Sunderland NJ175

Sunderland NJ175 of Canadian Squadron 422, Coastal Command based at Castle Archdale, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland too off from Lough Erne at 11 am on Saturday morning of 12th August 1944 to go on convoy patrol over the Atlantic Ocean.


The crew were F/L Evan Campbell Devine, Pilot. – F/O Martin Alexander Platsko, Co- Pilot – F/O Roy Thomas Wilkinson – F/O George Willoughby Allen – P/O Robert Clifford Parker – Sgt. Harold Roger Jeal – Sgt. Joseph Frank S. Clark – P/O Arthur Leslie Locke – P/O John Reginald Forrest – Sgt. Delbert Venus Oderkirk – Sgt. Charles Langford Singer and Sgt. George Arnold Colburn.


   The aircraft followed the River Erne passed over the village of Belleek, entered the Donegal Corridor, passed over the town of Ballyshannon and to the Atlantic Ocean. Within a short time a problem developed in the outer starboard engine. Chuck Singer remarked to his friend George Colburn that an engine sounded rough but that quite often the problem rectified itself. The fault became more serious and the Captain Cam Devine decided to return to base. On arrival over Lough Erne he was instructed to go back to the coast –jettison his fuel and depth charges and then return to base.


Thinking of the possibility of having to ditch the Sunderland in the Atlantic Ocean Chuck remarked to his friend George that if the ditched and survived they would then qualify as members of the ‘Gold Fish’ club. Members were given a small goldfish badge to wear to indicate that they had ditched.


Although there were over 40 flying boats from Lough Erne that crashed, the crash of Sunderland NJ 175 was one of only a few that crashed in daylight and in good visibility and that there were a number of eye witnesses to the event. I myself had seen the plane flying very low with its outer starboard engine pouring out very black smoke. It disappeared behind a hill and shortly afterwards I heard the sound of the crash and vast clouds of black smoke rising skywards. I was then just 12 years old and had been working at hay on my uncle’s farm. Travelling over land I would have been at the crash site within an hour of it happening.


I remember seeing the injured lying on the ground being attended to by Doctors, Nurses and Clergy, some of the less seriously injured were walking about. Chuck and the other injured were taken by ambulance to the Sheil Hospital, Ballyshannon. Where Doctors Daly and Gorden along with the nursing staff attended to them. Chuck recalls being on the lawn in front of the building. This area is now all tarmaced, recently a friend gave Chuck an old postcard of the Sheil showing the grass area as he knew it. After a few days Chuck and his friends were taken by ambulance across the border to St. Angelo Air Base and flown in a Dakota to a hospital in England.


Chuck had joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the age of 18, he nominated his foster mother who had been so good to him as his next of kin, and each month a portion of his wages were sent to her. With this money she founded a small nursing home which was very successful. When Chuck was invalided out of the air force he got a job in Toronto delivering bread in a hand cart. This soon built up the strength in his injured arm, and there he met his future wife Jacqueline. A small dry cleaning business came on the market and when Chuck expressed an interest in it his foster mother who was now in a good financial state returned to Chuck the money she had used to found her business. Three of the children of Chuck and Jacqueline were born in Toronto – Barbara, John and young Jacqueline. By this time the city council were interested in the property owned by Chuck so he sold it at a good price. He then moved to Florida where he founded another business, selling this after a few years he went into the horse breeding business. The two youngest members of his family Bob and Greg were born in Florida.


Chuck never spoke to his family about the crash in Ireland; it made him sad to think of the good comrades who had died. As his birthday (9th February) approached in 2002 his son Bob posted a message on the internet seeking information on members of 422 Squadron who had served with his father. This message was seen by some of the veterans of the Squadron including John Moyles. John told me that his family had emigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1927. They came from Dangan’s Farm, Mountmellick, Co. Laois. As Chuck’s mother’s family name was Logan, he would also have Irish roots. John Moyles circulated Bob’s request to many 422 Squadron members and one to Breege McCusker in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. A noted historian – Breege was the author of the book, “Fermanagh and Castle Archdale in World War 11”. She was also instrumental in bring groups of members of 422 Squadron back to Fermanagh for re-unions on several occasions.


