough words to become acquainted with a few of the colleens. From then on, they lost their aversion to the “Yank” lap and things progressed normally. The dancing was fun, and the music haunting, and that the “system” worked well is attested to by the fact that one of the Irish girls, that most often sat on my lap and who was named Winnie, and who came from the McGee farm out by Keenaghan Lough, became my bride a few years later in New York.

One of the Irish lads that I became acquainted with at McCabe’s Hall was Marty Keegan. He was a tall, gaunt-looking Irishman of my own age and we were soon close friends. His plans were to join the seminary and eventually become a priest. Because he was plagued wit asthma, however, he had not been able to pass the rigorous physical requirements for life in the Irish seminary. He was the son of the schoolmaster at Creevy. We would often bicycle with the Master to his school, and then continue on to the rocky coast of the Atlantic along Kildoney Point. Marty had fishermen friends at Kildoney Point, and these men battled the winds along this rugged coast setting their nets from small boats for the green speckled herrings. The fish were pedaled at stands on fair days in the surrounding Donegal towns. Sitting on the rocks after a day at sea, we would plan our future after the war. Across Donegal Bay the rugged peak of Slieve League rose in the distance. There, St. Columbkille roamed the Donegal high lands converting the ancient Celtic peoples to Christianity.

For two years I had watched as transport and bomber, flying in from the coast of Ireland, had picked up the west leg of our Belleek radio range station and winging their way up the Erne Valley, north of the fog-shrouded Leitrim mountains, had headed for England and battle. Some of these planes and crews had perished in flames over Germany and the survivors had long since passed westwards on their way home. A few transports and RAF patrol planes still used the station, but it was only a matter of time before orders arrived to close down.

Along Lough Erne I often watched the flights of ducks collecting in groups for their southward migration. There were always a few of the great white mute swans floating gracefully along on the lake or river. In the fall I sometimes spotted large herds. Why groups of swans are called herds, a very un-swan- like word, I do not know. When the swans take flight they gain momentum, their long legs hanging below and paddling the water surface for yards and yards, as they slowly become airborne. When finally they lift from the surface, they retract their legs like landing gears being pulled up into the belly of a huge bomber. They could be compared to the large Sunderland Flying Boats taking off from the lake.

As Christmas approached, I spent more and more time with Winnie at the McGee cottage. I enjoyed long conversations with her older brother, John, who had been to the States, and was knowledgeable on a considerable number of subjects. One of the delights of Ireland is that it produces scholars who have never been to college. One is apt to meet at a local pub a bard or a master conversationalist more familiar with the works of Keats or Francis Bacon than the average graduate of a great university. These Irish become learned beneath the thatched roofs of their own cottages by reading and ceiling {visiting} besides being the Irish dance; is also the Irish term for visiting from cottage to cottage during the long winter nights. The Cleary’s often invited me to stay with them overnight rather than spend the stormy winter nights out on the haunted grounds of Magheramena Castle. The old Parish Priest had finally died in the castle and left me his telescope. The grounds were considered spooky now.

Orders arrived shortly before the big St. Patrick’s Day dance in McCabes Hall. I was told to lock up the station and report to a base at Prestwick in Scotland. As I prepared to depart from this wonderful place, a pair of curlews flew up from the heather, their long, curved bills silhouetted against the sky. I could hear their call in the air above, and as darkness fell the moon rose to the east and cast its diffused light over the rolling hill. The lights from the farm cottages began to come on and suddenly a feeling of nostalgia overcame me. On the next morning I would be leaving this land. It had been a peculiarly peaceful way to spend the world’s most fearsome war. I wondered what supernatural power mixed all the names up in a great hat and then by drawing manes out, determined that this soldier would be left in blood in a battlefield, while another would dwell alone in a beautiful and peaceful land. I wondered if the two curlews would survive their long flight to their nesting grounds far to the north, or if fate and a Hunters blast would knock them from the air.

I started the motor and drove slowly down the curving road, out of the moorlands, away from the heather, the curlews, the white cottages with their curls of smoke, away from the turf fires and crystal clear lakes. I would miss Ireland because it had become my home. I had fitted into this wild and fascinating corner of Ireland and its irresistible charm would forever remain in my heart.

Land Plane crashes connected to the Donegal Corridor

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

Land Plane crashes connected to the Donegal Corridor or buried in

                                     Irvinestown. 1939/45. 

23rd May 1942. F/Lt. James Constabaris, RCAF. Lockheed Hudson FH 223 crashed into sea off Sligo. P/O K.B. Dyer & Sgt. D.E. Engemoen both RAF.

15th March 1943. Martinet. 131 SQ. HP133.  Crashed Crannagh, Omagh.  Died Pilot, W/O A.L. Card. RCAF. Buried St. Canice C.O.I. Eglinton.

 

7th Nov. 1943 Halifax EB134 crashed Tuam,  Co.Galway F/Lt. George Hilton Sansome, RAAF, F/Sgt. Allan S. Johnston, RAAF, W/O Norman W. Gardner, RCAF. F/Sgt. Anthony J. Gallagher, RAAF. Sgt. Robert Mair Clark, RAF, Sgt. Edgar William Camp, RAF, Sgt. Leslie Harold  Wildman, RAF.

 

28th November 1943.  Martinet. 131 Sq. HP731. Crashed Scotstown, Monaghan. Pilot Killed. P/O. McMillan.

 

9th December 1943. 2Nd. Lt. Richard Fox, 2Nd. Lt. William Wallace, Sgt. Adam Latecki. Flying Fortress crashed Tuskmore Mountain, Grange, So. Sligo.

 

9th December 1943. 2Nd. Lt. Joseph R. Rudolph, 2nd Lt. Aloysius J. Rodeo, 2nd Lt. Melvin Skerpon, Sgt. Edward J. Mankowski, Sgt. Earl L. Bir, Sgt. John H. Morton, Sgt. Myril E. Youngs.  Flying Fortress crashed at the Graan, Enniskillen.

 

23 Janaury 1944. F/O. Vladmir Adamic, RCAF, W/O Frank Ash, RAF. F/O Fred Dawson, RCAF. P/O. Norman Gzowski, RCAF. Sgt. D.P. Hewston, RAF. Sgt. F.C.E. Hussey, RAF. F/O Clarence Loree Scott, RCAF. W/O Llyod Joyce Upshall, RCAF. Halifax  LK714, base Tiree, crashed at Rougey Cliff, Bundoran, Co. Donegal.

 

19th June 1944.  Cpl. R.W. Cannon, Sgt. C.F. Maesta. USAF. Liberator  B-24 crashed at Abbeylands, Ballyshannon.

 

9th February 1945.  F/L. John Carr, RCAF. Sgt. A.J. McKaine, RAF. Halifax # 120 of 298 Sq. ditched into sea at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo.                Total land Crashes 9.   Deaths   35.

 

 

 

Mosquito NS 996, Crashed Mourne Mountains, The Castles, Slieve Commedage, South West of Newcastle. 21/1/1945.

 

Pilot Robert Mackenzie, Edinburgh. P/O. John Gordon Farragher.

Sunderlands at Castle Archdale

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

 

 

  Sunderland’s that crashed with loss of life while based here in W.W.2.

 

3rd December 1941.  W3988.  201 Sq. Crashed Doonbeg. Co. Clare.

P/O Wilfred S.Emmet, Eric Marker, Sydney J. Epps, Maurice W.G. Fox, Eric W. Jackson, Arthur E. Bennett, Arthur Doncaster, Frederick W. Lea, Andrew P. Walker.

22nd December 1941. at 1-30am. W3998. 201 Sq. Crashed on take off Mount Batten. 11 Died.  ( Lough Erne based) Flt.Lt. D.J. Fletcher, Pilot. Sgt. G.F.H. Booth, Pilot. Plt. Off. W.W. Ince, Navigator. LAC. J.B. Hides, Fl. Mechanic-Engines. LAC. J.W. Douglas,(A Canadian) Fl. Mechanic. A/C. R. Cunningham, Armourer. Cpl. J.H. Martin, Fitter. A/C. K.W. Bennett, Instrument Repairer. Sgt. H.S. Lodge, W/O,A/G. Sgt. A. Penny, W/O A/G. &  F/Sgt. H.F. Mitchell, A/G.

 

5th February 1942.         W3977.  201 Sq. Crashed in Donegal Bay. Inward bound  to Lough Erne. Fl./LT. Smith, P/O. Bartlett, P/O. Smith, F/O Kitchen, Fl. Serg. Mason, Fl.Serg. Clare, Serg. Smith, Serg. Rolfe, Serg. Jones, Gerg. Nutt, Serg. Jacobson, A/C/M. Hopkinson.

 

31st July 1942. W4025.  201 Sq. Shot down by Friendly convoy Fire.

F/Lt. James Robert Traill, F/L. Walter Harry Wakefield, P/O. John Allen. F/Segt. James Andrew Collins, F/Serg. Maurice John Tomley, Sgt. William Bluck, Sgt. John Robert Goodings, Sgt. Harry Scarce, Sgt. Norman Williams.  All RAF. Sgt. Clifford Gurnet Fort, RAAF. Sgt. Vivian Lewis. RAAF.

 

1st August 1942.  W4000.  201 Sq. Blew up by own depth charge after ditching near convoy WS21. (All RAF)

F/Lt. Wilfred Leonard Cox, P/O Arthur Alfred Webster, P/O Robert William Wilkins, F/Sgt. Harold Abbott, F/Sgt. Leonard Battersby, Sgt. Arthur Corfield Somerset Clive-Davies, Sgt. Frank Henry William Gurnett, Sgt. Donald Kenyon, Sgt. William Jack Mansbridge, Sgt. George Falconer Muir, Sgt. Philip Ralph Field.

 

 25th May 1943.  DD846. 422 Sq. Crashed off Clare Island, Co. Mayo.

F/O. E.F. Paige- D.F.C., F/O J.W. Clarke, Sgt. W.G. Hopps, Sgt. R.B. Bryers & W/O W.R. Thompson all RCAF –  Sgt. D.A. O’Dowd, Sgt. D.H. Richardson, Sgt. R. Sherwood, Sgt. J. Rowe, Sgt. J. Hird, Sgt. D. Purvis, Flt Sgt Edwin Watson

                                                                                                     All RAF

30th June 1943.  DD857.  201 Sq. Crashed landing on Lough Erne.

P/O. James Leslie Hodgens, Sgt. Thomas Galbraith Grosvenor.

 

 

4th August 1943.   DD859.  423 Sq.  Shot down by U-boat – U489. F/O Harry Bertram Parliament &  W/O John Stanley Kelly. RCAF.

 Sgt. Herbert Gossop, F/Sgt. James Brown Horsburg & Sgt. Frank Hadscroft, – RAF.

 

22nd August 1943. DD848. 201 Sq.  Brandon Head,  CO.Kerry.

F/O. Guy Nelson Wilkinson, F/Lt. Charles Seymour Grossey, F/Lt. Arthur Charles Griffin, F/Sgt. Norman Baron Pickford, F/Sgt. Joseph William Burton. F/Sgt. John Robert Coster, F/Sgt. Walter Noel Pitts, Sgt. George Frederick Walter Tilt.   All RAF.

 

17th October 1943.  JM 712. 422 Sq.  Damaged by U-470.

F/L. Woodwark & F/Sgt. L.T. Needham, R.A.F.

 F/O Chesley B. Steeves &  F/L. Paul T. Sargent.  RCAF.

 

11th November 1943. DP 181. 423 Sq. Bow split open landing on Lough Erne.

W/O2 William D. Scott, W/O1. Charles McDowell  Hardcastle, F/O Rowland W. Hill, F/O. Walter G. Arnold, P/O Gordon I. Raymond. RCAF.

 

13th November 1943. Sunderland DD863. 423 Sq. Lost at Sea Near Donegal coast.

Flt. Lt. A.F. Brazenor, Flt. Sgt. S.G. Brockway, Flt. Sgt. R.J. Money, Sgt. H.W. Fell, Sgt. H.E.E. Attwood, Sgt. M.F. Flynn, Sgt. D. Bigmore, Sgt. L. Morgan, Flt. Sgt. R.W. Stiff. All RAF.

 P/O R.H. Wilson & F/O H.B. Pharis. RCAF.

 

18th November 1943. W 4036. 201 Sq. Crashed at Maghoo, Lough Erne.

Sgt. Elvet Parry, RAF, Sgt. John Bosanko Green, RAF, F/Lt. Douglas James Dolphin.  RCAF.

 

20th November 1943.  W6031.  422 Sq. Sunk by U-648.

F.Sgt. Bruce Goulden Burton, F/Sgt. Robert Aird Park, Sgt. Norman Percival Cook, Sgt. Ronald Montague Fisher, Sgt. Noel Neil Lewis, Sgt. Walter McKay. All RAF. F/O Charles Gordon Gorrie, F/O. Wilfred Sydney Johnston, F/O. Robert Harry Strauss, F/O.  Jan David Butler Ulrichsen, F/Sgt. Norman Barrett.   All RCAF.

 

 

 

 

 

5th Dec. 1943.  W6013. 423 Sq. Knockalyd Mountain, Co. Antrim.

LAC. Edward Lowson, F/Sgt. David Cowan Douglas, F/Sgt. Donald Thomas Bromhead, Sgt. George Wilkinson, S/Ldr. Philip Michael Hermann Thomas, Sgt. Christopher George Edward Wellington, Sgt. Randell Hunter. All RAF.

F/O Herbert Douglas Blair, RCAF. F/O. Frank Moss, RAAF.

31st January 1944.  DW 110. 228 Sq.  Blue Stack Mountain, Donegal.

