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Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland Coastal Command

The Donegal Corridor
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Poster giving details of agreement reached between Ireland and the Allies for aircraft from Castle Archdale and other close airfields to fly over Irish territory to avoid the long journey to the Atlantic by having to fly well to the North and do a dogleg into the Atlantic.
The route was known as the Donegal corridor. 

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The plaque on the Ballyshannon Bridge

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Ireland (Eire) is shown in Green and Northern Ireland (British) is shown in pink.

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PICTURE OF NEUTRAL IRELAND THAT THEY MARKED TO SHOW BORDER THAT AIRCRAFT FROM ALLIED AIRFORCES COULD NOT CROSS

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201 Squadron salvage crew recovering by special agreement a Sunderland that came down in Neutral Ireland waters.

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The Donegal Corridor played a role in one of the most significant naval triumphs of World War II.
 
The Donegal Corridor refers to the area that was straight over the river Erne and out into the Atlantic, opened by a secret treaty with the “neutral” Free Irish Republic during World War II that allowed allied planes to refuel in Ireland while hunting German submarines.
 
Despite Eire’s [Ireland's] claimed neutrality, its government often provided indirect support for the Allied Forces. The best example of this is the permission given to allow Allied planes to use the “Donegal Corridor”. As a result of this agreement, American Catalinas were loaned to the RAF and joined their fleet of Lerwick and Short Sunderland flying-boats.  What was kept secret was the fact that the Catalinas lent by the Americans came with US personnel who trained RAF pilots in their use and who even flew operations for the Allies.
 
The benefit of these covert agreements was fully realised in May 1941. On 24 May 1941 the German battleship, The Bismarck sank a symbol of British Naval power The Hood, killing 1415 men. The coastal command at Castle Archdale joined to search for The Bismarck.  On 25 May 1941, Catalina Z of the 209 Squadron set course through the Donegal Corridor towards the Atlantic. The co-pilot was an American, Leonard ‘Tuck’ Smith, and flying with him was RAF Pilot Officer Briggs. What followed was one of the most important episodes of the War. Smith and Briggs sighted The Bismarck on 26 May 1941 enabling Allied forces to track the battleship and sink it the following day. The surveillance capabilities of the Allied forces[flying through the Corridor] effectively ended the German dominance at sea.
 
 
 
 
 

By Anita Guidera

Thursday April 19 2007

A SECRET wartime deal enabling Allied planes to over fly the Republic on Atlantic convoy protection missions was commemorated yesterday in special ceremonies in counties Donegal and Fermanagh.

The then Taoiseach, Eamon De Valera, secretly relaxed Ireland's neutrality to enable the planes to overfly the Republic after top-secret discussions with Sir John Maffey, the official British Government in Dublin.

Yesterday, granite memorial plaques were erected in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and across the border four miles away in Belleek, Co Fermanagh, to publicly acknowledge for the first time the passage of flying boats along the 'Donegal Corridor' to the Atlantic from their bases on Lough Erne.

In 1940, when flying boat bases were first established in Lough Erne, aircraft going on patrol to the mid-Atlantic had to fly north until they reached the coast at Derry. They then flew westwards to protect shipping convoys bringing essential supplies from America to Britain.

Their range was limited, as was the range of planes flying from America.

Consequently, there was an unprotected section of ocean known as the 'Black Gap' where U-boats could operate free from detection.

But in January 1941 this changed after hush-hush talks between de Valera and Sir John led to Sunderland and Catalina flying boats being permitted to fly from Lough Erne across the portion of the Free State, as the Republic was then known, between Belleek and Ballyshannon.

This meant the planes could extend their range by over 100 miles and cover a large portion of the 'Black Gap'.

The first official flight along the four-mile 'Donegal Corridor' took place on February 21, 1941.

A total of 320 men died in 41 missions involving Erne-based flying boats.

The plaques carry identical inscriptions commemorating airmen and seamen from America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and Ireland who flew along the corridor.

The Ballyshannon memorial was unveiled by local man Sean Slevin who recalled pulling bodies from wrecks at nearby Abbeylands and Tullan Strand when he was a wartime member of the LDF.

The Belleek plaque was unveiled by local man Frank Garvin who served in the RAF on Lancaster Bombers over Europe as a flight Serg.

