Some war time views of Castle Archdale.

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by James S, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Some wartime views of the Coastal Command base situated at Castle Archdale on Lower Lough Erne.
    The base openned in Feb. 1941 and underwent constant development until the end of the war in May 1945.
    Forever linked to the sinking of the Bismarck much of the important work ,(that which reflected totally the motto of Coastal Command) carried out by so many crews lives in the shadow of "Rhine Exercise".

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    The entrance to the base , seen in 1943.

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    The same view taken last year. (2007).

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    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.

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    The same view , again taken last year - the house disappeared in the mid 1970's.

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

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    As it is today.

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    The maintance apron seen in 1942 .

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    The same view taken three years ago from the Duxford based Catalina, I was lucky enough to get a flight in her over the Lough , out over Donegal Bay and back, amazing , one which will stay with me.

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    A 423 RCAF Sunderland on the slipway .

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    The same view today , seen in 2007.

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    A Sunderland in the evening.

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    As close to the same view as I could make it , 2006.

    My dog knows the site almost better than I do , from now on it is a good place to get some time out.
     
    RJL, deadb_tch, dbf and 2 others like this.
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Great stuff James,
    And the first 'then & now' we've had taken from an aeroplane I believe.
     
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    James,

    A really good post. Coastal Command played such a big role in WW2 and received less publicity than its more glamerous relations.

    Tom
     
  4. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Thanks for posting James, some really good then and now pics.
     
  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Thanks gents , I will put on a few more this evening - I spent quite a bit of time ( pre internet ;)) gathering info on the bases in Fermanagh and although not as active would still retain interest in things.
    Whatever I colated I was happy to share with others - history is not a "for my eyes only" issue - it is a collective responsibility .

    Coastal I agree is very much a forgotten force which in terms of service was second to none.

    I believe that many of the youngsters who operated within in represented the very best that their generation had to offer and likewise the lads of Bomber Command , who whilst they had an unpleasant job to do contributed greatly to the dislocation of industry and the defeat of Germany.

    I really cannot express what a unique body of men they were , in common with all who fought on , over and under the Altantic - the chances of survival were really very slight if you ended up in the water.
     
  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    A funeral at the Catholic Cemetery , the scene behind has changed in that the old workhouse is gone and an hopusing estate now looks over the wall.

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    A funeral party at the extended Commenwealth Plot at the rear of the Church of Ireland church Irvinestown.

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    Today the scene has changed very little.
     
  7. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    The funeral of the crew from the 201 squadron Sunderland which crashed on Mount Brandon in August 1943.

    The late Mr. Jim Wright told me how he watched this aircraft simply "disappear from my radar screen" , both aircraft were bound for the Bay of Biscay.
     
  8. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Some more photos from the funeral of the 201 Squadron crew.

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    The plot at the back of the Church ,
    Fl/lt Nesbitt's crew of 423 Squadron crew , lost in Feb. 1945 when they crashed at Knocjknagor bog NW of Irvinestown.
    This crew had damaaged U-921 off Norway in May 1945,


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    Owen likes this.
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    These are brillaint, I've not looked at this thread until now.
    Excellent then & nows.
     
  10. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    If it is of interest Owen I will post on a few more , I have a few of another funeral in Irvinestown and of some of the aircrew buried there.
    If it is of interst soem photos of the base / aircraft moored at it at various times.

    js

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    A 240 Squadron catalina in 1941 .

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    The 422 RCAF Sunderland which sank U-625 West of Ireland in March 1944.#
    This was one of a series of photos taken by an official photographer the day after the sinking.

    Again , compare the skyline...

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    The WW2 photo was taken out on the edge of the flarepath - the flight pathof the Sunderland gave the photographer maxium time to capture her approaching and going past.
    This is a great study of ther airfrat in flight , on the water they look almost akward more baot than plane but in the air she came into her own.
    A beautiful aircaft , graceful , strong and reliable , those who flew them would have no other.
    If the Sunderland had a weak point it was her engines the "Pegs." , they were underpoerwed in terms of getting her off the water, she needed every inch of water to get off when fully loaded and an engine failure on take off was a serious problem three engines would never get you off.

    The men I spoke with said that the cylinders would be "red hot" , the throttles right up on "the stops" pushed and held there , and every ounce of power was concentrated on getting them up on to the step and into the air.

