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Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland Coastal Command

WW 2 Castle Archdale.

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An information board in front of where the old Castle Archdale house once stood.
The illustration shows what it was like during the war years

Castle Archdale Country Park is situated about 10 miles north west of Enniskillen and extends to cover 230 acres along the shores of Lower Lough Erne. The region is abundant in historical features, with many monastic sites such as Devenish and White Island.
Castle Archdale is based on the demesne of the Archdale Manor House, which was built in 1773, of which now only the courtyard buildings remain.
Evidence of the 1939-45 War can also be found throughout the park in flying-boat docks, ammunition dumps, Slit trenches, etc. This is because Lough Erne played an important role as the most westerly flying-boat station, from which aircraft protected the allied convoys from the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic.
Castle Archdale was the main base from which they flew and this is highlighted in an exhibition within the Centre at Castle Archdale entitled "Castle Archdale at War".







Photo of post marker placed at position where guard house and gate stood at Castle Archdale


Two twisted saplings that were twisted together during WW II by a bored guard on gate duty and have grown that way since.



Syd Irving Flt Eng Necarne Military Hospital


An old aircraft anchoring ring on slipway at Castle Archdale.


Incineration unit.


One of the few intact air raid shelters.


The water filter house and tanks. One of the few war time buildings to remain - slightly to the right of and behind the ops block -
Water was drawn directly from the Lough ,filtered and cleaned before being ready for drinking, water quality then was much better than it is today.


The same view today looking back towards the ops control building - now a shop , pub and nice  restaurant all of which open during the summer tourist season.


A photo of what is now the Lough Erne Yacht Club , in th background the manor House now a major Hotel and marina / boat hire complex. 1942-45 it was a mass of activity - the woodland was full of hutted acomadation and offices - today the walls remain and the cement path ways are now walked only by tourists and locals.


A close up of the slipway , apron and hangers circa 1945.
The shetland dock is just in the process of being completed.
Floating pontoons can be seen on the water these provided fueling points for aircraft - fuel being piped out to them."T" sheds , nose hangers can be seen , ops block and maintance area , work sheds , the old castle with its huge water tower for so long a landmark which could be seen from anywhere on the Lough.



The Mooring area at castle Archdale - 60 years ago this area was packed with aircraft - now only pleasure craft.


The landing area on a flat calm day, NOT perfect conditions on which to land.

Just at the edge of the blister winow "Innismackill" - a Catalina from 131 crashed there in May 43 , just in front of the Island is the ,"Gay island" . In 43 a flying control tower was built here - the Island being clear of scrub and bushes. , the legs of the tower being made from oil drum filled with concrete. ( The tower less its portacabin) is still in situ today.).The small dot third from the left is "Troublesome Rocks" - a 228 Sunderland ended up here in January 43 , sections of the aircraft are still in the waters around it today.
Also in this area a war grave - the 240 Catalina which crashed at dawn on to a flat calm Lough Erne , Only one member of the crew was ever recovered and the aircraft remains in the Lough.
On the approaches to Gay Island - June 43 a 201 Squadron Sunderland crashed on a bright sunny Sunday morning - water conditions as per this photo.
Assisting the junior pilot was F/lt. Douglas Gall who a few days earlier had sunk U-440 in the Bay of Biscay.
Also crashed in these waters two Sunderland in November 43 , DP181 of 423 ( Mel Lee's crew and W4036 of 201 squadron. A memorial to this crew is located in the car park of the viewpoint overlooking the Lough's Southern shore.)
The view is one into the mooring area of the base .


Castle Archdale from the air.

This is a view of the the mouth of the River Erne and Donegal Bay .
The town is Bundoran a small local seaside town.

Beyond the town Tulland Strand running to the mouth of the Erne. A  B-17 force landed on the beach in 1943 - belly landed and she had to be sectioned to be taken away but the pilot did well to get her down. (see photo below of B-17)

The straight coastline over looking the starnd is a cliff - a Halifax from Tiree crashed there in January 44.
This was one of two Halifax from Tiree which crashed in this area, a second forcelanded off Mullaghmore , several of the crew being rescued by local fishermen.
In April 41 Denis Briggs who found Bismarck and Eddy Edwards who was later to be a senior instructor at 131 (C) OTU Killadeas landed in a Lerick off Bundoran and out of fuel.
The Irish Goverment gave permission for fuel to be trucked down from Castle Archdale to the aircraft which departed for the short hop back to Lough Erne later the same day.
The high ground in the background claimed a 201 squadron crew in March 45 , they are all buried in Irvinestown - three months earlier the same crew had sunk U-297 North of Scotland.
These same waters claimed their first Lough Erne aircraft in Februay 1942, when a 201 Squadron Sunderland crashed in the bay , apart from some wreckage washed ashore no trace of the crew was ever found


The B-17 which forcelanded on Tulland Strand in May 1943


Radio Masts
The remains of one of the masts.The concrete base for two of the legs - the other bases are still in situ covered by grass.