Fl.Lt. H.C. Armstrong, Fl.Lt. M.L. Gillingham, F/O. M.V. Waring. Serg. C. Greenwood, Serg. J. Parsons,  Serg. E. Copp. All RAF. F/S. Frederick G. Green, RCAF.

 

19th February 1944.  W 6028. 422 Sq.  Trory Hill, near St. Angelo.

Sgt. R.W. Bodsworth, RAF. P/O Leslie A. Hebenton. RCAF.

 

24th May 1944.   DV 990.  422 Sq. Shot down by U-921.

Sgt. P.D. Andew, Sgt. D.J. Harvey, F/O G.B. Gingell, & F/S. L.W. Guggiari all RAF. F/L. Edgar W. Beattie, W/O James C. Burke, W/O2 Keith M.G. Fleming,  F/O Thomas E. Frair, F/O George E. Holley,  P/O. John H. Hamilton, Sgt. John C. Seeley, P/O Claude Senton. All RCAF.

 

12th June 1944.   ML760.  201 Sq.  Was shot down by U- boat, off the Bay of Biscay. (at this time ML760 was based at Pembroke Dock, had been at Archdale)

The Pilot, Squadron Leader Ruth was deputizing for Les Baverstock who was on leave due to his father’s death. The crew who died was the normal Baverstock crew. Sqn. Ldr. W.D.B. Ruth, Pilot/Captain. Fg.Off. C.J. Griffith, Pilot. F.Sgt. J.C.L. Humphrey, Fl. Eng.  F.Sgt. J.W. Hobson, Fl/Eng., Fg. Off. P.A.C. Hunt, Nav., F.Sgt. D.J.M. Currie, W/O/ A/G., Sgt.D.E. South, W/O. A/G. F.Sgt. D. Sharland, W/O, Mechanic, A/G.  F/Off. A.V. Philp, W/O. F.Sgt. F. Foster, A/G. & Sgt. J.R. French, A/G.

 

12th August 1944. NJ175.   422 Sq. Cashelard, Donegal. Near Belleek.

F/L. Evan Campbell Devine, P/O . John Reginald Forrest, F/O. Roy Thomas Wilkinson. All R.C.A.F.

 

6th September 1944. ML 823.   423 Sq.  Crashed at sea. N/W Donegal, Bloody Foreland.

F/O Frederick W. Greenwood.  F/O Edwin E. McCann,  Captain. F/L George F. Cornwell.(Buried at sea)  F/O Herbert S. Seibold, W/O Joseph A.R. Dore, all RCAF,    Serg. Lawrence Patrick Quinn, F/O.Kenneth M. Liddle,  Serg. Nigel McCall Anderson,  Serg. John Edwin Caton all RAF.

 

 

 

11th February 1945. NJ183. 423 Sq. Caught fire after take off, Crashed at Knocknagor, near Irvinestown.

Fl.Lt. John D.Ross, F/O. John A.McLennan, F/O. Terence R.Hailstone, F/O. James R.Seeger, F/O. Morley Wilbee, W/O2 Edward F.Knibbs, F/E. E. Cruickshank, P/O. J. Gringrich, W/O2. Jean Marie Soucie.  RCAF.   Fl. P.Woolatt & Fl.Sgt. B. Ramsden, R.A.F.

 

 

14th March 1945. ML743.   461/201 Sq. Struck Mountain near Killybegs, Co. Donegal.

F/Lt. James George Robinson, F.Sgt. Frederick Nicholas George Ford, F/O. Edward Norman Cave, F/Sgt. Norman Davison, F/Serg. Stanley Bernard Frith, F/Lt. Denis Ralph Hatton, F/Lt. Vivian Howkins, F/Serg. George Reginald Kennedy, Sgt. James McAvoy, F/Sgt. David John Thomas Twist. All RAF.  F/Lt. John Percival Garrard. RAAF. P/O. Robert Douglas Albert Becker, RCAF.

 

 

14th October 1942.  201 Squadron – Loss of pinace boat and maintenance crew on Lough Erne.  All R.A.F.

Lac. Francis Hart, Cpl. Frank Stafford, AC1 Walter James Lanham, AC2 John Smith Falconer Thomson, AC1 Robert McAndrew, AC1 David Pullar, AC2 Owen Edwards, LAC. William John Thomas, Cpl. John M. Butchart, AC2 William Arthur Barton.

 

 

23 crashes.    192 Fatalities.    Other deaths  10.

Catalinas at Killadeas

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

   Catalina’s  Castle Archdale –   Killadeas.   1941/45.

 

List of Catalina Flying boats based on Lough Erne during World War 11 that crashed with loss of life.

A Roll of Honour for the crewmen who died in crashes.

 

21st March 1941. Catalina AM 265 of 240 Squadron crashed on Aunagh Hill, Glenade, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim.

Sgt. H. Dunbar, RAF. F/O A.E. Whitworth, RAF. Sgt. C.H. Slack, RAF. Sgt. R.H. Oldfield, RAF. A/G. F.R.A. Chalk, RAF.  Sgt. H.H. Newbury, RAF. F/O Harold Seward. RAF. P/O C.P. Davidson, RCAF.

 

21st April 1941. Catalina AH 532 of 210 Squadron failed to return from an Atlantic Patrol. It had taken off from L. Erne.

Sgt. Horace Arthur Tann, F/Sgt. Alfred Tizzard, F/Lt. Henry Francis Dempster Breese, W/O Clifford Bond, F/Sgt. Leslie Stewart Dilnutt, Sgt. Walter Henry Balch, Sgt. Alexander Vaughan McRae, A/C2 Herbert Vernon Norton, A/C1 James Frank Woodard. All RAF.

 

7th May 1941. Catalina AH 536 of 240 Squadron crashed on Lough Erne near Gay Island.

Fl/Lt. Peter Cecil Thomas, F/O Hugh Harold Hirst, P/O Kenneth Bernard Fuller, P/O Denis William Hockey, F/Sgt. William Peebles,

Sgt. Joseph Leslie Elwell, Sgt. John Sterling Hesk, Sgt. Henry Ernest Wilson, LAC Henry Atkin Cottam, LAC Leslie Roy Holmes. All RAF.

 

23rd December 1941. W 8418 of 240 Squadron  Crashed at Pembroke Dock, Wales. Base Castle Archdale.

P/O Anthony George William Debonnaire, F/Sgt. James Soutar Gray, F/Sgt. George Edwin Jones, F/Sgt. Frederick Rees Lewis, Sgt. Stanley Lockett. All RAF.  F/O Vladimir Victor Havlicek. RCAF.

 

19th January 1942. Catalina Z 2148 of 240 Squadron crashed at Sullom Voe, Shetlands, Scotland.

F/LT. Harry Goolden, RAF. P/O Lyall George Schell, RCAF. Sgt. Roland Breakspeak, RAF. Sgt. Leslie Rowe, RAF. Sgt. Alan Pitcher, RAF. Sgt. Sinclair Irvine, RAF. Sgt. Eugene Hennoway.RAF.

 

15th July 1942. Catalina AH 545 of 209/210 Squadron Failed To Return from an Atlantic Patrol.

This Catalina had spotted the German Battleship Bismarck on 26th May1941.

S/Ldr. Lawrence George Belcham, P/O Adrian Fennel, F/Sgt. James Edward Bacon, F/Sgt. Sydney Leslie Beamont, F/Sgt. Reginald Clayton Graham, F/Sgt. John Nevil Tew, Sgt. Peter Bray, Sgt. Christopher William Cooke, Sgt. Albert Henry Thomas Davies, Sgt. William Roy Norley. All RAF.

 

30th December 1942. Catalina FP239 of 131 O.T.U. crashed at Reaghan Hill near Omagh, Co. Tyrone.

Sgt. William Nichol, LAC Leslie Greenhalgh, Sgt. Arthur Horton Perkins, Sgt. Daniel Ward Yates, Sgt. Frederick Herbert Hilling, Sgt. John Edward Slade, Sgt. Charles Bernard Ridge,  Sgt. John Samuel Orr, F/O Matthew James Hall Newman. All RAF. Sgt. George Wilson Lowther, RAAF.

F/O Robert Mercer Adams, RCAF.

 

30th Dec. 1942. Catalina FP 184 of 131 O.T.U. Killadeas, crashed on Kilwhannel Hill near Ballantrae, Scotland.

Sgt. Pilot K.N. Tullock.  Sgt. L.W. Bridger. Both RAF.

 

24th May 1943. Catalina FB110 of 202 Squadron – 131 O.T.U. crashed near Innismackill Island, Lough Erne.

LAC. Shaw Stanley. RAF.

 

3rd August 1943. Catalina FP114 202 Sq. Missing on Ferry flight from Castle Archdale to Gibraltar.

Sgt.G.W.Farler, Sgt.R.J.Howell, Sgt.E.E.Matty,DFM, Sgt.R.E.Newman, Sgt.R.O.S.Selwyn, F/Sgt.D.S.Somers, Sgt.L.M.Trimmer, Sgt.A. Whitwam.

 

7th August 1943. Catalina FP 101 of 210 Squadron. 131 O.T.U. crashed near Duross Point, Lough Erne.

P/O Roy William Ellis. RAF.  F/O Anthony Alan Williams. RAF.

 

 

 

16th October 1943. Catalina AH 551 of 210/202 Squadron 131 O.T.U. crashed into a hill near Ballinamallard.

Sqdn. Ldr. Patrick George Cooper, RAF. F/O David Leigh Sproule, RCAF. F/O Frank Herbert Grainger, RCAF. Sgt. John Harvey Hodgson, RCAF.   Sgt. James Millard Allen, RCAF. Sgt. Valentine Hinton Louis, RCAF.

 W/O Gerald Frederick Hardy, RAF. F/Sgt. Donald Mudd, RAF.

 

2nd November 1943. Catalina FP120 of 131 O.T.U. crashed in the Atlantic off the Donegal coast.

F/O Kenneth Hipwell, Sgt. Harold Edwin Scarman,  Sgt. Peter Phillip Bacon, Sgt. Cyril Barraclough, Sgt. James Male, Sgt. Charles Edward Poots, Sgt. Albert Upton. All RAF. F/LT Edward Earle Muffitt, RCAF.

 F/O Douglas Haig Disney, RCAF.

 

22nd November 1943. Catalina FP 240 of 131 O.T.U. Crashed at sea.

F/O Francis Peter Graves, Sgt. Robert Anderson, Sgt. Edwin Alfred Dennis Barnes, Sgt. Earl Darragh Morrison, Sgt. Alexander Fordyce Sutherland, Sgt. Allan Douglas Warder, Sgt. John Glynne Williams, All RAF.  Sgt. Owen Douglas Hodgkison, RAAF. Sgt. John George Ley, RAAF.

 

9th January 1944. Catalina FP193 of 131 O.T.U. hit the water in a dive near Boa Island.

F/Sgt. Bernard Edward Smith. Sgt. Robert Hugh Davis Watson, Sgt. Stanley Oswald Hill, Sgt. Ivor George Howells,

All R.A.F.     F/Sgt. Alfred Frank Sherry. R.A.A.F.

Missing. Sgt.Harry Bagley,21.Sgt.Edward LeRoyGros.19.Both RAF.

 

17th April 1944. Catalina AH 541 of O.T.U. crashed near Montgomery Rock, Lough Erne.

F/L Donald George Dewar, F/O Vivian Basil Charlton. F/Sgt. Arthur Marshall.  All RAF.

 

20th November 1944. Catalina JX242 of 202 Squadron crashed at Lough Anlaban, Church Hill.

W/O Ernest Slack, F/Sgt. John William Geldert, F/Lt. George Vincent Forbes-Loyd, Sgt. Douglas William Nater, F/Sgt. Gordon Francis Tribble, F/Sgt. Peter Bryan Marshall, Sgt. Fred James Deem, All RAF.

P/O William John Sharp, RAAF.

26th November 1944. Catalina JX252 of 131 O.T.U. Crashed near Ely Lodge, Co. Fermanagh.

Sgt. John Rew, F/Sgt. Noel George Edward Ladbrook, Sgt. Bernard Alfred Rosentreter, Sgt. Alfred Sonenthal, W/O Reginald William Shallis,

Sgt. David Henry Pidgegon, Sgt. Kenneth Percy West,  Sgt. Edmond Thomas Crow, Sgt. James Pringle. All RAF.

19th December 1944. Catalina JX 208 of 202 Squadron crashed near Castlegregory, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

F/Lt. A.B. Langton, F/S. P.L. Lowe, F/S. E. Williams, W/O R.R. Perkins, Sgt. G.A. Cuthbert, Sgt. J.M. Wetherspoon, Sgt. R.F. Damant. Sgt. H.G. Aldrich, Sgt. A.R. Lewis.

 

18 Catalina Crashes.  128 Fatalities.       (other deaths  9)

 

 

Deaths at the base not caused by Aircraft crashes.

21st August 1942. Sgt. William Thomas Gale, RAF. Died as a result of being struck by a rotating Catalina propeller.

 

21st September 1944. W/O E.L. Darrell NZAF drowned at Roc Bay.

28th August 1942 Sgt. Francis Agustine Weaver, age 27.NZAF. Crew member of Ventura 11 AE917, Ferry Command. Went down off the Irish coast after sending SOS. His body was washed ashore at Clooney, Donegal. Another body –McCubbon-recovered and buried in Eire.

23rd October 1944 W/O Harry Joshua Leeper. RCAF. 422.SQ. Died from angina aboard a Sunderland while on patrol.

 

Airmen buried in Irvinestown but not listed in above incidents.

17th August 1943.     Leading A.C.M. – H. Ward. R.A.F. Died as a result of a road traffic accident.