    A calm loght like that shown didn't help the aircraft just didn't become "unstuck" - a motor boat would be used to make waves for them to get off.

    Like wise on landing a glass surface was dangerous , the pilot couls simply not judge where the sky ended and the water began , in May 1941 a catalina ploughed into the Lough on returning from pos early on the morning on 7th May - the pilot had made his approach and turned on his landing lights , unforntnautely in the early morning dawn and over a calm surface they approach was misjudged and the aircraft crashed , she remains in the Lough as a war grave.
    In June 1943 a 201 Sunderland had a similar problem . the pilot under instruction misjudged his approach and crashed , again on a calm brillantly Sunny Sunday morning.

    In April 43 a 131 catalina - again similar to the May 41 crash , an instructor ( F/lt.Brarclough) having been taken up by Eddy Edards for a few flights round , some "circuits and bumps" was allowed to make his fiorst landing on the Lough.
    From the Pinnace boat Eddy saw him crash the aircraft into the lough , he just got his approach wrong , she sank to the level of the "mainplane"
    Eddy spent the night towing the partly submerged aircraft back to Killadeas , best to say that he was not best pleased.
    Eddy was one of the most remarkable men I ever met - a unique man .
     
  11. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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

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    and today,

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    As close as I could make it.

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    Above the T sheds and nose hangers at Castle Archdale.
     
  12. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Don "Red" Macfie , Ron Blades and a friend having a pint outside Gallagher's in Irvineston circa 1943.

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    and the same scene yesterday.

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    Don kept a detailed diary of his time at Oban and at Castle Archdale , I am grateful to him for allowing me to make a copy of it - it presents a quite unique insight into the relationship the crew had with each other and the day to day life of an NCO working up his hours.
    He tells it warts and all , from hating the place declaring it to be "a hole" , he came to love it .

    "Red" was a member of "Cook's Crew" .
    And just across the road.......

    Terry Reevs and Joe Kilgour from the same crew wait for Reihills to open taken 8 years ago , sadly Joe has since passed away Terry ( wear glasses) was back again earlier this year.

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    The pub as it was in 1943 through the lens of Art Mountfords camera , Art survived being shot down by U-489 SE of Iceland , although only just.

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    Don Macfie was a regular there as well as in Ma Bothwells next door steak and eggs could be had for a few shillings , a favorite "eating house" for aircrew.

    Don and Terry always volunteered for "boat guard" - an armed guard was kept on each boat at night - the volunteers drew "flying rations" - a good feed in other words .
    A night on board thier own aircraft with all the comnforts of home beat staying in a cold damp rat infested nissan hut - tis was the reality of a wartime base and how men made the best of it.
     
    dbf likes this.
  13. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The scene outside Irvinestown Church of Ireland as the funeral cortege arrives.

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    and sadly yesterday the scene of another funeral.

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    I have to admit for post 100 I am very pleased to place before you a scene which has changed so little in 65 years yet I sad for Maureen who lost her father and for men like Harry Forrset who came back to see the grave of his friend (Pickford who is being carried to his grave in this photograph) - it is possible for time to stand still .
    Harry was on Bert Russell's crew when they sank U-610 in October 43.

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    Mrs Maureen Ingram along with her son Steve at the grave of her father Sgt Guy Wilkinson who was killed on 22/8/43 on Mount Brandon.
     
  14. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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

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    A view from the air today not quite the ideal angle .
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Great Pics James.

    Like others have said I love the 'then and now' pics.

    Admin maybe a thread just for those pics :)
     
  16. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    An unknown OTU crew from 131 at Killadeas , the detail of their flying kit and Mae Wests is well illustrated.

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    A Catalina from 240 Squadron on detachment to Iceland this photo dates from the mid May 1941 - time of the Bismarckand Priz Eugens sortie into the Atlantic.

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    Sunderlands on the maintance apron. the radar on the back and sides of the aircraft stand out well .
    This photo would be dated after September 1944 , probably dates from Spring 45 , the aircraft in from of this Sunderland is a 202 Squadron Catalina.

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    Mr. Roy Pinder from 423 RCAF .
    Roy sent me these following his being on Kermet Weeks Sunderland - this aircraft served at CA with 422 RCAF.
    Sadly Roy passed away two years ago , one of life's gentlemen.