 

 

 

"Voices Of The Donegal Corridor"

 

I have recently read the book " Voices Of The Donegal Corridor", written by historian Joe O' Loughlin, Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. it is a must read for those interested in Castle Archdale, or any of the squadrons who served there.

 

If you would like to order a copy of this fantastic book, simply click HERE

Or...

Order from Joe O'Loughlin

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Joe O'Loughlin and James Stewart
These 2 men have been a tremendous help in the creation of this website.
Joe is holding a copy of the official history of 201 Squadron published by the Squadrons historic branch.

DW110 of 228 Squadron, Coastal Command, which crashed into the Blue Stack Mountains in Donegal on 31st January 1944

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What we know about the events of 31st January 1944

DW110 had been on patrol over the French Coast and Bay of Biscay, possibly on a Submarine Hunt.

It left its base in Pembroke Dock, Wales on 31st January 1944.

On board were:

F/Lt Howard Charles Sheffield Armstrong DFC (listed as 1st Pilot) *

F/Lt Maurice Leonard Gillingham (Listed as 2nd Pilot) *

F/O Maurice Vincent Wareing (listed as 3rd Pilot but not on duty)*

F/O Joseph George Trull (listed as Navigator) (died in a later crash)

W/O John Bruce Richardson DFC (listed as Flight Engineer)

Sgt C.S. Hobbs (Listed as FME/AG)

Sgt Cyril Robinson Greenwood  (listed as WOP/Air)*

F/Sgt Frederick George Green RCAF (listed as Gunner) *

Sgt John Ernest Parsons  (listed as WOP/Air) *

Sgt Frederick Tom Copp (listed as Flight Engineer)*

Sgt James Kenneth Gilchrist (listed as Rear Gunner)

F/Sgt A. Gowens (listed as WOP/Air)

* died in the crash.

After 13 hours on patrol due to bad weather they were directed to the Donegal Corridor over Southern Ireland (which was a neutral country) with the intention of landing at another base in Ireland, Lough Erne.

Due to the bad weather, awful visibility and possible tiredness, plus the fact that these "boats" were not equiped with todays technology, they strayed off course and were according to Jim Gilchrist trying to get their bearings when they hit the side of the Blue Stack Mountains. The plane caught fire, Jim Gilchrist, was he thought thrown out of the aircraft and others managed to escape from it. They did what they could for the rest of the Crew, but it seems that those that did not survive the impact died instantly except Paddy Greenwood who died 12 hours later.  Jim and another crew member,Jim Gowens, waited till dawn and went for help. They found a small cottage where the McDermott Family lived, Joe McDermott then 16, took Sgt Gowens to the Gardia Station at Cloughan, a telephone call was put through to Letterkenny Gardia who in turn contacted the military at Rockhill. A party of soldiers and trucks then proceeded to the Blue Stacks.

From Sgt Fred Copps logbook it states that:

 The crew of DW110 (as a whole) had not been together for a long period.  Howard Armstrong took over Flt Lt Haseldine's crew on 1 Sep 1943.  This included F/O's Vince Wareing and Joe Trull, Sgt's Fred Copp, Jim Gilchrist, Cyril Greenwood, John Parsons and Flt Sgt 'Tubby' Richardson - these effectively formed the veterans of the team. 

While Fred, Jim and Cyril completed 20 missions together, Howard Armstrong was the skipper on 18 of these flights. Vince Wareing completed 14 of these missions whilst Flt Sgt Fred Green RCAF was on his first flight with this crew and Flt Lt Maurice Gillingham on his second. Flt Sgt Fred Green replaced Flt Sgt Henry Holdsworth who was hospitalised with a throat infection.

This is a quote from John Quinns book "Down in a Free State"

" Six Mile Climb in Sleet

The route taken by the soldiers was reported to be approximately 6 miles of a climb on foot in foul weather of sleet.  It was early afternoon before the 15 man party, which included stretcher bearers and a Medical Officer arrived at the crash scene.  They found the aircraft had been broken up, not only by the impact of the crash but also by a depth charge, which had exploded.  The plane was still on fire and unexploded bombs and depth charges lay near the impact.

The survivors were dragged from the wreckage. The bodies of the two pilots, Flight Lieutenant Armstrong and Flight Lieutenant Gillingham, were still in the cockpit and these along with the other five fatalities were removed from the wreckage.  The injured men were taken by ambulance later that afternoon of the 1st February and handed over at Belleck at 18.00 hours to Wing Commander Costello RAF.