22nd January 1945.  F/O. Joseph Martin O’Leary.  R.C.A.F., 131 OUT. died from  natural causes in the County Hospital Enniskillen.      

31st July 1945. L.A.M.J.K. Burnett. RAF. Drowned in swimming in Lake.

9th December 1943.

 Grave 41. An airman of the 2nd World War. “Known unto God.”

28th August 1946. Grave 84. An airman of 39-45 War. An officer RAF Buried. “Known unto God”.

Other Deaths.   9.

 

Catalina FP 127 Foundered in the Irish Sea on 20/12/42.

The Donegal Corridor and Irish Neutrality during WW2

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

 

I grew up during those years of World War 11 in the 1940’s and as a teenager I watched the Allied aircraft fly in the sky’s overhead on their way to and from patrols in the Atlantic Ocean. The amount of knowledge that I have acquired from a variety of sources including the memories of an older generation form the basis of this talk today.

 

            It is said “To learn from past experiences is true wisdom. It is even wiser to learn from other people’s wisdom. People’s places and objects bring us this wisdom. If we can use this gift of other people’s wisdom, we can learn the lessons of life in a joyful way”.

 

            The message I wish to convey to you at this point is that a very large number of people have shared with me their knowledge, their written records, which they acquired after extensive research and other facts, so enabling me to deliver this presentation. As a result at the many venues where I have spoken on the subject I have acquired new information, learned some lovely stories and made numerous new friends.

The years of World War 11 were a very important period in the history of Ireland and of the United States of America. While the Free State of Ireland then officially remained neutral, in numerous ways they were directly involved and played a major part in assisting the Allied countries at that time.

 

 The policy of neutrality did not prevent vast numbers of Irish men and women from serving in the armed forces not only of England but in the forces of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Irish Free State was often ridiculed for having adopted this policy and even accused of giving assistance to Germany. I quote here an extract from a national newspaper of October 20th 2001.

 “A wartime investigation by the British MI-5 into the Irish Government’s involvement with Nazi spies concluded there was no evidence of a military pact with Hitler. The files held in the Public Records Office, revealed how concerned the British were that the Nazi’s could invade through the Free State during the Second World War. However an MI-5 report concluded: – there is no evidence of any Irish Government implications with German activities. On the contrary, the Irish authorities appear to have been able to check any Nazi plots with extremist groups”.

 Perhaps the most important political factor was the policy of neutrality qualified by Mr. deValera’s guarantee that his government would not allow the Free State to be used as a base for operations against England. This guarantee was the only safeguard against a potentially dangerous consequence of the neutrality policy. At the time the guarantee was given it appeared to relate only to military operations, but in practice it was given a much wider interpretation; which was to the advantage of the Allied forces.

Nazi philosophy was full of race snobbery, they considered the Irish as a rustic and unpretentious people, in the Nazi hierarchy of races the Irish would not have ranked very high. In fact race wise Germany had much more in common with the English people. The Nazis considered the members of illegal organizations in Ireland to be better at talking than at doing and therefore not much use in helping their agents.


During the war there was a great danger that electric generating stations in Northern Ireland would be have been destroyed in German air raids. Secret plans were made to have electricity supplied from the Free State if this should happen. It was during this period that plans were laid to build the generating stations on the River Erne in the Free State side of the border. This scheme had a dual purpose, not only would it produce electricity but the drainage that was necessary to provide the necessary water flow would free hundreds of acres of land in Upper Lough Erne for Agricultural purposes.

  It is very important that this period of Irish history should be recorded and studied with the same vigour, as have other events of our past. I would quote the first and last verses of a poem “The Reason Why” by Adbullah Mc Ulla. <Local history and our folklore are being neglected, and the old folk they are passing quickly on. Get out! And do what is expected. Jot it down before the rest of them are gone. When you reach the stage that brings you to the present, don’t stop!  Keep on recording as you go, for the young folk a hundred years from now will lose out, If you don’t record THEIR days of long ago. >

 

            .

 

            Those of us in Ireland old enough to recall the years of the early forties will remember the many changes that took place in society in County Fermanagh. In several parts of the county after America had entered the war in Europe, U.S. troops arrived in great numbers to train for the invasion of Europe. It is worth noting that the United States did not willingly enter the conflict there, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour Germany declared war on the U.S. thereby forcing that country into the European conflict. The arrival of the Yanks as they were popularly known brought a previously un-experienced surplus of money and employment into the county of Fermanagh. This was a welcome change from the employment offered by affluent landowners who paid meager wages and poor living condition for the hired help they had recruited in the notorious hiring fairs.

 

            In rural Fermanagh we have some very rugged, hilly and swampy terrain, these areas were then sparsely populated, had no roads, electricity, water or telephones. It was here that large numbers of G.I.s trained for the invasion of Europe. Very recently I spoke with a man who lived in the area, he had so many fond memories of the American troops. As a young lad he soon established a thriving business with the men, he bought fresh eggs from the farmhouse wives and sold them on at a handsome profit. Good whiskey was rather scarce and the young men founded a supply line for this and other goods. He also told me how during the training the G.I.s allowed him to handle the machine guns and fire some rounds at target practice. You can imagine what a thrill this was for a young boy. Even after over sixty years the people of the district have many fond memories of the Yanks.

 

            In Belleek the greatest change came when the building of the air bases at Castle Archdale, Killadeas and St. Angelo commenced in 1941. Labour from the surrounding rural districts had to be transported by lorry to the aerodromes as they were called. The first lorries were British army lorries driven by soldiers. At that time my mother kept lodgers and the lorry drivers lodged in our house.


 When the first Americans arrived in 1943 to establish a radio station at Magheramena; they were accommodated in Cleary’s Hotel. It was to be many years later that I discovered how this situation came about. This was after the Dunkirk disaster and during the air Battle of Britain, the larger property owners who one would have expected to be very sympathic and loyal to the Allied cause were convinced that Germany would win the war and they feared that if they billeted military personnel they would have been treated as collaborators. These are the little known facts of those years.

 

            My first memory of the Americans arriving in the Belleek area was of a number of G.I.s coming into our primary school sometime during 1943. They were in charge of a Lieutenant Smith who supervised the distribution of candy, Ginger Snap cookies and Wrigley’s chewing gum. This ensured that any ideas we young folk might have had regarding neutrality were forgotten, we were firmly on the American side. Master Egan, a native of County Mayo was very strict in many ways, but hindsight would suggest that he had out of our view received a bottle of U.S. bourbon. This group of G.I.s was the advance party for the setting up of the radio station at Magheramena. In January 1943 an American Flying Fortress crash landed at Athenry, Co. Galway, On board were a number of very high-ranking U. S. generals who were sent to Europe by President Roosevelt to study the situation there. Nobody was injured in the landing; the officers and crew were treated royally by the authorities in Athenry and then driven to Belleek where they were taken in hand by Head Constable John Briggs who arranged their transport to the American air base at Langford Lodge on the shores of Lough Neagh. As a result of this incident it was decided to build the Magheramena radio station to guide the U. S. aircraft to Fermanagh.

 

           

            When presenting this talk many of my listeners who had fixed but erroneous opinions about the neutrality question of the Irish Free State are rather amazed to be acquainted of the real facts, which have come mainly from official records. The case for the Irish Free State has been badly presented and deliberately kept hidden over the years. Claims have been made that Ireland was the only English speaking nation not to join in the conflict for the freedom of small nations and that she only adopted a policy of pro-allied neutrality after America became officially involved in Europe at the end of 1941. Ireland had been accused of sitting on the fence until it became obvious how the conflict was going. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

            Much too-do has been made and it is still argued that Ireland was guilty of a serious breach of trust in failing to hand back the shipping ports along the West Atlantic coast to England. In actual fact England did not have the spare manpower to staff these ports nor had they the heavy guns required to defend them. Had the ports been handed back to the British it is almost sure that Germany would have invaded Ireland. The history of the war has shown that the mighty battle ships of yester year had fast become obsolete. They were practically defenseless against modern methods of attack by aircraft and submarines. The sinking of the Hood, Prince of Wales and the Repulse on the British side coupled with the loss of the famous Bismarck and Prinz Eugene by the Germans to give but a few examples back up this argument.


Should the deValera led government have given in to pressure from Churchill and his allies there is no doubt but that Hitler would have considered this as a sign that Ireland had abandoned neutrality. He had a plan prepared for the invasion of Ireland code named the Operation Green Plan. Had he invaded the country, the German army would have gone through it like the proverbial dose of salts, just as they had run through Belgium and Holland. The west coast of England would then have been open to invasion; as long as the Free State remained neutral it protected England from an invasion from this source. Details have come to hand recently about another Nazi plan to invade Northern Ireland, this was coded Operation Kathleen Kathleen, details were in the hands of the British M I 5 secret service.

 

            When the decision was made to use Lough Erne as a base for flying boats to patrol the Atlantic the planes had first to fly north, then go around the coast of Donegal so as to avoid any infringement of the neutral Free State territory, before going on their way out into the Atlantic to provide protection to shipping convoys against the German U-Boats. Planes from Canada and the U.S. after it entered the war, could offer protection for a considerable distance eastwards, the Lough Erne planes could fly a like distance westwards. There was still a large portion of un – protected ocean known as “The Black Gap”. A meeting took place between the Irish and British Governments on January 21st 1941. There can be no doubt but that Churchill was fully aware of this meeting. The result was that permission was given by the deValera led government for the planes from Lough Erne to fly across that short portion of Free State territory from Belleek to Ballyshannon. This flight path became known as “The Donegal Corridor”, the boundaries of this path were clearly defined, as was the height that planes would fly. They were not permitted to fly over the Irish Army Camp at Finner. For the benefit of the Germans and to preserve the neutrality the purpose of the flights was supposed to be for air/sea rescue exercises. This agreement meant that the un-protected gap in mid Atlantic was reduced by at least 100 miles. The Catalina and Sunderland flying boats had a range of almost 2,000 miles for a return journey and could stay airborne for almost 20 hours.

Before the United States entered into the conflict in Europe the country supplied Britain with much needed supplies and equipment. The Catalina flying boats that flew from Lough Erne were all American built and owned. Many U.S. airmen came across to England and flew with the R.A.F. before the end of 1941, one of the best known of these was Ensign Tuck Smith, who as a pilot on a Lough Erne based Catalina spotted the famous German battleship, Bismarck as it was on its way to occupied France. I did have the pleasure of meeting Tuck and his wife when they were on a return visit to Belleek a few years ago.

 

 When the G.I.s first came to Northern Ireland they were each issued with a book <A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland >. They were advised that Irish girls were very friendly, they will stop and pass you the time of day; don’t think that this means they are falling for you in a big way. There is a story of one shapely lady who wore the seamed stockings to perfection and intrigued many of the visitors . . . from the rear. She was greeted with wolf whistles everywhere until she turned around, and one disgruntled Yank went into folklore when he said; “ My Gawd, would you look at that. Wad a figure, but wad a dial!” It is not recorded what the lady said in reply.


When the G.I.s left the district publicans, shopkeepers and cinema owners were sad; but not so sad as some of the Loretta Young look-a-likes. During the VE-Day celebrations in one leading Northern Ireland town, an American serviceman discharged a pistol into the air, leaving a bullet hole in the Church clock, this being the only actual physical damage the town suffered during the Second World War. As the older local folk will recall, thousands of Americans trained in this area in preparation for the invasion of Europe.

 

            The Donegal Corridor arrangement more than compensated for the loss of the Ports that were handed over by Chamberlain in1938. The first official flight took place on 21st February 1941 when a Stranraer Flying boat travelled along the corridor to escort the crippled S.S. Jessmore to port. Remember that America did not enter the war until the end of December 1941 almost a year after Ireland first came to the aid of England. deValera who could be quite cantankerous by times put his own interpretation on the status of flying boat crews who came down in Free State territory as a result of crashes. He claimed that they were to be classified as mariners who by some ancient law were not subject to internment, the men were returned across the border. He was, by the way born in America. Thousands of patrols were flown from Lough Erne along the Corridor, at least nine U-Boats were confirmed sunk, many more damaged, thousands of tons of shipping saved. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of World War 11, lasting from 1939 until 1945. During the Battle of the Atlantic the U-boats or as Grand Admiral Karl Donitz called them his “Gray Sharks” ravaged the ocean. They sunk 2,603 merchant ships totaling 13.5 million tons and killing 20,248 merchant seamen. As well, they torpedoed 175 Allied naval vessels with the loss of many more lives. But for the Germans the cost was high: of the 1,162 U-Boats built, 784 were lost at sea, and of the roughly 48,000 men recruited for the “Volunteer Corps Donitz”, some 29,000 lost their lives and 5,000 were taken prisoner. It is no wonder that Churchill feared the U-boats more than any of the other enemy forces. In turn the Flying Boats based on Lough Erne slowly but surely swung the Battle of the Atlantic in favour of the Allies. From 1939 until 1941 before the Lough Erne bases were set up, the U-Boat packs had sunk 1017 allied supply ships. Another mistruth circulated then was that the Irish Government permitted U-Boats to be refueled in Irish Ports. Anyone who lived through those days would know that the Free State did not have enough fuel for it’s own needs let alone have any for U-Boats. The only fuel in plentiful supply there was wood and turf; which were used in the fireplaces of Irish homes. U-Boats did not run well on these products.

 

            It is a little known fact that U-Boats travelled across the Atlantic went up the St. Lawrence River as far as Quebec and torpedoed the ships of convoys being assembled there. The U-Boats also sank numerous ships off the east coast of the United States; they were amazed that there was no black out regulations in New York or other cities. The ships were like sitting ducks against the brightly illuminated skyline. The reason the U-Boats had such a long range was that they used large tanker submarines to refuel in mid Atlantic. These tankers were known as Milk Cows. I have read an excellent book written by a German U-Boat captain, it gives a true account of the Battle of the Atlantic from a German point of view.