Perhaps not much to look at but at one time a vital link to the aircraft out on patrol , today few if any could take you to them.


Remains of one of the radio masts which were errected close to the base Adminstration / Flying Control room at Castle Archdale.
There were at one time four masts which were approx 75 ft in height - all have been cut off at ground level , today only the concrete bases for each leg and stump of each mast remain.


Watch Tower on Boa Island.


The lighthouse at St.John's Point - a landfall both on departure and on returning.


One of the two bomb stores which were located a little way from the fuel dump , only one remains


Entrance to the marine section / jetties area.


Sunderlands on the apron at Castle Archdale as construction work goes on around them.
There is a story that one of these earth movers damaged a Sunderland and the squadron commander billed the contractor for the repairs


The entrance to the base , seen in 1943.


The same view taken in 2007.


The Manor House which developed into officers quarters and HQ for the base complex.
Top left a flight control centre which was built on the roof of the house overlooking the expanse of Lower Lough Erne and the flare paths.


The same view , the house disappeared in the mid 1970's.


Officers quarters circa 1942.


A 240 Squadron crew return to the jetty after viewing their Stranraer flying boat one of two aircraft which came there in 1941.


As it is today.


The maintance apron seen in 1942 .


The same view


A 423 RCAF Sunderland on the slipway .


The same view in 2007


Maureen Ingram and Joe O'Loughlin on slipway present day.
Maureen is the daughter of Flying Officer Guy Nelson Wilkinson one of the pilots of Sunderland DD848 that crashed on Mount Brandon on the 22nd August 1943.


A Sunderland in the evening.


As it looks 2006


Just downstream from Castle Archdale , the base at Killadeas 131 (C) O.T.U.


As it looks today.


The T sheds and nose hangers at Castle Archdale.


As it looks today.


A view of the base in early 1945 - the dock seen is being completed


A view from the air today


St. John's Point - a finger of land which extends out into Donegal Bay - the lighthouse was a land mark for returning aircraft , at night its light would greet them and the land would show up on the "SE" sets.
Shortly afterwards they would pick up approach system or in good weather see the River Erne leading them back to the landing area.

A view towards the Mess Hall , showers and entertainment hall , football pitch in the forground today largely an empty space.

Bomb scow


Formation Over L Erne


Cyphr room
A WAAF on the keyboard in the code room at Castle Archdale , early 1941.
Today only a stone saying "RAF Castle Archdale" marks this spot.


WAAF at Ops Board Castle Archdale


The "Inner Lough"
The aircraft put down in this area
The aircraft came in from the North


The blind approach BABS system as per 1943 , this changed in 1944.
Used correctly it was accurate and safe and would bring any crew safely down to the water.
  This was once used by Bruce Whitney.


A revised approach system whoch dates from Nov. 1943 from Mr. Bruce Whitney.
Bruce went on to captain the crew of F/lt  F.G "Jerry" Fellows who attacked and seriously damaged U-672 on 24th April 1944.


Castle Archdale Site Plan
Part of the site plan for the base the now demolished manor house and courtyard are at the centre of the plan maintane areas and slipway towards the top end of the plan (North) .
The "Burma Road" the pathway which runs along the line of the headland in a loop .
Inside the circles the square structures are the four bomb dumps and the "component store" all photographed in the thread , the photos put on last night taken at the western edge of the road , proved to be a "Pyro store" .
Most of the scattered sites are accomadation for officers / Aircrew/NCO's/ other ranks.
this plan dates from 1944 - the two large "T" shed hanmgers should be easily made out and to the north of them the "Flying Boat Dock" also photographed in the thread.
To the left off the large hangers and set up around the mainatnce area three BOAC nose hangers if you look carefully you can make them out - these too have been photographed within the thread , both side and face on views , just behind the soutern one the operations block - this and various wartime views across the maintance area also posted up.
Not in the plan the W/T station and D/F station which were located a short distance from the camp.