Four of the seven dead were taken down with the three badly injured survivors; leaving three more to be removed the following day.  On that night in the most awful weather conditions, two local men from the Croagh Valley, above which the aircraft crashed Jimmy Pete McLoone and Paraic Owen McLoone spent the night on the mountain beside the wreck of the ill fated aircraft "waking" the dead who still remained there.  They prayed, recited the rosary, smoked their pipes and chatted till daybreak, thereby ensuring, as is the custom in the area, that the dead would not be left alone.  These bodies were brought down the following morning 2nd February 1944.  The seven bodies were laid out ** at the McDermott cottage before being removed by ambulance, firstly to Finner Camp, were the formality of registering the death within the state took place and then to Belleck for the hand over ceremony.  In the usual manner, a military colour party under Commandant Morris passed the bodies to the RAF under Flight Lieutenant Quail.

Meanwhile on Mullaghnadress a number of depth charges and bombs were destroyed by Captain Gradie of the Ordanance Corp, based at Athlone.  One local man, one of many being kept back by Military guard, watched as the tail of the aircraft, which stood erect, was also blown up by a small charge.  The aircraft armament was dismantled and the Brownings handed ober to Commandant Morris by Capatain Teague of the AIr Corp and later returned to the RAF by Captain Moore.

About ten nights after the crash, a group of card players returning home saw flares shooting up from the direction of thecrash site.  Upon investigation they found a couple of young lads firing Verey lights with a substitute they had improvised in place of the normal pistol The young buckos were quickly sent packing from the site."

 ** the term "laid out"  means that the bodies were washed and prepared for burial - there was often a person, usually an older woman, in the Village who was called on at this time to do this duty. My grandma used to do this duty in our neighbourhood - she used to get paid 6 pence for her services.

The MOD Court of Enquiry report states the aircraft was it appears in good condition and the crash was not due to mechanical failure. However, a recommendation was made that safety height for aircraft around the northern portion of the island is 3,700 feet

Some of the deceased were taken over the border to Northen Ireland, where several of them were repatriated to their homelands. Those that were not able to be sent back home were buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Cemetary, where their graves are tended today by the good folk of the area. Gowens and Gilchrist were treated at the RAF Hospital in Irvinestown and Trull and Richardson who all suffered more serious injuries, in a nearby US Army Hospital. The survivors with the exception of Hobbs, went on to other Missions - serving with distinction, Trull was however killed on a Mission in another Sunderland in December 1944.

In 1988 a memorial plaque was unvieled at the site by Jim Gilchrist, who had finished his service in the RAF as a Squadron Leader. The site is now tended by the Blue Stack Mountain Ramblers and is a very special place for them and the people of the Fernagh Valley

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The original memorial on the rocks
 
 
 

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Flight Lieutenant Armstrong DFC
 
Flight Lieutenant Howard Charles Sheffield Armstrong DFC killed in action, was born in 1919 in Tonbridge. His home was at Chislehurst Kent. Educated at Repton School, he entered the RAF as a pupil in 1939 and was commissioned the same year. He received the DFC in December, 1943, in recognition of his fine operational record of a captain of aircraft with No. 228 Squadron. While on an anti-submarine patrol in the Bay of Biscay in the previous September he sighted two dinghies, containing survivors of an aircraft. He reported to his base, and, obtaining the necessary permission, landed successfully on the open sea and rescued 12 survivors. The occupants of the dinghies had tried to deter him from landing as there was a 30ft swell, but in spite of this he suceeded in taking off without incident. The whole operation was only made possible by his admirable coolness and skill.

Flight Lieutenant Howard Charles Sheffield Armstrong was the son of Charles Sheffied Armstrong and Catherine Myfanwy Armstrong of Carlisle - he is buried in Dalston Rd Cemetery Carlisle.

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Grave site of Flight Lieutenant Armstrong DFC
 
 
 
 
 

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F/Lt Maurice Leonard "Peter" Gillingham
Peter and his parents - 1941
Service number 104369
Son of Frederick Morris Gillingham and Florence Matilda Gillingham of Surbiton Surrey.
Maurice Gillingham's father was born Frederick Morris Guggenheim, he changed his name by Deed Poll in June 1920 to Gillingham.

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Maurice Leonard (Peter) Gillingham Pre RAF.