 

 

 Apart from the support given by the government of the Free State, the people themselves made their own contribution to the allied war effort. Over 160,000 Irish men and women went to England and as volunteers joined the armed forces, this does not include the many Irish who were already resident in England and joined up nor does it include the thousands who served with the United States and Canadian forces. Eight of the Irish volunteers won the Victoria Cross; many others received awards for bravery. From Northern Ireland which is part of the U.K. 12,000 volunteers joined up, many of these had crossed the border from neighbouring counties, this was an average of 2,000 per county, and the average for the Free State was 6,000 per county. On one day alone 300 young men from the Free State joined the British army in Enniskillen. Only one Victoria Cross was won by a man from the north; he was from the Falls Road. It was only in 2003 that the Belfast City Council recognized his bravery when a memorial was erected in the grounds of the City Hall. I do not have a record of bravery awards won by Irish who served in the U.S. and Canadian forces; there is no doubt but that they were in considerable numbers. Thousands of more Irish men and women who were too old for active service worked in the factories and in the building of aerodromes. In total at least a half a million Irish people were involved directly and indirectly in the Allied war effort. Not a bad record for a so called neutral state that Churchill accused in his D-Day victory speech of failing to come to the aid of his country in it’s hour of need. Two of the other principal European neutral countries did nothing like this, rather they made huge amounts of money selling their products to the Axis nations. The concession of the Donegal Corridor coupled to the huge numbers of Irish who fought with the Allies more than compensated for the retention of the ports.

 

            For an organized nation Germany had a very poor understanding of Ireland and its people. I recently read a book written by a German – Enno Stephan- “German Spies in Ireland” The success rate of German spies placed in Ireland was pathetic as was their attempts to set up a working arrangement with subversive groups there. Spies who were placed here from U-Boats or parachuted from aircraft had a rather short shelf live. Generally they were captured within a few days of their arrival, one of them was placed in Kerry and off he set for Dublin with his pack on his back. The road was parallel to a railway, seeing a Kerry man he enquired what time the next train went to Dublin. The Kerry man said he did not know, but the last train to travel on this line had been 15 years ago, he had no idea when the next one was due. Hermann Goertz the German spy who was to organize the Plan Kathleen in the north with the assistance of the leaders of subversive groups actually landed in Westmeath, he had no idea of which side of the border he was on. So much for his knowledge of Irish geography, he was soon captured.

 

In her excellent book, “Castle Archdale and Fermanagh in World War 2”, Breege McCusker relates many interesting stories. One is of a Lerwick flying boat piloted by Denis Briggs; it ran low in fuel and put down in Bundoran Bay at 2pm on 10th April 1941. A certain unofficial procedure was put into operation; with the co-operation of the Irish Army, the Guards, the R.U.C. and the R.A.F. barrels of petrol were brought by lorry from Castle Archdale and the plane re-fueled. While this plan was being carried out the officers from Finner camp were entertaining the senior officers from the plane in local hotels.

 One airman was left aboard on guard duty; a Sergeant Kennedy from Finner Irish Army Camp was assigned to also stay on the plane. The two men eyed each other with suspicion for some time until they discovered that both had relations in County Tipperary. Kennedy took this as a cause to celebrate, so leaving his post he took the boat, went ashore to a nearby pub, bought a supply of Guinness and returned to his duties. The two men had a rather enjoyable term of duty until the plane was refueled. The same pilot – Denis Briggs – accompanied by the American Ensign – Tuck Smith was on the crew of the Catalina from Lough Erne when it spotted the Bismarck.

 

            You might well ask what were the views of the people of Belleek, Ballyshannon, Bundoran, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal about all this wartime activity? These districts are along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. They did not understand the politics behind the arrangement nor did they care. The development of the air bases in Fermanagh gave much needed employment, the wages and conditions were better than those offered in agriculture. While there were restrictions regarding the employment of people from the Free State on the aerodrome construction, in traditional Irish fashion, loopholes were found in the laws so that these people could get work and earn a decent wage.

 

 There were many air crashes along the west coast and on the hilltops around the Donegal corridor. On many occasions local people risked their lives to rescue airmen from burning planes in spite of the danger from exploding ammunition and depth charges. Members of the Local Defense Force and troops from Finner Irish Army Camp were involved in many rescue and recovery operations on crash sites. They had the unpleasant task of removing bodies from the wreckage, carrying them down the mountainside in the most difficult of conditions over rugged terrain to the nearest point that vehicles could reach. In those days there were no helicopters nor was there such a thing then as special counseling for the trauma these young men experienced, they were lucky to get a bottle of Guinness and a cigarette.

 

            As a young lad I was present on occasions when the bodies of dead airmen were handed over at the border. The Irish Army brought them to the border in a most dignified manner, in covered trucks; a Guard of Honour with reversed arms was present as was a Chaplain to give a final Blessing and a Bugler to sound the Last Post. Each coffin was borne on the shoulders of members of the Irish army to the exact border where they were handed over to R.A.F. personnel, draped in the Union flag and placed on open low loader trucks for transportation to Irvinestown. I always thought it was rather undignified to see the coffins exposed in this way as compared to how they had been brought in the Irish Army vehicles. The senior air force Officer thanked the O.I.C. of the Irish Army for the honour they had paid to his dead comrades. The Irish Captain replied, “Ours may be the honour, but yours is the Glory.”

 

            Difficult as were the war years the people never lost their sense of humour, a thriving industry developed around the border in those times, this was the smuggling trade when dealers in cattle and other goods pitted their wits against the excise men on both sides of the border.

 It would be difficult for some folk to understand the border between the two parts of Ireland, it was not necessary to produce a passport to travel, custom’s patrols and other forms of officialdom were only present on main roads. There was no problem avoiding patrols in the rural areas. Supplies that were hard to come by on one side were exchanged for goods that were in plentiful supply on the other side. One noted storyteller on seeing the depth charges slung beneath the wings of planes maintained that they were bags of tea and sugar being smuggled by the airmen. Breege tells the story in her book of three airmen who were caught by an over conscientious policeman cycling three abreast along Irvinestown main street, one of the widest in the land. Surely a most grievous offence for men who were risking their lives over the Atlantic in flying boats? They were fined a sum of a half a crown (12 & half p) each at the local Petty Session Court, I am sure the cop felt that he had done his bit for Crown and Country, something less of a risk than joining the army and fighting for his country.

 

            There were two radio stations in the Belleek district during the war, the R.A.F. station was at Dernacross, it had two very high steel pylons with warning lights on top and on the ground a rotating lighthouse type beacon that illuminated the countryside. The American station as already mentioned was at Magheramena quite close to the castle of the same name where Fr. Lorcan O’Cairian the parish priest lived. Fr. Lorcan had very strong republican views and so would have not been over fond of the British forces. He was a personal friend of Eamon deValera, the Irish Prime Minister and of Michael Collins. During the wartime blackout another rather conscientious member of the constabulary spotted a very weak glimmer of light coming from the castle window. He made his way up the long avenue and pounded on the door, which was eventually opened by Fr. Lorcan who got a stern lecture from the cop regarding the danger to security by not having his blinds drawn. Wise in the ways of the world the good priest had devised his own plan for handling the situation. He agreed with everything that was said and led the way with his oil lamp through the corridors and hallways to his room where the offending candle was burning. He blew out the candle extinguished his lamp and left the unfortunate cop to find his own way out of the darkened house. One wonders which was the greatest breech of security, this humble penny candle in the priests house or the brilliant beacon at Dernacross.

 

            During those years the members of the forces would put on civilian clothes, cycle across the border into Ballyshannon, Bundoran or Pettigo to enjoy a drink and some good food. One service man from the U.S. radio station at Belleek went into a Ballyshannon pub where in typical fashion bought drink for all present. As the drink went in and the wit went out, he related how he was winning the war single handed, he started to berate his listeners saying that it was time Ireland stopped this neutrality lark and join in the fight for freedom. A local fisherman noted for his wit spoke up and said, “Listen my good man, you lot didn’t join in the war until the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, when they bomb Ballyshannon we will take then on and bate the hell out of them without your help”.

 

            The Americans based in Belleek were very pleasant men several of them married local girls and they are still together in the U.S. A few years ago I got a message from a lady in Arkansas, her Dad, Claude Huddleston had been stationed in Belleek.

      He had lovely memories of the village and of Ireland. His daughter Sharon said that her Dad was dying of cancer and he wonder if anyone here remembered him, I did remember him, as did several other people. In Breege McCuskers book there is a photo of a group of American solders, including Claude taken in the village, this and other information I sent to Sharon. Very shortly after it arrived Claude passed away, in a letter Sharon told me that her Dad died a happy man because the people there remembered him with affection. In September this year (2003) Sharon and her daughter Claudia came to Belleek on a visit to see for themselves the places that meant so much to her Dad. They visited the site of his old radio station at Magheramena; some of the buildings are still standing. On Saturday 13th September they attended a memorial service and the unveiling of a plaque at the Graan Passionist Monastery, Enniskillen. On 9th December 1943 an American Flying Fortress crashed near the Graan, seven of the crew members were killed, five survived mainly due to the priests of the Graan who without any consideration for their own safety rescued the men from the burning wreckage. The plaque bearing the names of the crew was placed on an existing Grotto, it was draped with the American flag and during a moving ceremony it was unveiled by Sharon and Claudia. There are so many lovely stories to be told of those years as well as the sad ones.

           

            Full books have been written on the many crashes that occurred in Ireland. Here I have included stories of two of them. On 12th August 1944 just before noon a Sunderland flying boat crashed just inside the Donegal border about a mile from Belleek. It was a lovely day and there were many people working at the hay and in the bog harvesting turf a popular house fuel in Ireland. Several men were right beside the plane when it came down in the Cashelard Mountain. They were able to give some assistance to the men who were injured. Like many young lads I hopped on my bike and got there about a half hour after the crash, also on the scene as a young boy was Edward Daly, later to become bishop of Derry. In the book of his life story he devoted two pages to his memories of the crash. Three young Canadians died on the mountain, one of them Jack Forrest, a nineteen year old from Toronto had a few days earlier made the Catholic pilgrimage to Lough Derg. He and his two comrades are buried in Irvinestown, the other nine-crew men survived. In 1999 a memorial stone was erected on the site and unveiled in the presence of a group of former Canadian airmen who had returned to Fermanagh.

 

            Early the year 2002 Breege McCusker got an E-Mail with details of a survivor of the crash, knowing that I had some knowledge of it she passed the message to me. Chuck Singer had moved with his family from his native Toronto to Florida over 40 years ago, naturally all contact with his comrades of 422 Squadron was lost. His son Bob had heard his Dad speak of being in a Sunderland crash somewhere in Ireland, Bob decided to see if he could locate any of his dad’s comrades, only one was still alive, the co-pilot Dr. Al Platsko, soon the two men were in contact by phone. I got the land address for Chuck and wrote to him telling him all I knew and sent him photos of the site as it is today. He corresponded with my brother Sean by E-Mail; the end result was that Breege, Sean and I invited Chuck back to Ireland for the first time since 1944. Bob came with him and we had a full re-union on the crash site on its 58th anniversary at the exact time the crash occurred.

Over 150 people were there to greet Chuck and Bob, one of them Bishop Edward Daly returned to Cashelard and presented Chuck with a framed citation in recognition of his bravery on the day of the crash. Chuck although suffering from a broken arm and other serious injuries was escaping from the wreck when he heard a call for help from his comrade George Colbourne who was trapped beneath the tail of the plane and had both legs broken.  Chuck returned to the wreck rescued his friend dislocating his good shoulder in the process. Chuck never received an award for his bravery; nevertheless it was recognized by Bishop Daly and the people of the area. This event was televised by U.T.V. and the B.B.C. as well as being covered by the national newspapers and radio. Commandant Sean Curran, Finner Camp, represented the Irish army. Public representatives from Ballyshannon and Bundoran attended the reunion. Chuck and his injured comrades were treated for two days in the Sheil Hospital, Ballyshannon. Two of the nursing staff was present for the ceremony. The squadron records of 422 had shown that Chuck had died in a Hospital in England a few days after the crash, when this year he made contact with the association he was only to happy to let them know that he is still very much alive. The official records indicated that pilot error was responsible for the crash of the Sunderland, following exchange of information with Al Platsko the co-pilot it was established; that only for the exceptional skill of the pilot – Cam Devine – all hands would have perished in the crash. The propeller from the burning outer starboard engine had broken off and lodged in the float. It weighed almost a ton and left the plane almost uncontrollable, Cam Devine brought the stricken plane back on level flight before it crashed; he lost his own life but saved nine of his comrades from a certain death. Chuck and Al were very pleased to put the record right.

 

            On 23rd January 1944 at 6-30 pm a Halifax aircraft crashed into the cliff top near the Fairy Bridges, Tullan Strand, Bundoran. All of the eight-man crew died there, three were R.A.F., and five were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, one of these Pilot Officer Gzowski was an American from Ohio. His body and that of one of the Canadians were washed out to sea and never recovered. The crash was witnessed by two ladies from the Great Northern Hotel who were out walking along the cliff top path. Without any regard for their own safety they removed several of the injured men from the wreck. The remaining three Canadians are buried in Irvinestown. Fr. Frank Little, Chaplain to Finner camp rendered spiritual aid to the dying men. As Flying Officer Vladimir Adamic was dying Fr. Little discovered a rosary in his pocket. As was normal in the case when service men die all the family get is a brief letter stating that their son/brother or husband had been killed in action. Fr. Little wrote to Archbishop McDonald of Edmonton, Canada giving him the story of the crash and asked him to relay the information to his family. I have the original letter of reply from the Archbishop to Fr. Little thanking him for his kindness. From that time until Fr. Little died the family kept in touch. Last year- 2002 as a result of the efforts of Breege McCusker and I a memorial stone to commemorate the eight dead airmen was erected on the cliff top. Louise Williams a sister of Vladimir Adamic and Mayo Murphy whose first husband were killed in the crash came over from Vancouver to unveil the memorial stone. Mayo was accompanied by her daughter Shauna.