 Knowing that I had considerable knowledge about the crash of Sunderland NJ 175 Breege passed the message on to me. By good fortune it contained Chuck’s land mail address. The squadron records indicated that Chuck had died from injuries received in the crash. Bob had two things in mind for his Dad, one – to contact any former comrades that he had served with, the other to try and find a model of a Sunderland, with this he had no success. Thankfully Joe and Breege located a die cast Corgi model of a Sunderland which was presented to Chuck on his visit to the crash site. He was also given some small pieces of the wreckage of his plane that he last flew in on 12th August 1944. Over the years Chuck had kept in regular contact with his friend George Colburn, each year on the anniversary of the crash they would either meet or speak to each other on the phone. At the time Bob set all the wheels in motion it was a low time in Chuck’s life, shortly before he had lost his wife Jacqueline and his good friend George.


This is the e-mail that opened up a whole new chapter in the life of Charles Singer.

“Greetings all. You will recall the request we had from Bob Singer regarding his father who was involved in a Sunderland crash in Ireland. Chuck is alive and well and wants to make contact with Ex-422 Squadron members. Give him a shout. I have straightened Chuck out by telling him I live in God’s country, Saskatchewan.

        Cheers John Moyles.


Subject:  I am fine.  Date 16th Jan. 2002

From;  To:

John, got so much to tell you, don’t know where to begin. First of all I am glad to be with the living, raised five great kids, one of you have been in touch with, Bob, George Colburn had both legs broken at the knees, the tail section landed on him and he was pinned under it. When I was trying to free myself from the wreck I heard him scream for help, blood  was running down my face, my left arm was broken and I was in shock. The second scream made me go back and try to help. In pulling him free with my right arm I did some damage to my shoulder, after dragging him clear I passed out, and laid there for some time, like all the others waiting for help. The next day the Americans came across the border to southern Ireland, put us all on stretchers, rushed us across the border and flew us to the hospital in England in a DC 3. Can’t say enough about our fine treatment in the hospital in London. An R.A.F. doctor who took care of me couldn’t make my break knit, as it was so clean a break, so he came up with the idea of using more than one blade in the saw and cut the cast around the break area, pushed the cast together, sealed it and sent me back to my bed. The idea was for me to stay awake for 48 hours and push every thing I had to close the bones together. With the help of the Dr. and nurses I stayed awake, they took me for an Ex-ray and what do you know, it worked saving me from having my leg cut open to do a bone graft to me humorous bone. My rehab in Divadale in North Toronto was just as rewarding, the nurses had me in the pool every day, pushing my forearm back against the pool wall, after a few weeks I got a lot of my extension back, not all but later was able to strengthen up that side of my body so I could get a job on my discharge. At present I am on a ten percent pension, helps a little, right.

Please try to have any of my crew members that are still with us, contact me, that is if it is possible. Where are you in Ontario? Been there twice this year, would like to come by next trip and see you.


Today 30th June 2009 I am delighted to say that we have with us here in Fermanagh three members of the Jeal family who have come from Canada to trace the last flight of Sunderland NJ175. I was pleased to learn from them that Al Platsko is still hale and hearty, he and Chuck are the last surviving members of the crew. Leon, Ron Jeal and their sister Linda visited the crash site and saw for themselves the excellent memorial stone erected on the spot by Gary Pentland and James McGarrigle. This is but one of a number of crash site memorials erected in various parts of Ireland by Gary Pentland and his helpers.

Here at the a same time is the grand daughters of Ted Muffitt who was lost along with his crew of Catalina FP120 in the Atlantic on 2nd November 1943. Jennifer Jones, her husband Stewart and son Ryan visited her dad’s base at Killadeas and there laid a wreath in memory of Ted. It was just wonderful to have both Canadian families to meet for a short time in Enniskillen.