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Left to Right: Flgt Sgt Copp, Flgt Sgt Green RCAF, Flt Lt Gillingham
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sgt (W.Op/AG) Cyril Robinson Greenwood
Service number: 1129218

Died on 1.2.1944  he died from his injuries approximately 12 hours after the crash, he was 21.  He was known to his family as Pat and to his crew mates as "Paddy" 

Son of Frederick Robinson Greenwood and Winifred Greenwood of Irlams-O'-th-Height Salford. His brother was serving in the Army in the Burma Campaign at the time and he wanted to transfer to be together.  His brother survived the war.

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Buried at Pendlebury St John Churchyard Salford, this headstone was erected on Easter Sunday 1950.

 

 

 

 

 

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Flight Sgt Frederick George Green RCAF

Fred Green trained as a Wireless Operator and Air Gunner in the Bahama's and Quebec with the RCAF before going to the UK to join up with the RAF, he wanted to be a pilot but due to his age (33) he was not able to be considered. This was his first flight with the "Armstrong Crew", he replaced Flgt Sgt Henry Holdsworth who was hospitalised with a throat infection.

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Flight Sgt Frederick George Green RCAF

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Grave of Fl/Sgt FG Green
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Flght Sgt (W.Op Air) John Ernest Parsons
Service number 1315937
Son of Ernest and Ethel Parsons, husband of Peggy Doreen Mary Parsons of Keynsham.
Gravestone in Keynsham Cemetry

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F/O  Maurice Vincent Wareing
 
 

Vince as he was known to the family or Vic in the RAF was born in July of 1916, he was the third son of Jane Ellen and Charles Arthur Wareing.  His brothers Charles and Bernard due to ill health did not serve and his other Robert was taken Prisoner after his aircraft was shot down over France. Prior to his enlisting he owned a Garage in Erdington, in 1939 he married Joyce Robertson and had a daughter, Theresa, who was born in 1940.

He went to the USA for flight training at the Naval Air Station Grosseile (?sp) Michigan in 1941 - went via ship to Canada then flew from Toronto. He was involved in the rescue of the downed crew for which  F/Lt Armstrong got his DFC.

Vince is buried with his two brothers Charles and Robert at Erdington Abbey, Birmingham.

 

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Erdington Abbey, Birmingham
 
 
 
Vince joined the RAF at the outbreak of War, he had been in the Air Training Corp at St Philips Grammar School . According to the accident report he had done just over 530 hours flying time in Sunderlands but only 9 hours Night flying, which would perhaps account for the fact that Armstrong and Gillingham who had greater night time hours were in control of the "boat" at the time of the crash.

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Sgt (Flght Engineer) Frederick Tom Copp
Service number 614970
Died 31.1.1944 aged 24
Son of George and Rose Ellen Copp of Starcross Devon.
Buried at Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard.
 
 
 
Fred was born on 26 Sept 1919 in a village near Exeter in Devon.  He was one of eleven children and the second youngest of eight brothers.  On leaving school he trained as a carpenter and after finishing his apprenticeship in June 1938 he enlisted into the RAF on 5 July 1938 to train as an Aircraft Rigger - this involved the repair and maintenance of aircraft structures. 

On completion of 'Rigger' training he was posted to 204 (Flying Boat) Squadron at RAF Mountbatten in Plymouth, Devon, where he worked on the Mk I Sunderland Flying Boats. He initially flew with 204 Sqn from 1 Oct 1939 to 1 Jan 1940 - as an AC I Rigger/ Air Gunner.  Promoted to Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) in March 1940 he moved with 204 Sqn to Sullom Voe in April and in May was temporarily promoted to Sergeant as an Airgunner.  Subsequently reverting to groundcrew duties in Aug 1940 he re-mustered to 'Fitter IIA' and spent sometime on 86 Maintenance Unit where he was promoted to Corporal.  Re-mustering to Flight Engineer in August 1942,  Fred completed part of his formal aircrew training at 4(C)OTU - along with Jim Gilchrist - and on 17 July 1943 joined 228 Sqn at Pembroke Dock as a 'Flight Engineer'. 

Fred flew a number of convoy-escort and U-boat search missions with 204 Sqn and with Sgt Jim Gilchrist and Sgt Cyril Robson Greenwood completed 20 missions with 228 Sqn.  This included the rescue of the downed RCAF crew on 9 Sep 1943 for which F/Lt HC Armstrong was awarded the DFC.  F/O MV Wareing, F/O J Trull, Sgt J Parsons and F/Sgt J Richardson also took part in this event.   Fred's papers show that he was promoted to F/Sgt on 31 Jan 1944 - but this is not recorded on his head stone.