 

 

            A unit of the Irish army from Finner Camp under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John McKeown and Commandant Sean Curran provided a Guard of Honour, Colonel Michel Legualt from the Canadian High Commission represented the Canadian Embassy in Dublin. A full Order of Service was organized, with all Churches attending and taking part in the prayers. An Irish Air Corps helicopter bearing the flag of Canada did a magnificent fly past just as the bugler was sounding the Last Post. Over 200 people attended the ceremony including public representatives and other dignitaries. Once again the event was televised by R.T.E. and U.T.V.

 

            These are just a few of the stories relating to this period, many more yet remain to be told. Only a couple of years ago I read a letter in the “Irelands Own”, a popular magazine, the writer of the letter lived in England. It was about the famous victory speech made by Churchill after VE-day and the reply made by deValera, I quote from it.

 

“ I believe that Mr. Churchill would have more easily found in his heart the generosity to acknowledge that there is a small nation that stood alone not for one year or two … against aggression had Mr. de Valera found in his heart the generosity to offer any help he could to his old enemy in her hour of desperate need, when, as he admits, she stood alone. However, he chose smug neutrality, with possibly a degree of Schadenfreude. He allowed his country to become a haven for spies, and worse, he denied to allied shipping the use of the ports off the west of Ireland which meant that exhausted convoys had much further to travel in dangerous waters and had undoubtedly led to the deaths of many seamen. Did Mr. DeValera really imagine that if Britain were invaded Hitler would have respected his neutrality, except at the price of the soul of his people? Ireland’s neutrality in one of the very few just wars in history was a matter of shame for my Irish mother whose English husband was fighting and is a matter of shame and anger for me. Mr. DeValera was a great leader in many ways, but how much greater he could have been had he taken the opportunity for true generosity in 1939.”

 

Naturally being in possession of the real facts I wrote to the lady in question and enlightened her somewhat, I must say that I did receive a most gracious reply and her appreciation of neutral Irelands part in World War 2.

 

            The Free State Government in rural areas organized a Local Security Force; they did carry out invaluable work at the sites of aircraft crashes. The intelligence of some of them may have been at times suspect. In a harvest of the 1940’s a mini tornado struck farmland in the West of Ireland, the small traditional ricks of hay were sucked up into the air and carried for some distance. The patrol duly made a report on the incident but by the time it reached headquarters it read, “A regiment of German paratroopers have invaded Mayo.” 

 

            Through history no matter how bad things were the Irish never lost their sense of humour, it did help them to survive. I do have a collection of short stories that are worth telling.


One Fermanagh born comedian once boasted that his home county was the only county in Ireland that rhymed with banana. This impressive bit of information aside, the area is best known for its waterways, though the high ground surrounding the rugged borderland near villages like Roslea and Belcoo is every bit as impressive as the Erne waterways. Fermanagh people pride themselves on being a perfectly distilled blend of the extremes of character they find themselves surrounded by. Belfast cockiness, Derry City delusions of grandeur and Cavan thriftiness. These are the malts blended to form the rounded, welcoming, humourous brew that is the people of the Erne County. During the Emergency as it was called in the Free State a Mid-Ulster man was in civilian employment in Finner Camp. One day he sped down Corran Brae on his bike jumped off at the bridge end and announced to all and sundry in his strong native accent, “The Germans are at Belleek and the whole Free State Army is away out in two lorries to stop them.”

 

            Small single engined Miles Master planes were used in target practice exercises out over the sea; they towed a thing called a drogue on a long cable. It was for all the world like a big bag of meal, perhaps our friend of early on thought it was another bag of tea. Where we lived on the road to Enniskillen there was the usual street in front of the house. On the night of November 17th 1944 a lorry arrived and was parked on the street. On it was this little two seater Miles Master, it was years later that I learned its make and the date and location of its crash, which was near Cassie Bawn Castle in Mullaghmore. A policeman was delegated to guard duty, not a pleasant task on a cold winters night. My late father was fond of a jar and soon he invited the cop in for a drink and a cup of tea. This was the chance for my brothers and I to get into the cockpit, I do not recall how many German planes we shot down that night but I am sure old Churchill would have been very proud of us.

 

            On 20th November 1944 at 7-30 am, a Catalina flying Boat number JX242 crashed on the Barr of Wealt better known today as the Lough Navar forest park. It crashed near a small mountain lake called Lough An Laban. Eight of the ten man crew were killed, two survived. This year Breege and I traced one of the survivors, Charles Bowater who lives in England. One of them travelled across the rugged mountaintop for about two miles, got to the lakeshore road; from a house there he borrowed a bike, cycled seven miles to the nearest phone to raise the alarm. When the rescue party arrived about midday, local man Benny Campbell was their guide to the crash site. As a result of information given to me by Benny I located the site last year (2002). This plane was on its way back to Killadeas from an Atlantic patrol. It hit a large rock face at the end of the small lake, had it been about 20 feet higher it would have been in the clear. Some time ago I got a message from Antony Slack who lives in Hong Kong telling me that his grandfather had been killed in this crash, he was seeking information on it as the only thing the family were told was that Ernest Slack had been killed in a crash on a mountain. I sent all the information that I had to Antony and soon got a reply telling me all about his family. Breege McCusker and I have erected two memorial stones on a site overlooking Lough Erne in memory of the young men who died in this crash and in the crash of a Sunderland Flying Boat into the lake nearby. On 17th of August 2003 a memorial service was held and the unveiling of the stones with the names of the dead inscribed on it.


 A brother of Ernest Slack, his son, grandson and other family members attended the service. Over 300 people were present for the event, Charles Bowater, due to declining heath was unable to come to Ireland, instead, he was represented by his two daughters and their husbands. As one of the crew was an Australian; that country was represented by a Group Captain Tim Owen of the R.A.A.F. The R.A.F. was represented by Group Captain Martin Sharp senior officer for Northern Ireland. I tell you this story so as to illustrate how the talks I give change from venue to venue as a result of new information that comes to me. Many of the men who served in Fermanagh are now in the autumn of their lives, a number of them have been it touch with Breege McCusker and myself as a result of our involvement with memorials. One common message comes from them all or their families, it is, “We never thought that anyone in Fermanagh would remember us”.

 

            A total of 28 Short Sunderland flying boats that were either based on Lough Erne or diverted to it due to weather conditions crashed along the western seaboard with the loss of some 184 crewmen. Thirty Catalina’s crashed under similar circumstances with the loss of 136 crewmen. About eighty of these men are buried in the war graves in Irvinestown. These figures do not include American and other aircraft that crashed with the loss of life. Later I will give you some details of crashes of American planes in this general area. Very little has been told about the Flying Boat base at Foynes on the River Shannon, or of Allied aircraft using Rineanna land base, both of these were used extensively during World War 2. At one time two U.S. aircraft arrived at Rineanna together, the Irish Air Corps were surprised that there was no fraternization between the crews. In an unmistakable southern drawl one pilot explained that “Damned Yankees” manned the other aircraft, his men wanted nothing whatsoever to do with them. The bitterness of the American Civil war was still very much in evidence, and we think that we have long memories. On January 16th 1942 a Boeing Flying boat piloted by Captain J.C. Kelly –Rodgers who by the way became Chief Pilot with Air Lingus – took off from Bermuda for Plymouth. On board was a very important passenger, the British Prime Minster – Winston Churchill. About 500 miles off the Irish coast the plane ran into extremely turbulent weather, in the interests of safety it was decided to divert to Foynes in the neutral Irish Free State.

 

            The prospect of landing in Ireland did not please Churchill as he had been engaged in bitter exchanges with Eamon deValera over the ports. The irony of his personal safety being guaranteed by the very neutrality he loathed would hardly have amused Churchill. As they approached the Irish coast the weather improved and Captain Kelly-Rodgers reverted to his original flight plan. Thus was an intriguing diplomatic conundrum avoided. Between 1939 and 1945 Foynes was a welcome sight for the planes from America, the large Boeing Flying boats popularly known as “The Yankee Clippers” often called there. While Churchill rattled his saber in the House of Commons and thundered against the refusal of the Irish to open up the “Treaty” ports of Cobh, Berehaven and Lough Swilly, the Irish simultaneously kept open a vital transatlantic line of communication for the British and American administrations. Allied admirals and generals drank in the bars and hotels of Foynes, Adare and Limerick while assiduous censors in Dublin excluded even the vaguest hint of sympathy for either side in the war from Irish newspapers and broadcasts.


 It is worth noting that during that period a barman in one of those pubs invented the now world famous Irish Coffee. To open up the “Treaty” ports to the British would certainly have resulted in direct assaults by Germany on the country and forced the defenseless Ireland into the conflict. A total of 1,400 aircraft and 15,000 passengers passed through Foynes airport during the war years. The king of the flying boat era was undoubtedly Captain Charles Blair who flew 405 trips across the Atlantic; Captain Blair was later to marry a young Irish girl from Dublin – Maureen O’Hara. He said of Foynes, “The neutral port of Foynes, a sleepy Irish village on the south bank of the River Shannon ranked in the war years as one of the world’s foremost air terminals.”

 

            At a post war dinner in Dublin hosted by America a leading U.S. politician expressed the gratitude of his people to the Irish for their unfailing kindness and tenderness to the “Shipwrecked” American airmen, those wounded had been cared for with solicitude and those who died had been buried with the greatest respect. This was in sharp contrast to the views expressed during the war by the American Ambassador, Mr. David Grey who was very scathing in his criticism of Irish neutrality. He had received his appointment because he was related to President Roosevelt’s wife by marriage. He used to attend spiritual séances and claimed that from these he found proof that Ireland was in league with the Germans, the crystal ball was the foundation for messages he sent to Roosevelt. What a sound argument for the status of the neutrality of the Irish Free State, imagine old Dev following an old Irish custom by having the tea leaves in his cup read to foretell the future and so guide the path of his country through world war two. Mr. Gray was very fond of wildfowling activities along the Wexford coast; he tried to prevent Irish Air Corps planes from flying there as they were disturbing the wild geese. When the Irish aircraft sighted any German ships, planes or submarines they reported back to base by radio knowing that the messages were being picked up by the British authorities.

 

            On a lighter note, at all times during the war, flour was very scarce in the Free State; those of us old enough to remember can recall the black bread there as compared with white bread in Northern Ireland. The Irish made an appeal to England for a shipload of wheat; it was reasonably plentiful there. The request was turned down in a very haughty manner, the Irish then threatened to stop supplying Guinness to the English – they got their flour- the English got their Guinness.

 

 Both Allied and German personnel were interned in separate camps in the Curragh. They had great freedom of movement there and were allowed out to work and in the case of the British to socialize. The Germans had nowhere to go even if they wanted to escape, they worked on farms and repaired farm machinery, and they even converted old cars into tractors and so could earn some money. As the war progressed they did not receive any pay from Germany. In the later stages of the war over 100 German sailors were ship wrecked off the Irish coast, when they arrived at the Curragh the Irish people gave them clothing and the other necessities of life. On the other hand the Allied prisoners received their full pay; they socialized freely out of camp. They attended the golf courses, horse races, hunt balls and were entertained by the local Anglo- Irish families. The English aristocracy had moved all their valuable livestock and racehorses across to the Free State for the duration of the war.


 It is highly unlikely that these people would have wanted Ireland to be any thing else only neutral. When the war was over the few remaining Allied internees were taken by ship from Dublin, the sailors said they looked more like men who had spent their time in a holiday camp rather than in a prison of war camp.

 

            Much has been written about the bombing of Belfast by German aircraft and how on the instructions of deValera fire brigades from the east of the country were sent to Belfast. This followed an appeal from a leading Northern Ireland politician who was no stranger in these parts. The cities of Glasgow and Liverpool also sent fire fighters and equipment across the channel to Belfast. Little publicity is given to the fact that workers in the Belfast shipyards and other factories went on strike for higher wages. The Irish Free State did not escape from the German bombing; Wexford, Dublin, Louth, Kildare, Carlow and Wicklow suffered death and destruction in air raids. The country was excluded from the Marshall Aid scheme, which was set up to help small nations who had suffered economically as a result of the war. The country ended up in many circles with the name of neutrality and the shame attached to that policy while it had suffered the many disadvantages of the war. There can be little doubt but that Churchill was only too well aware of the assistance given to his country by the people of Ireland. The Director of the National Library in Dublin who was a skilled cryptographer managed to break the German codes while studying messages from the German Legation. The British Code and Cipher experts had failed to do this; the information was passed to them by the Irish authorities.

 

            The Irish people gave refuge to many homeless English children during the war, when factories were destroyed in England the raw materials were brought over here processed and shipped back again. The compassion of the Irish was extended to the German people after the war, the country was devastated. Misery, hunger and food shortage triggered a wave of emergency aid and Ireland gave more per capita than any other nation. While in many circles it was not considered the popular thing to do the Free State sent doctors, nurses, Red Cross members, food, medicine and other supplies to the stricken German people. Over 1,000 homeless European children including 400 from Germany were brought over to Ireland in a project known as Operation Shamrock. They were placed with families here until conditions improved enough for them to return home, some to their own people. It is no wonder that the people of Germany to this day speak with affection of ‘The Green Isle’.