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    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.

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    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.
     
  17. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    Two Castle Archdale aircraft phoptographed over Biscay.

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    On the "step" and ready to "get off".

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    A report on the lucky rescue of a 422 RCAF crew ( De La paulle's) who had a reduction gear failure and were forced to ditch in Biscay.
    A 228 Squadron Sunderland located them a few days later and landed to pick them up.
    A rare occasion on which an aircraft landed and got off again - such actions were discouraged and were very laden with risk.

    The 228 Squadron crew which picked them up would crash on the Bluestacks six months later whilst trying to get into Lough Erne in bad weather.
     
  18. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    Murray Wettlaufer.
    Murray was 2nd pilot in Al Bishops crew when they sank U-489 SE of Iceland on 4th August 1943 - Murray was seriously injured but was lucky enough to survive.
    The survivors from the Sunderland found themselves in the water yards from the germans who got off their stricken boat in good order, they made no move to help the Canadain crew.
    Both sets of survivors were picked upo by the navy - it was only whilst medical care was being given that it was realised that aircrew had been picked up.

    Murray made his exist from the Sunderland via the cockpit "windscreen".
    he gave me this account.
    From Murray Wettlaufer.
    "Early on the morning of 4th August 1943, I was flying as second pilot with F/O Al. Bishop and a crew of ten on a anti-submarine patrol from our base at castle Archdale to Reykjavik , Iceland. About 200miles south of Iceland , we spotted a sub on the surface. The alarm was sounded , a first sighting report was dispatched , and we prepared to attack.
    As we circled to approach from the rear , the sub turned in circles to keep his guns to bear on us. We found out that this was a mother ship which supplied other submarines with fuel , food and torpedoes, etc and that the armament cocsisted of a 4.7 in gun, four 20mm cannons and numerous machine guns. Our method was to attack from 50ft. using evasive action on the way in but the last part of our run had to be straight and level. The pilot dropped the depth charges which could be selectedin a string of eight or seperated into a stick of six saving two for later. We decided to attack and on the way in, all hell broke loose. Several hits were made in our aircraft and I distinctly remember the jagged holes in the metal floor under my feety and all the guages spinning around and round. Our controls were shot away but Al. Bishop was able to drop our depth charges after which we staggered on and crashed into the sea. I was thrown through the perspex windhield and found myself swimming to avoid burning oil and gasolene on the water. We made direct hits on the submarine which was severely damaged. The German crew, abandoned ship into rubber rafts some 100yds from us. We had some anxious moments because we were swimming in the water aided only by our Mae Wests but they paid little attention to us. The submarine heeled up with its stern high in the air and we saw it slip out of sight to its grave. As it disappeared, a severe explosion was felt which was probably was one of our depth charges. The german crew were heard to shout Seig heil , seig heil". About 45 minutes later, a British town class destroyer, the "Castletown" , launched a whaler and picked up 60 Germans before thy saw us. I was put in the bottom of the boat, rowed to the ship , and lifted high in the air by a crane and deposited on the deck. They took me to a Lieutenant's cabin where I was given emergency treatment for my wounds and for the shock of being in that cold, cold water. Five of the crew were killed but only one body was recovered. The next day we arrived in Iceland where I was taken to the local military hospital where I spent my 21st birthday. After a week I was flwon to England and hospitalized near London. After eight months of hospital and rehabilation , I returned to Castle Archdale and operations."
    Murray Wettlaufer.
    ( Murray made reference to member of the crew of the UBoat being made up of members of the D.A.K. - I take it that some of the crew were wearing overseas / tropical uniform at the time and this is what he took for DAK uniform).

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    Their crew.

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    Another view of Sunderlands in the maintance area.
     
  19. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    These are mostly to do with 423 RCAF taken between 1943-45.

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    A 423 Sunderland about to get up "on the step" on the run down the Lough - the throttles would be full up to the stops , holding nothing back as every ounce of power that could be produced was needed to get "unstuck".
    A huge aircraft but I have a huge affection for her. :)

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    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 building of the base and its development produced many jobs for local building firms and contractors , when you stand on the apron today you can easuily see the sections it was laid in and the levelling marks , the hardcore itself to support the concrete must have been a job in itself.


    This came from Murray Wettlaufer , he was Al bishops second pilot when they sank U-489 - Murray came back to do s capytains course and to take on his own crew.