For his service Fred was awarded the 1939-45 Star, The Atlantic Star, 1939-45 Defence medal and the 1939-45 War Medal.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Flt Sgt Fred Copp Back row Centre at OTU

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Actual photographs from the funeral of the crew of DW110

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DW110-Part of the tail section.

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In terms of flying time DW110 was about half an hour away from Archdale when she crashed after this peak. She was home and dry - a few feet was the difference between life and death.
Another view of the tail section - roots for the tail plane and rudder sections can be seen and the hull lines made out , this looks "towards" the rear turret which would be just beyond this section.

 
 
 
 
 
 
THE CREW OF SUNDERLAND W3977 OF 201 SQUADRON
CASTLE ARCHDALE WHICH WENT DOWN 10 MILES
OFF THE WEST COAST OF DONEGAL.
5th FEBRUARY 1942 NO SURVIVORS
 
This aircraft came down offshore and only
wreckage was found. Had been flying a patrol
from Lough Erne. None of the crew were recovered
 
CREW MEMBERS KILLED
 
 
 
RANK                 NAME                           SERV.No.             AGE                         SERVICE   
Flt.Lt    Francis Wilfred Smith                  41214                    25                              RAF
P/O          John Percival Bartlett             64304               unknown                        RAF
F/Lt        Rodney Wybern Smith               402409                  23                              RAAF  
F/O                Henry Kitchin                     60778                    26                              RAF 
F/Sgt             Norman Clare                    644121                  20                               RAF 
F/Sgt      Harold Stanislaus Mason        580829                  21                               RAF 
F/Sgt             Hugh Jones                      517519                  26                                RAF 
Sgt            Keneth Charles Nutt             553975                  19                               RAF 
Sgt   Gordon Walter Eric Jacobson      554466              unknown                         RAF 
A/C1           Eric Hopkinson                  1120533
          
   20                                RAF

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ORB for 201 squadron Entry for W3977 Feb 5, 1942

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Letter from R.A.A.F. Defence to the father of Pilot Officer Rodney Smith

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Application for a death certificate for F/O R W Smith who was aboard W3977

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Letter from Casuality Section concerning F/O R W Smith

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Letter from the Australian Prisoners of War Relatives Association concerning F/O Smith 402409, Royal Australian Air Force
Son of Vivian Wyben Smith and Meta Victoria Smith, of Binnaway, New South Wales, Australia.

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Letter to father of RODNEY WYBEN SMITH informing of presumed death.

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Letter from headquarters, No. 15 group RAF.

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Cypher message

 
 
 
 
 
 
14th March 1945.
Sunderland ML743 of 201 Squadron Struck Mountain near Killybegs, Co. Donegal:
 
F/Lt. James George Robinson, RAF. F/Sgt. Frederick Nicholas George Ford, RAF. F/O. Edward Norman Cave, RAF. F/Sgt. Norman Davison, RAF. F/Sgt. Stanley Bernard Frith, RAF. F/Lt. Denis Ralph Hatton, RAF. F/Lt. Vivian Howkins, RAF. F/Sgt. George Reginald Kennedy, RAF. Sgt. James McAvoy, RAF. F/Sgt. David John Thomas Twist. RAF. F/Lt. John Percival Garrard. RAAF.. P/O. Robert Douglas Albert Becker, RCAF
 
Some documents concerning the accident

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Telegram to the wife of F/L John Percival Garrard.

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Cypher Message concerning F/L JP Garrard.

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Lettergram to the wife of F/L JP Garrard.

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Letter dated May 17 1948 to Mrs. E. Garrard concerning interment details.

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Interment details for F/L J.P. Garrard

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List of personal items of F/L J.P. Garrard, signed for by wife.

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202 Crew:
 
Catalina JX242 returned from operations and was in the circuit to land when she hit on the high ground which runs along the south shore of the Lough crashing close to Lough Alaban.

It was the next day before a surviving member of the crew managed to walk out down the hillside to the main road and summon help.

Mr Joe O'Loughlin of Belleek has errected a memorial stone to the crew at the view point on Magho which affords a panoramic view over the Lower Lough , Donegal and the "Corridor" down which the aircraft flew on their way out to the Atlantic.

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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