The lighting apprach system to Killadeas and the landing area circa 1942


This diagram came from S/L Eddy Edwards
Having been designed it had to be flown - W/C Alan Lynwood and Edwards flew it and it worked well - without it getting into Lough Erne in bad weather would have been next to impossible.


Some more information in diagram form on the Blind Approach system to the base.
This was developed in 1942 by S/ldr Eddy Edwards


A brief outline of the camp


Landing areas.
"Sandy Rock" is "Gravel Ridge" - today it is a no landing area - only the birds land there.


Copy of actual camp newspaper.


Another copy of the base newspaper. The base ran its own news paper - copies of which were copied and exist today only in the Appendies to 423 's Operational Record Book - sports events on the base - the Canadian soft ball league - and some of the teams had colourful names , football , hockey , fishing , what was on at the base and local cinemas , dances , opening times at the "Sally Ann canteen" , local events , impending marriages - you name it, it was in there.


F/O. Jacksons encounter with a FW-200 in Sept. 1943.
Looking down the names.... UIlrich - he did a second tour with 422 and went missing in November 1943 - shot down by a U-Boat - there were no survivors.
Alos notable is Bruce Whitney, who took over Jerry Fellows crew after taking the captains course. Bruce made two attacks on suspected U-boat contacts in the one week - without success.


Two encounters between 423 Sunderlands and Luftwaffe aircraft.
In these cases a Ju88 fighter and a FW-200 .
Encounters with the Luftwaffe were quite common in 1941 -43.


The bar in the Officers Mess , Castle Archdale V.E. night 1945.


The Sgts. Mess at Castle Archdale as it was in February 1941 - still to be built.
John Iverach gets stuck in before it gets cold.


Sgt's Mess in Castle Archdale Feb. 1941.


Irvinestown 1944 as photographed by a member of 423 RCAF.


Irvinestown as it looks today.


Sunderland NS-Z of 201 Squadron, this aircraft carried out the last convoy escort and A/S Patrol into the Atlantic on 3rd/4th June 1945.


A visit in August 1943 of the New Zealand High Comissioner  my friend A.J (Johnny) Johnston is the Cpl. in this photo, second from right.


 My friend A.J (Johnny) Johnston in Singapore


240Squadron , the first crew into Castle Archdale , snow in Feb. 1941.


Crew of NS-Z boarding their aircraft for the last patrol out of Castle Archdale after WW II had finished.
Although the Germans surrendered on the 5th May 1945 Sunderland Patrols continued into the Atlantic for another month in case any fanatical U.Boat commanders continued to attack allied shipping.


Castle Archdale , aircraft and men - all gone , silent.
Most visitors are aware that there "was an airbase here" , "planes during the war" , few can imagine what once was.


Pembroke Dock mooring area


Q ML742 Icebound Jan Feb 1945


NS H RN285 & NS C R Erne 44


Special thanks to:
 James Stewart     N.Ireland 
Joe O'Loughlin     N.Ireland
    Breege Mc Cusker  N.Ireland 
John Newall         Canada
                               Richard Lebek  Canada ( crew member U-672)
Norman Lebek   Canada
 Roland Berr      Germany
                                Harry Lorkin   U.K. (RAF 226 Squadron)          
     John Rogers          UK            
                                    N.Jack Logan       Canada   (RCAF 422 Squadron)
              Les and Maureen Ingram  Scotland
   Bill Barber            Canada    
  Robert Walsh        N.Ireland  
                         Capt. Jerry Mason USN (ret.)  Canada         
             Blake Wimperis      Canada              
                                   Robert Quirk     Canada                                          
                                    Norm Muffitt          Canada                                      
                         Lt/Col S. Beaton     Canada  (Camp Borden)
       Stephanie Pinder     USA            
    Alec (Johnny) Johnston    N.Z.
                 Stephen Kerr           N.Ireland             
                                   Reg Firby               Canada (RCAF 423 Squadron)
         Maurice Duffill         Australia     
                   John Hartshorn              UK                     
                                  Don Macfie      Canada ( RCAF 422/423 Squadron)
                               Frank Cauley   Canada  ( RCAF 422 Squadron)
                                Harold O'Brien  Canada  ( RCAF 423 Squadron)
                                   James Newall          UK        ( RAF 423 Squadron)
      Ian Meadows                    UK
                     Bill Baker                 Canada               
John Taylor      Canada
            Gordon Burke              Canada
          Carol Whittle                    U.K.

Last Update on Dec 07 , 2010