 

            In 1997 Dr. Roman Herzog, the President of Germany along with his wife, Christiana came on a visit to Ireland to mark the 50th anniversary of Operation Shamrock. They visited the bronze Commemorative Fountain in St. Stephan’s Green, Dublin which depicts the Three Fates and was erected by the German people as a token of gratitude to the people of Ireland for the assistance given to them and to their children in their time of need. To mark the occasion the Irish Red Cross Society and the German Embassy invited those foster children who had been hosted in Ireland to a re-union with their foster families. Several of the children had remained on in Ireland, married and settled down here.


 

 I would like to devote part of my talk to the many United States personnel, both men and women who served in Fermanagh during World War 2. St. Angelo airfield was opened on the 15 September 1941. It was used by aircraft arriving in the United Kingdom from North America. Hudsons, Dakotas, Liberators and Flying Fortresses landed on the airfield. The American Army’s 8th Infantry Division trained in Fermanagh before taking an active part on the continent in 1944. The troops also trained in the rugged mountain area around Derrygonnolly and on the Crom Estate near Newtownbutler in the eastern part of the county. The men were billeted in the big houses of the landed gentry; this I am sure was a Godsend to the aristocratic families whose fortunes were on the decline. The rent received from the governments of America and Britain put off the day when the estates would have to be broken up and sold off.

 

            An agreement was made between Churchill and Roosevelt for the setting up of an American Naval base in Derry and a flying boat base on Lough Erne. Necarne Castle at Irvinestown was made into a hospital. This year, 2003, Breege McCusker had a memorial stone placed at Necarne in tribute to the men who were treated there. Ely Lodge on the south shore was also taken over, as were Crom Castle, Castle Coole, Colebrooke, the Manor House and Florence Court House. Large numbers of Nissan huts were built throughout the estates to accommodate the batches of troops that arrived in 1943 and 1944. The soldiers were constantly marching on maneuvers, they practiced the construction of Bailey bridges over the rivers, the locals were amazed to see lorries and jeeps cross over such flimsy structures. General Eisenhower came to Portora Royal School in Fermanagh to review his troops on 18th July 1942. The Americans were very popular with the local people who made them most welcome.

 

            In spite off all the precautions many of the planes did not make it safely to St. Angelo, some ran out of fuel, others got caught in bad weather and due to poor visibility got blown off course and crashed on the hills along the coast. On 9th December 1943 a Flying Fortress crashed on Truskmore Mountain, Co. Sligo with the loss of three crewmen. Lieutenant William Wallace, Lieutenant Richard Fox and Serg. Adan Lateski. The other seven survived. In December 2005 the four engines from this plane were recovered and moved to Baldonnel air field by the Irish army. This was the same date as the crash of another B17 ‘Galley Uncle’ at the Graan, a third B17 is reported to have gone missing and it is thought to have been lost at sea. On Monday 19th June 1944 a Liberator crashed near the border at Abbeylands, Ballyshannon, eight crewmen survived, sadly two died in the Sheil Hospital from their injuries. They were Corporal Cannon and Sgt. Maesta. In 2003 the crash site has been marked with a memorial stone by Historic Ballyshannon and in a fitting gesture a memorial plaque was placed in the Sheil Hospital to commemorate these two men and other U. S. airmen who were treated for their injuries in the Sheil during World War 11. The unveiling ceremony was attended by over 200 guests including representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, the Irish Government and the Irish Army.

 

            Large numbers of U.S. troops trained in Fermanagh in preparation for the invasion of Europe. During their time they developed a very special relationship with the Passionist monk’s in the Graan. Many of the young men died in Europe and as a tribute to them their comrades erected a beautiful memorial Grotto in the Monastery grounds. On it is this inscription. The full story of the U.S. troops and the Graan I have just recently learned so I have included it in my talk.

 

                                                     Donated

 

By the enlisted officers and men of the 13th Infantry Regiment

 

And companies A. B., 8th Medical Battalion U.S. Army.

 

In memory of our fallen comrades.

 

14th May 1944.

 

 

Breege McCusker, historian and author who has been a principal source of my information in her book “Castle Archdale and Fermanagh in World War 11”, gives an account of the Flying Fortress at the Graan, which is a Passionest Monastery near Enniskillen I quote here. “Horace Fleming a local surgeon remembers well the time the American Flying Fortress crashed at the Graan. Everyone knew it was in trouble, as it had circled the town several times. The sound of the engines coughing and spluttering was nerve racking and heart rendering for all to listen to. It missed the steeple of St. Macartin’s Cathedral in Enniskillen, and made its way out of town to crash on a hillside near the Passionest Monastery. As the remains of the plane lay at the Graan, many local people rushed to the scene to give any help they could. One of the priests from the monastery walked among the dying and injured giving spiritual help. As he passed one young American, he turned to his companion and said, “This one seems gone.” He nearly passed out when the reply came from the seemingly lifeless body, “Ah Bud, don’t say that.”

 

       An emergency was declared in the local hospital, and patients who were not seriously ill vacated their beds, soon the casualties were brought in. They were suffering from head injuries and all except two were unconscious. They all smelled of petrol. After half an hour American medical personnel arrived from Necarne Hospital, and took control of the situation. Morphine was freely given to counteract pain. The pilot had skillfully avoided the town and in doing so sacrificed his own life and those of some of his crew to ensure that no civilians died as a result of the crash. Sadly in many cases the bravery of these young Americans was not recognized at the time. In May this year (2002) I had the honour of being invited to America to deliver this presentation talk in Millville, New Jersey Military Air Field Museum. There the museum historian – Mike Stowe – gave me the full history of the Flying Fortress that crashed at the Graan, including the names of the crew. Before going out there Fr. Marius Donnelly had given me a full account of the crash as it was recorded in the Graan chronicle, he did not have the names of the crew or any official details. With this information to hand I called to the Graan where I met with Fr. Marius and Fr. Brian D’Arcy. As a result of their help and co-operation a plaque with the names of the crew has now been placed on the existing Grotto. Sharon Trogdon and her daughter Claudia at a moving ceremony unveiled this plaque on 13th September this year.

It has fallen the lot of people like Breege McCusker and myself who sixty years later have the privilege and honour to have memorial stones erected on this and many crash sites.

 

All our stories are not sad stories, there is one of a Halifax that had been airborne for approximately five hours when it ran into a storm and with a fault in its navigation it had became completely lost. As it approached what it thought to be its base in Yorkshire, England there was no beacon to welcome it home, just complete darkness. It circled overhead until almost out of fuel and then decided to send out an S.O.S. In those days the distress call was “Darkie”, and a few after a few moments the pilot repeated “Hello Darkie you black git”. Almost at once it was answered by a WAAF who said help was on the way. Sure enough, after a few minutes the pilot spotted an aircraft approaching, and recognized it as a Sunderland Flying Boat. It guided the Halifax to its base thinking the Halifax was another Flying Boat. At the last moment a crewmember of the Halifax realized that it was ready to land on the water of Lough Erne. The pilot quickly gained altitude and was diverted to the nearby American airfield at St. Angelo.

 

      The strong bonds that have existed between America and Ireland for many centuries were further strengthened by the presence of the servicemen and women in Ireland. Their influence was felt on both sides of our border. Many of them married local girls, they and their families still return here on holiday to renew friendships made over 60 years ago. There are so many stories that can be told about American servicemen and women, one has caught my attention. It is of two brothers William and Marshall Milton, they were both Ministers in Churches of the adjoining parishes of Hopewell and Brandon, Virginia, U.S.A. They joined the Air Transport Auxiliary service as ferry pilots. In fact they were the only airmen with Holy Orders to become pilots. On the morning of Tuesday 23rd February 1943 F/O William Milton took off from an airfield in Scotland to ferry a Bristol Beaufort to Nutts Corner Air field in Northern Ireland. The plane developed engine failure while still over Scotland, it crashed and sadly F/O William Milton lost his life. His brother Marshall survived the war and returned to his home in Virginia. The Milton brothers gave a new meaning to the often-used term “Sky Pilots”. Many of the U.S. airmen are buried in the Cambridge American War Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridgeshire, England.

 

            I have during the course of this talk spoken of the many fine young men from far off lands, who lost their lives in the distant past. Let us for a moment also remember young fliers of this new age. On the 2nd of July 1999 four members of the Irish Air Corps died tragically in a helicopter accident on the south coast of Ireland. They were Captain Dave O’Flagherty, Captain Mick Baker, Sergeant Paddy Mooney and Corporal Nial Byrne.

 

Nor Law, Nor duty bade me fight,

          Nor public men. Nor cheering crowds,

          A lonely impulse of delight

          Drove to this tumult in the clouds.

 

Many aircraft crashed either along the Donegal Corridor or when they were flying towards it. Most of them were based on Lough Erne where several of them crashed into the lake. Others were lost at sea and the crewmen have no known graves. They braved the dangers of the Atlantic Ocean in all its moods, in calm and in storm. They flew from the sunrise into the sunset, they flew as thunder crashed, like a giant roaring because his prey had escaped him, and the lightening flashed off the turret windows, out stretching its hand in liquid gold. The fog covered the Irish hills like a ghost; it was the cause of crashes that claimed the lives of many brave young men. When flying over the west coast of Ireland on a bright moon lit night, below can be seen on the hill tops the silver remains of Flying Fortresses, Catalina’s, Sunderland’s and Halifax’s that came so near to reaching the safe gray waters of Lough Erne.

 

The history of Ireland tells of the many thousands of Irish men, women and children who died on the dreaded coffin ships in the years of the Great famine while on their way to America to escape the suffering caused by cruel landlords. Large numbers were buried at sea, in the mighty Atlantic. There they share unknown graves with the many young American airmen whose aeroplanes never reached Ireland.

 

          In Irish mythology is a place known as Tir na Nog, the land of the young, where nobody grows old. It is nice to dream that these young men and our emigrant people share in that land everlasting peace and happiness.

 

          We shall remember them, those who sailed and flew into the sunset and did not return. There can be no flowers on a sailor’s grave. No Lilies on an ocean wave, the only tribute is the seagulls’ sweeps and the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps. Yesterday is only a memory, and no one is ever promised a tomorrow. We have only today and we must seize it, use it, and enjoy it.

 

          Local history and our folklore are in danger of being neglected and the old folk they are passing quickly on. Get out! And do what is expected. Jot it down before the rest of them are gone. When you reach the stage that brings you to the present, don’t stop! Keep on recording as you go, for the young folk a hundred years from now will loose out, if you don’t record THEIR day’s of long ago.

 

         

Many pundits over the years have given their version of the neutrality question, versions based often on opinions rather than hard facts. As more and more facts became available to the general public with the release of documents from the Public Records Offices of the British and Irish governments a completely different picture presented itself. Politicians held opposing views; which they expressed with vigour. The people on the ground over which thousands of aircraft flew couldn’t have cared less, they took no offence, rather when any plane had the misfortune to crash any where in the Free State the residents and the forces of the state did every thing possible to help the injured, the dying and the dead. Even to this day they are proud of the fact that they alone were a source of comfort and consolation to hundreds of young men from other lands.

          What of the crews who flew those planes? I quote here from a letter written to The Catalina Society, Crawley, West Sussex, on the 10th February 1998 by a Catalina crewmember – D.L. Johnston, 29 Rockhaven Garden, St. Minver, Wadlbridge, Cornwall. PL27 6PJ.

 

“Many people did not know throughout the war and to this day, may have no idea, that despite their neutrality the Eire Government under Mr. deValera made a concession to the British whereby our aircraft based on Lough Erne could gain access to the Atlantic Ocean by over flying a corridor of their air space into the Bay of Donegal. Shortly after the German surrender in 1945 orders were given to 202 Squadron to acknowledge Mr. deValeras favour to us by staging a Fly Past at low level over Bundoran where the Irish leader would take the salute himself. Thus probably for the first and only time in their history, six Catalina’s took off in quick succession, got into formation and waggled their wings at 500 feet as a tribute to the great man. This was very much a ‘one off’ performance and was totally un-rehearsed. Fortunately there were no mishaps and we all returned to base non-the worse for such an unusual flight.

                   Flight Sergeant D.L. Johnston, 202 Squadron, R.A.F.

 

          An R.A.F. pilot, Gilbert Kennedy, D.F.C. who flew Lancaster bombers from Lincolnshire during the war felt it necessary to reply to an article written by a Robert Frisk on the Irish Ports.

 

The argument about the ports rests on 3 points.  States Kennedy.

1-    The Mid-Atlantic gap between areas covered by destroyers operating from Britain and those operating from America.

As destroyers can easily cross the Atlantic, there can be no actual gap, although the time spent on actual escort is obviously reduced if there is a great distance from base to convoy. Furthermore, convoys had to be protected throughout their voyage, so far as their range might have been extended, and their actual escort time therefore increased. This argument resolves itself into the numbers of destroyers, and the availability of refueling points (presumably there was one in Derry?) This leads to point 2.

 

2. The use of the ports would have allowed Britain to protect convoys with fewer destroyers, and use the destroyers saved for other purposes.

This may be true, but Britain’s failure to build enough destroyers in the 1930’s can in no way be held against Ireland nor used as any argument against neutrality. Furthermore, as the vast bulk of Britain’s supplies came  from N. America, the route taken is important. The shortest route, leaving Britain to N. America is a great semi-circle route, leaving Britain in a West North West direction and approaching (say) New York in a South West direction. The port of Derry is about as well placed as any starting point for destroyers, although there might have been a very marginal advantage in using Killary harbour in the west of Ireland. Even if Northern Irish ports had been denied to Britain, Oban in Scotland would have been almost as good, and Stranraer was available as a starting point for destroyers protecting convoys from the Clyde and the Mersey as far as the North Channel.

