201 sqn sunderland w3977 crash documents

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by skyhawk, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. skyhawk

    skyhawk Senior Member

    Im sure most of you are familiar with this accident. I recently came across the following paperwork relating to one of the crew, a F/O R W Smith. It includes letters to and from his family and really brings home the personal tragedy.
    On Friday 6th February 1942 Sunderland W3977 of 201 Squadron Castle Archdale went down ten miles of the west coast of Donegal. There were no survivors. The crew; Fl. Lt. Smith, P/O Barlett, P/O Smith, F/O Kitchen, Fl. Serg. Mason, Fl. Serg. Clare, Serg. Jones, Serg. Nutt, Serg. Jacobson and Aircraftsman Hopkinson
    This aircraft came down offshore and only
    wreckage was found. Had been flying a patrol
    from Lough Erne. Irish Military observed
    the incident it appears, 15 Group signal dated March
    record 'Eire' authorities as having reported the only reliable information relating to the loss of an aircraft.
    None of the crew were recovered, all are remembered
    on the Runnymede Memorial.
     

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  2. skyhawk

    skyhawk Senior Member

    A few more.
     

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    James S likes this.
  3. skyhawk

    skyhawk Senior Member

    Last one.
     

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  4. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    That is good stuff :)
    A few years ago his son called with me , referred via Breege McCusker - unfortunately I could not add anything to what he already knew - the aircraft has been returning and had crashed into Donegal bay - the irish LOP's reported quite a bit of searching in the day following the crash but apart from some wreckage beign washed ashore none of the crew were recovered and all are still listed as being "missing".

    Unable to find what I was looking for will get it on tomorrow or Sat. at the latest.

    [​IMG]

    I should have a copy of the pilots logbook entery / the last entery signed by his F/lt. will post later.

    From memory "Strike" was standby if a crew was needed it was you , a "ladder" system was used everyuone got their turn at it.

    They were just about to enter Donegal Bay when they went missing , as a part of the world it is really beautiful even when its "angry" .
     

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  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Logbook enteries from one of the pilots (F/lt Smith) , the last entry from the Flight Commander would have been in red ink.

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    The formation flight mentioned , this is a photo taken of the aircraft about to fly over the roof of Castle Archdale , the taking of the photograph is mentioned in 201 ORB.

    The same names come through again , Sgt Layne , later promoted - he attacked and damaged U-518 in June 43 , Raban , Spink and always someone will have met them or one of their crew - it was a small and close brotherhood.
     
  6. Louise Mason

    Louise Mason New Member

    My uncle was Harold Mason he was on board the plane w3977 as an observer. I have found out using the internet that on the day of 5/2/1942 the convoy ON-63 were attacked and the HMS Arbutus was attacked around 10:36 pm and sunk 340 miles west-northwest of Erris Head, Ireland. The W3977 was in radio contact 10:50 pm and gave ETA of midnight.
    Convoy ON-63 - Convoy Battles - German U-boat Operations - uboat.net
    The plane was heard around 2am on 6/2/1942 by Irish lookouts and an explosion was seen in the distance soon after.
    I do wonder if W3977 flew back to the position of HMS Arbutus' attack to see if it could help or search for U-boats. The convoy had been attacked by U-Boat Wolfpack Schlei:
    Wolfpack Schlei - Wolfpacks - German U-boat Operations - uboat.net
    The link is quite an interesting site because it has a map with details of the position and dates of u-boats.

    I also found some information about the Enigma codes and problems decoding them around February 1942:
    U-boat - Wikipedia

    "This was demonstrated when the Naval Enigma machines were altered in February 1942 and wolf-pack effectiveness greatly increased until the new code was broken."

    Harold was only 21 and was greatly missed by my father who was 15 at the time. His mother never really came to terms with his death as he was officially missing - she lived in hope that he was a POW. I think they thought he was lost in the North Sea instead of on the West side of Ireland. Apparently the Donegal Corridor was a big secret even after the war.
    I found a photo of my uncle on this website, my father only had a colour tinted and rather blurry photo of his brother:
    Shorts Sunderland W3977, off Donegal, February 1942

    If anyone has any further information, I'm very happy to hear from them.
    Regards from Australia,
    Louise
     
  7. Louise Mason

    Louise Mason New Member

    Hi if this thread is still active I like to get in contact with relatives of F/O R W Smith as I understand that he was an Australian, My Uncle Harold Mason was English as was my father who came to live in Australia after meeting my mother.
    Regards,
    Louise
     
  8. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    I have contacts with the Smith family I beleive, I will pass on your details.
     
  9. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Hi, well, it's over 10 years since this thread was active, so some people may no longer be responding.
    But we have an active Australian member, spidge, who has dedicated time and effort recording as many Australians in the RAF as he can find.

    As regards
    SMITH, RODNEY WYBEN. Flying Officer. Service Number 402409. Died 06/02/1942. Aged 23
    Royal Australian Air Force
    Son of Vivian Wyben Smith and Meta Victoria Smith, of "Ulindah", Binnaway, New South Wales, Australia and also Mrs Gordon-Craig, "The Cabin" Palm Beach, Sydney, NSW.

    you will be able to access his Personnel Records on your National Archives of Australia website, and his file has been digitised so you can readily access it for details. Unfortunately, it has no information regarding the loss of the Sunderland. He was 6ft 2 inches tall, a pastoralist (?) and had only been posted to 201 Squadron on 7th January 1942.

    Others may be able to provide better details.
     
    Louise Mason likes this.
  10. Louise Mason

    Louise Mason New Member

    Thank You
     
  11. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    I feel that I have exhausted most available resources on this incident and presented them on my webpage presented above. I did mention to Louise via email that an AIR81 file should be available next year but by the nature of the aircrafts loss, at sea, without nearby witnesses, there is little else sadly to be learned. Perhaps the AIR81 might have more. The one useful page from R W Smiths files is presented on the webpage.

    ww2irishaviation.com/w3977.htm
     
    KevinBattle likes this.

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