          For convoys leaving from the channel ports or from Avonmouth, the situation is different, and for these, Cobh, Galway and even Killary might have been useful (Waterford and Rosslare would be little better than Milford Haven or Falmouth). But after the fall of France these ports could not be used to any great extent because of vulnerability to air or submarine or surface raider attack from Brest etc.

          For convoys to the Far East, the Middle East, Africa, and possibly South America, a case can be made out for the ports of Cobh, Galway and Killary being useful, but the case is tenuous. Nearly all traffic had to leave from the Mersey or the Clyde anyway, and the reason the convoys had to go so far out into the Atlantic, had nothing to do with the difficulty of protecting them West or South West of Ireland. The problem lay much further to the South. In the threat of attack from the French Atlantic coast by air, submarine, or surface raids. For these far-South –Westerly danger areas, Falmouth is almost as good as the Irish Ports. Finally, if the gap in destroyer bases from Milford Haven to Derry (or Oban) was so critical in the defense of the Atlantic sea routes, what about the enormous gap between Falmouth and Gibraltar, or that between Gibraltar and British West African ports or

between these and Cape Town.

 

3. The Mid-Atlantic gap between areas that could be covered by air reconnaissance operating from the U.K. or America.

Here there may have been an actual physical gap, but I suspect that as in the case of the destroyers, it was more a question of too short a patrolling time. As in the case of the destroyer, the convoy route to North America, lay West North West from the Clyde and Mersey ports, and for this route, Oban, Derry and Lough Erne were the nearest bases. (You must have sheltered waters for flying boat bases.)

          In the case of the South-bound and South-West-bound conveys, there may again be a marginal case in favour of Cobh, Shannon estuary and Kilary, but the difference between these and the Pembrokeshire and Cornish estuaries must be quite negligible compared with the great gap between Cornwall and Gibraltar. (Were the Cornish estuaries ever used in practice?)

 

The anti-submarine war can be divided into distinct phases.

A.    From the outbreak of war until the full introduction of the convoy system.

This was an organizational problem, and only when the convoy system was in operation did the problem of protection of convoys by destroyers and aircraft arise.

 

B.    From the introduction of the convoy system until the fall of France and the Axis use of the French Atlantic coast ports. 

In this short period, British use of Irish ports could conceivably have been of benefit to Britain in the anti-submarine war, but it is extremely doubtful whether the necessary naval and air bases could have been made effective in the time available.

 

C.    Period of attrition between the opposing sides.

On the Axis side, massive extension of the U-boat fleet, bigger and longer-range submarines, use of snorkels, wolf pack tactics, homing torpedoes etc.

On the Allied side, increasing strategic advantage on the north Atlantic route, with air and naval bases in Iceland and Greenland, American takeover of defenses of the West Atlantic, American lease (sale?) of 40 destroyers

(not very good used ones), and a massive shipbuilding programme in the U.S.A. to make good losses; and on the tactical side, the development of A.S.V. the Leigh light and the sonobuoy.

During this period, although it was a critical one at times for Britain, the relevance of the Irish ports became progressively less important.

 

                                                oOo

Look at the facts of Irish neutrality. Although Ireland was technically neutral, she was in essence no more neutral than was Roosevelt in the period before Pearl Harbour (although it would take a brave Irishman to say so in public now), as the following examples show.

(1)

A vast number of Irishmen and women fought in the British Forces, with great gallantry. Hardly any fought on the Axis side. (Why doesn’t Fisk quote the actual numbers from the Northern Ireland and the Republic; they must be available?)

(ii) Many Irish men and women worked in Britain in munitions factories, building aerodromes, etc; very few went to work in Germany.

(iii)

British servicemen were made welcome in Ireland, but Germans were interned. (Only if they deliberately gave themselves up were British servicemen interned.)

(iv) If British troops strayed across the border accidentally, they were helped to get back. If aircraft had to force land, aviation petrol or simple spare parts were got to them within 48 hours, so that they could take of again.

(v) Am eminent Irish civil servant who was an expert linguist, listened in daily to German radio broadcasts to their spies in Ireland and passed the information to the Irish Intelligence, who in turn passed it on immediately to British Intelligence.

deValera, who kept a close rein on his administration and was no fool, and must have known all about these facts. It was nevertheless absolutely essential that Ireland should remain officially neutral. After 800 years of struggle, she had finally achieved partial independence from Britain only 18 years previously, and if she had either leased bases to Britain, or come into the war on Britain’s side, the consequences would have been serious for both countries.

(a)   The delicate balance which deValera held between the extreme republicans and the others would have been broken and he might well have fallen from power, or a second civil war might even have started.

(b)    Anti-British espionage would have increased.

(c)  Recruitment into the British forces would have dried up.

(d)  In the case of abandonment of neutrality, Ireland would have been subjected to bombing raids from Germany and Britain would have


(e)    considerable scale, at just that stage in the war when these were most needed in Britain.

 

As for the statement that Irish neutrality was an act of revenge against Britain, this is obviously complete nonsense. It was no more petty revenge than the U.S.A.’s neutrality prior to Pearl harbour. In short, Britain during the war had every reason to be grateful for the help provided by Ireland. Ireland North and South was a larder, a massive source of manual and industrial labour & gallant servicemen, and gave important assistance in many ways.

Gilbert Kennedy who penned the above account had a brother John who now resides in Australia. John flew Sunderland’s out from Castle Archdale. He had strong family connections with Gortahork in north Donegal. He used to scare the wits out of the people in the locality by flying low, four miles up the Glena Valley in a direct line between Gortahork on the coast and Errigal Mountain so that he could drop messages to his wife who was staying for part of the war years in the townland called Cashelnagor.

 

Early in November I had a visit from Maureen Ingram, her husband Les and son Steven. Maureen’s father Flying Officer Guy (G.N.) Wilkinson flew Sunderland’s from Castle Archdale. On Sunday 22nd August 1943 he set off on patrol to the Bay of Biscay. Sadly in heavy fog his plane crashed into Mount Brandon in Co. Kerry. Guy and five of his comrades perished in the crash. Six other crewmembers survived. The bodies of Guy and his comrades were brought by the Irish army to Belleek; handed over to the R.A.F. They are now buried in Irvinestown. Maureen was only two years of age then; she and her mother Elsie were living in a house near Castle Archdale. While Maureen has no memories of what happened her Dad she told me that her mother attended the funeral of the men.

          In 1941 Guy was posted to Canada to train for flying the Sunderland’s. In March that year Elsie set out in a ship called the “Bayano” to join her husband in Canada. The U-boats were very active in the Atlantic at that time, she saw a number of the ships in the convoy attacked and set on fire by the U-boats, this was a terrifying experience. Her father-in law was a merchant Navy Chief Engineer, he advised her to never take off her clothes or life jacket during the journey across the Atlantic, except for necessary purposes. He sewed some items for survival inside the lining of her clothes and she followed his advice.

 

         


One of the passengers on the “Bavano” wrote a poem and gave a copy to each passenger.

 

                                      Remembrance.

 

When this cruel war is over, and you sit in contemplation,

In the years that lie before you, of the things that happened when

You crossed the North Atlantic in the sturdy old “Bayano”,

You’ll remember many incidents that happened to you then.

 

 

You’ll remember that dark morning, when you stood upon the deck

With the heavens lit like daylight, as the star shells burst oer’head.

With each tensioned nerve viberating as you waited for the outcome,

Of th’attack upon the convoy which had called you from your bed.

 

You’ll remember as in snapshots, a hundred little details,

Of that winter wartime journey, of the passengers and crew.

But I hope you will remember, by all you hold most sacred,

It was God and Merchant Seamen that saw you safely through.

 

In June 2005 I had the pleasure of flying the Donegal Corridor in a micro-light plane, a wonderful experience to follow the flight path of those airmen of 60 years ago.

Belfast Blitz

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by by admin

BELFAST BLITZ.

 

Extracts from an article on The Belfast Blitz, 1941. By Jonathan Bardon.

Lecturer of History, Queens University, Belfast.

 

As war approached Lord Craigavon, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland since is inception in 1921, claimed; ‘Ulster is ready when we get the word and always will be.’  On Monday 4th September 1939, Tommy Henderson, the Independent MP for the Shankill, asked the prime minister if the government realized ‘that these fast bombers can come to Northern Ireland in two and three quarter hours’. Craigavon evaded the question and replied in general terms; ‘We here today are in a state of war and we are prepared with the rest of the United Kingdom and empire to face all the responsibilities that imposes on the Ulster people. There is no slacking in our loyalty.’ Lady Londonderry, who had corresponded with Hitler and entertained foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop at Mountstewart, wrote to her husband in London: ‘All sorts of rot going on here. Air raid warnings and black-outs! As if anyone cared or wished to bomb Belfast’.

          There is ample evidence that the political leaders lacked the will, energy and capacity to cope with a major crisis when it came. ‘He is the one politician who can win an election without leaving his fireside’, the Daily Express had observed of Craigavon just before his 1938 election victory. Sir Wilfred Spender, the cabinet secretary’ thought he was a Premier whom ’true friends would advise to retire now’ for he was incapable of doing ‘more than one hour’s constructive work’ in a day. Lady Londonderry confided to Sir Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary, that Craigavon had become’ga-ga’. According to Spender, Richard Dawson Bates, the Home Affairs Minister, was ‘incapable of giving his responsible officers coherent directions on policy’ – actually, by this time, he was drunk for most of each day. Bates’ Parliamentary Secretary, Edmond Warnock, for all his righteous indignation later, showed little energy in preparing people for civil defense.

          Dawson Bates simply refused to reply to army correspondence and when the Ministry of Home Affairs was informed by imperial defense experts; that Belfast was a certain Luftwaffe target, nothing was done. The only member of the government recognizing the nature of the crisis was Sir Basil Brooke, the Minister of Agriculture, who threw himself into the task of making Northern Ireland a major supplier of food to Britain in her time of danger.

          By the beginning of 1941 there were only four public air-raid shelters made of sandbags round the City Hall, together with underground toilets at Shaftsbury Square and Donegal Square North. Belfast Corporation was so lacking in any real sense of urgency that vital pipe fittings for fire-fighting appliances and building materials for shelters were not available when Hitler turned his forces westward in 1940. The city had no fighter squadrons, no balloon barrage and only 21 anti-aircraft guns when the war began, and only around 2,000 civil defense volunteers had been trained.

          Craigavon had a habit of beginning many of his speeches with the words ‘We, here in Ulster’, but he was only speaking for two-thirds of the population of Northern Ireland. About a quarter of Belfast’s citizens were Catholics who had been given few incentives to put themselves out on behalf of the war effort.

          In the spring of 1940 the vortex of total war suddenly swung westwards. Then, as the shattered remains of the British army gathered on the Dunkirk beaches, Churchill is said to have remarked gloomily in his map room that the only properly armed and disciplined force left in the United Kingdom was the Ulster Special Constabulary. As Britain’s plight became ever more desperate Churchill sought drastic political solutions including an offer of a declaration in favour of the reunification of Ireland in return for British use of the Treaty ports. Craigavon fired off a series of apoplectic cipher telegrams before deValera rejected the offer on 7th July 1940. Eire’s neutrality and the German occupation of France forced Britain to divert its convoys around the headlands of Co. Donegal and into the North Channel. Northern Ireland now had a crucial role to play as U-boats continued to wreak havoc on merchant shipping in the western approaches.

          ‘I have heard speeches about Ulster pulling her weight but they have never carried conviction,’ Warnock said, announcing his resignation from the Northern Ireland government in May 1940. A fortnight later, Lt. Col. Alexander Gordon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, also resigned, explaining to the Commons that the government was ‘quite unfitted to sustain the people in the ordeal we have to face.’ The Labour MP, Jack Beattie, described the prime minister as having reached his ‘doting stage’. The cabinet secretary was understandably irritated that his valuable time was being used to telephone London to order marmalade from Fortnum & Mason for Lady Craigavon or to run out to buy tobacco and cigarettes. In September, Warnock introduced a vote of censure, calling for a complete change in the government’s composition. Craigavon’s simple response to all demands to revamp his government was; ‘My answer is that I am not going to do it.’  On Sunday 24th November 1940, just after listening to the six o’clock news on the wireless, Craigavon died in his armchair. He was succeeded by John Andrews, who was no more capable of dealing with the situation than his predecessor.

          On a fine Saturday afternoon, 30th November 1940, a single, unobserved German plane flew high across the Ards Peninsula towards Belfast. The crew brought back photographs of suitable targets, the entire city of Belfast, the Germans discovered, was defended by only seven anti-aircraft batteries, it did not possess a single searchlight. On the night of 7th/ 8th April 1941 in bright moonlight a small squadron of German bombers, led by a pathfinder Heinkel 111 from Kampfgruppe 26, raided Belfast, and completely destroyed the four-and-a half-acre Harland and Wolff fuselage factory, reduced a major timber yard to ashes, and delivering damaging blows to the docks. The attack was a small one, but the people of Northern Ireland now knew they were vulnerable after all.

          On the evening of Easter Tuesday, 15th April 1941 a large group of German bombers returned to Belfast. Casting intense light, hundreds of flares drifted down, then incendiaries, high explosive bombs and parachute mines rained on the city. It was not the industrial heartland but the congested housing north of the city centre that received the full force of the attack. The result was a fearful carnage in the New Lodge, the Lower Shankill and the Antrim Road. Suspended from green artificial parachutes, 76 landmines slowly drifted down. During the raid the popular singer Delia Murphy was performing in the Ulster Hall, she kept performing right through the raid.

          At 1-45 a.m. a bomb fell at the corner of Oxford Street and East Bridge Street, wrecking the city’s central telephone exchange. All contact with Britain and the anti-aircraft operations room was cut off. For another two hours the Luftwaffe attacked Belfast completely unopposed. Altogether 203 metric tons of bombs and 800 firebomb canisters were dropped on the city. After the raid a Luftwaffe pilot gave this description on German Radio.

 

  “We were in exceptional good humour knowing that we were going for a new target, one of England’s last hiding places. Wherever Churchill is hiding his war material we will go…Belfast is as worthy a target as Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol or Glasgow.”

 

          Around 140 fires now raged in Belfast and several of these spread into conflagrations. Just as the Auxiliary Fire Service arrived to fight the inferno sweeping across the Antrim Road, the water pressure fell away- the mains had been cracked in 20 places. The Ministry of Public Security requested help from civil defense regions throughout Northern Ireland and the War Office responded promptly to a call for aid, sending a total of 42 pumps and 400 firemen from Glasgow, Liverpool and Preston.

          From his house near Stormont, MacDermott watched the flames enveloping the city. At 4.15 a.m. he crawled under his desk and telephoned Brooke who was staying nearby. The line was still working, MacDermott asked permission to request fire engines from Eire. ‘I gave him authority as it is obviously a question of expediency’, Brooke noted in his diary. At 4.35 a.m. a telegram was sent by railway telegraph, because the telephone lines to Dublin had been cut. deValera agreed without hesitation to send help. Altogether 70 men and 13 fire engines from Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk sped northwards. ‘I had to sit on my hands to keep them from getting numb,’ one volunteer remembered; ‘There were no landmarks on the way up; we reached our destination by following the telephone lines.’

          As they approached the city outskirts the southern fireman saw smoke and flames rising hundreds of feet into the air. Horrified at the carnage, John Smith, Belfast’s chief fire officer, was found beneath a table in Chichester Street fire station, weeping and refusing to come out. There was little the firemen could do to fight the flames – hoses were cut by falling buildings; fittings were often the incorrect diameter, and the water pressure had fallen too far. There were numerous individual acts of heroism but both Spender and MacDermott felt that firemen and civil defense workers had performed badly. An American; seconded to the Short and Harland factory by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; was not impressed by his fellow workers; in a letter to his parents in California he wrote.

          “You have heard how tough the Irish are-well all I can say is that the tough Irish must come from the South of Ireland because the boys up in Northern Ireland are a bunch of chicken shit yellow bastards – 90% of them left everything and ran like hell. Short and Harland’s the Aircraft factory that builds Sterling here had 300 Volunteer fire fighters in the plant, after the raid they were lucky to get 90 of them”.

 

          Over 900 people were killed, Emma Duffin a nurse who was on duty recorded in her diary:

 

No attendant nurse had soothed the last moments of these victim’s, no gently reverent hand had closed their eyes or crossed their hands. With tangled hair, staring eyes, contorted limbs, their grey-green faces covered with dust, they lay bundled into coffins, half-shrouded in rugs or blankets or on an occasional sheet, still wearing their dirty, torn, twisted garments.

 

After this raid, thousands of refugees fled to the rural areas, some 6,000 making their way to Dublin. The military authorities were deeply unimpressed by the unco-ordinated rescue work and troops were disgusted by wide spread looting and the refusal of young men sightseeing to lend a hand. At 9.45p.m. on Sunday 4th May 1941 the first squadron of a total force of 204 German bombers took off from Northern France and about an hour after midnight a further raid took place. This time much of the damage was inflicted on the city centre. That night almost 300 people, many from the Shankill, took refuge in Clonard Monastery in the Falls Road.

          The crypt under the sanctuary, also the cellar under the working sacristy, has been fitted out and is opened to the people, women and children only, as an air-raid shelter. This act of ours is very much appreciated by all, Protestants included. Prayers are said and hymns sung by the occupants during the bombing. By the end of May some 220,000 people had left the city going to the rural towns and farm houses. And what was the government doing? The ministers at a cabinet meeting only a short time was given to the air attack; much more time was given to an offer from the Eire Electricity Board to supply electricity to Northern Ireland. The decision on this was no, because of ‘political difficulties of making any such arrangement’.

          During the first heavy raid the military worked with much enthusiasm and devotion to duty. At the end of the second heavy raid . . it was apparent that the military had not the same zest in the work. I heard several complaints of soldiers at work being watched by large crowds of idle but able bodied men. . . the difficulty in getting the Council to develop the civil defense with sufficient promptitude led to the transfer of civil defense functions to a separate body. Tommy Henderson, the flamboyant house painter and independent unionist MP for the Shankill complained bitterly in Stormont at the lack of action taken by the government after the blitz. His fury would have been much more intense had he known how much time the Northern Ireland Government would devote to arranging camouflage for the Stormont Parliament Buildings

 (They were heavily painted all over with bitumen and the approach roads covered with black cinders) and to protecting the bronze statue of Carson in its grounds from possible bomb damage. On three occasions the protection of the statue was discussed as a major item at cabinet meetings. At the first, on 17th June 1941, Andrews said it would cost ’an expenditure of some hundred pounds … to provide protection by sandbags, etc., over the entire monument’. A confused correspondence between ministers and civil servants followed over whether or not a decision had been made. The topic was debated again with enthusiasm on 19th August 1941. The most protracted discussion on the issue took place at the cabinet meeting of 23rd September. This was during a period when tens of thousands of Belfast citizens were still without the protection of air-raid shelters.

Richard Dawson Bates in a memorandum tersely outlined the desperate situation. In what for him must have been the most liberal observation of his career he stated, ‘My officials inform me that various authorities in Eire are, they believe, prepared to co-operate very generously…In the event of an immediate emergency co-operation with these authorities would appear to be the only course available and we should take advantage of it.’  Soon after, Andrews was ousted by Brooke, who came to power as the Americans who had arrived in Northern Ireland to train for the Normandy landings.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

Account of the Belfast Blitz {1941} from a history of

 “THE DUBLIN FIRE BRIGADE.” By Tom Geraghty & Trevor Whitehead.

 

In Belfast for financial rather than security reasons, necessary orders for fire fighting equipment had been cancelled and manpower in the full-time fire service at 230 men left Belfast with fewer resources to deal with a major bombing raid than any other city in the United Kingdom. With roads impassable and one extensive fire extending into the next, buildings collapsing, water-mains smashed and gas escaping from fractured pipes, help was summoned from each of the civil defense regions in Northern Ireland.

          As the night blazed on, and the city faced total destruction, ever more fire pumps and crews were called for. At 4.25 as the bombs still rained down, an urgent telegram was sent to Westminster for assistance for the stricken city. Eventually forty-two pumps with 400 firemen would be dispatched by destroyer from Liverpool and by Admiralty ferry from Glasgow. Sometime after 4a.m. a momentous political decision was made. Brian Barton in his book The Blitz: Belfast in the war Years maintains that the original urgent message was sent by the Belfast Commissioner of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the War Room at Stormont to seek assistance from Dublin.

          With the approval of Sir Basil Brooke the request was telegraphed to P.J. Hernon, the Dublin City manager. The request was relayed to An Taoiseach-Eamon deValera, who said, ‘Go ahead and give every assistance possible’. Within half-an-hour of receiving the message Major Comerford, The Chief Fire Officer was addressing the Dublin firemen gathered from all stations at a meeting in Tara Street station. He told the assembled firemen that Belfast had been heavily bombed, causing death and injury to large numbers of civilians, and that deValera had instructed him to give as much assistance as they possibly could to their unfortunate fellow countrymen. Some of those present remembered the name of Cardinal MacRory being mentioned in the request. The major went on to state that because “they were being asked to perform tasks outside their agreed terms of duty, he was asking for volunteers but he hoped the men would not disgrace the great traditions of the Dublin Fire Service. Practically everyone on duty responded to the Chief Officers request for volunteers.

          Major Comerford then personally rang Dun Laogaire, Drogheda and Dundalk, requesting them “to prepare to send fire fighting appliances to Belfast to assist at fighting fires as a result of an air raid of incendiary and H.E. bombs” and telling the officers in these stations that, “An Taoiseach has given permission for any available appliance to be sent to Belfast”. Some small gear had been removed from the pumps to allow for stowage of extra hose. Two portable pumps loaded with hose had been hitched to two of the motors for the journey to Belfast.

          The firemen clung to their open vehicles thundering at 60 mph through the chilly morning on a journey of the brave into the unknown. The drivers kept their hands warm by sitting on one hand at a time while driving with the other and changing over when the driving hand became frozen, while the crew alternated stuffing a hand inside their jackets while holding on with the other. Apart from the fact that none of the men could comprehend the extent of the destructive mayhem they faced hardly any of them had been to Belfast before. Very little talk took place on this epic journey as each man kept his own council, apprehensive as to what he would encounter. From Killeen Border Post the pumps were escorted by military motorcycles right through to Belfast.

The Dublin firemen arrived in Belfast just before 10am but there was a long delay before they were eventually taken to Chichester fire station. Even there it was hard to find a senior officer to give them instructions on where they would be deployed. Eventually Dublin and other Eire fire crews were assigned to work in various parts of the stricken city. The men were later to describe the conditions they faced on that terrible day as a widespread pall of dense grey smoke locked out the sunshine and they toiled to the sounds of ambulance bells, random explosions of delayed action bombs and the voracious roar of flames devouring all in their path. They listened to the heavy thuds as massive walls collapsed and everywhere there was the stench of smoke and leaking gas and the frantic calls of rescuers as they tried to extricate injured or dead from smoldering mounds of masonry, timber and slates. It was like a city struck by some awful man-made earthquake.

          Among those who toiled that day grew the story of the unfortunate woman dug from the ruins of her house who, hearing the strange accents, inquired if she had been captured by the Germans. No, she was told; they are the Dublin Fire Brigade, to which she cried, “Oh God, I’ve been blown to Dublin”. No proper arrangements were put in place to provide food or rest periods for the Dublin crews. Begrimed, hungry and thirsty, they kept the pumps charged with water relays from rivers as town pressure often dropped to zero. In some areas provisions were provided by grateful civilians, but in the chaos of the day many simply went without.

 Sometime after 6pm the fire crews from Eire began making up their hose and ladders to head for home. As each crew was ready it left the stricken city. By then most of the major fires were under control and the British firemen were arriving. The return journey to the Border from what had been hell was itself something of a nightmare. Apart from the cold then affecting the exhausted bodies of the famished men, the southern fire engines were not equipped with black-out covers for their headlamps and after sunset they had to drive in the dark following the tail lights of a motor cycle dispatch rider. They needed to remain a wake, so there was much talk and singing as they headed through the night for Dublin. Two of the crews received refreshments in Banbridge before they sped on to the Border; others were entertained in the Ancient Order of Hibernians hall in Newry. It had been a long day, one that none of them ever forgot.

          The Irish Times editorial writer was inspired to produce the following on 17th April 1941.

Humanity knows no borders, no politics, no differences of religious belief. Yesterday for once the people of Ireland were united under the shadow of a national blow. Has it taken bursting bombs to remind the people of this little country that they have common tradition, a common genius and a common home? Yesterday the hand of good-fellowship was reached across the Border. Men from the South worked with men from the North in the universal cause of the relief of suffering.

Seventy-one firemen with their fire engines from Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Drogheda and Dundalk had travelled into the unknown in spite of the risks, to help their colleagues and the distressed of Belfast. Val Walsh, second officer in the Dublin Fire Brigade, followed his crews to Belfast later in the day to check on their welfare.

          The Northern Whig on 17th April 1941 reported on the role of the fire fighters from the south: “It was confirmed in Dublin this morning that units of fire – fighting and ambulance services from some towns in Eire assisted to put out fires resulting from Northern Ireland’s blitz”. In Castlebar on 19th April 1941 deValera expressed public sympathy with the victims of the Belfast air attack.

          This is the first time I have spoken in public since the disaster in Belfast and I know you will wish me to express on your behalf and on behalf of the Government our sympathy with the people who are suffering there … they are all our people, they are one and the same people, and their sorrows in the present instance are also our sorrows. I want to say that any help we can give them in the present time we will give to them wholeheartedly believing that were the circumstances reversed they would also give us their help wholeheartedly.

          Two days later the Irish government minister Frank Aiken justified his government’s position to journalists in Boston and asserted that the people of Belfast ‘are Irish people too’.

On 4th May 1941 a second major air raid took place on Belfast, once again on request all available units from Dublin were dispatched to help. These attending crews were organized to work along side local firemen and were immediately on arrival given food before being directed with escorts to various areas in the city. On 6th May 1941 the Belfast Presbytery thanked Dublin “for its invaluable assistance and generous help in the emergency just passed”. The men who braved that first terrible night were later given five shillings each, said to have come from the Belfast authorities to compensate them for the cost of a meal while on duty in that city. They were told, by Major Comerford that some time in the future they would receive a suitable recognition from the Northern Ireland authorities for the great assistance they provided, but whatever he was referring to never came. However much they might have been subsequently overlooked or ignored by the Belfast establishment the famous journeys led to social contact between the firemen of both cities and as a result an annual football match was played between the two brigades. Belatedly in 1995 on the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of the Second World War an invitation was received by the Dublin Fire Brigade addressed to any survivors of those two historic days to attend a function at Hillsborough Castle and meet Prince Charles. Only four of those who were there were still known to be alive at that time, one Tom Coleman, travelled north to receive some recognition for his colleagues’ solidarity at such a critical time.