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    This is a "wing tip to wingtip" view.
    I will have to look out the 44-45 sections of the Squadron ORB and will add the aircraft's number tomorrow.

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    More views of Murray's crew on their aircraft this last one taken looking aft, a huge whale of an aircraft when on the water , a beautiful aircraft and although underpowered she was much loved by her crews - they would not have exchanged her for any other.

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    Murray's crew , unfortunately he did not name his photo so it will not be possibleto get all the names right.

    Will add these as best I can tomorrow.
     
  20. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

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    Perhaps the most fortunate of crews ever to fly from Castle Archdale - Washington's crew from 423.
    these lads had the mother of all lottery wins when it came to escapes.

    In one of the final patrols from the base they were tasked to patrol the Irish sea seacrhing for U-Boats yet to surrender.

    In bad weather they tore the hull out of their airvraft on a peak in the Mourne Mountains in County Dwon , now this was not just a bump they tor the hull apart lost floats and God alone knows why they were not all killed .
    The pilot knew he was on borrowed time , a crippled aircraft haemorraging fuel , hull torn to bits surfaces damaged control just about possible in the distance they saw the Isle of Man - landing on water was out so they headed for the Island in the hope of being able to put down.
    This they did attempting a once only approach to land on the gras adjacent to the runway on Jurby.
    Well they got down but on the concrete , they got out ....just ...before the charges and fuel exploded .
    They didn't leave a window intact within five miles , hangers were damaged , control tower windowless and station Co not a happy camper.
    No one was killed but lucky was on their side each man used up "8" of his "9 lives" that day.

    I will add a bit more detail tomorrow , 423's Co flew to Jurby to see the crew and to "make peace" with Jurby's CO , whom be knew.

    In Sunderland circles their "landing" is legendery.

    Names will be added to the photo tomorrow , have again stuff to look out .

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    Back row. - Milligan McKinley, Kilgour, Irving, Reeves, Macfie, Blades.
    Front row. - Snelus , Rolls, Cook, Rosenthal , Richie.

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    Taken in the early 1990's Terry reeves and Don Macfie on the flight deck of Kermit Weeks Sunderland (ML814) - the last airworthy example of her kind - they both had her in their logbooks - this assurred them of a look inside - as you can see from the smiles .

    Fantasy of Flight's Short Sunderland

    Cook's crew - for me the "Golden Boys" of 423 - they never sank anything but from the diray of their W.Op /A.G. Don Macfie I feel i know everyone of them.
    In post war years I was privileged to meet Terry Reeves and Joe Kilgour - sadly Joe Kilgour died a few years ago .

    Don's Diary describes what he did and saw on a day by day basis - life on the base , in the crew , leave - where they went what he thought of situations , the base , squadron , live in general .
    It provides a window on the past which you so rarely find - it is a truely historical document , it is life as it was for the average airman , warts and all.
    For me it was a delight to be offerred it to read and to copy - the bread and butter of history - sorry for being a little OTT but this is what it is all about , next best thing to being there.

    The crew themselves - they work for and with each other , respecting , making allowances for folks they knew - a tightly knit and loyal group of men.

    Snelus is an interesting man - he did a tour with 240 Squadron and was one of the first into Archdale in February 41 - he did another tour with 423 staying there until late 43.
    Also in at the start Jock Sumner who was a F/lt with 240 Squadron - he came back to CA to be a Squadron leader and eventual Commander of 422.

    A war photographer did a flight with Cook's crew in August 43 - anyone with Sunderland at war can see a series of photos taken on a trip of theirs.

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    Sadly the 422 Sunderland which crashed at Troy just to the north of Enniskillen in February 1944.
    She was on a fighter affiliation exercise with a 235 Squadron beaufighter and they were right down on the deck just above tree top height , lower than should have been.
    The Sunderland dropped down to try and pick up some airspeed and in doing so struck a telephone line , she bank slightly to climb over a small hill and in doing so stalled , she hit the ground , cut across a lane way and ploughed across a field , two members of the crew were killed and several were injured.

    The pilot was tried by GCM and was reduced in rank , I feel sory for him as low flying probably happened all the time , unfortunately this time it went wrong.

    I will add aircraft and casualty details tomorrow.

    235 had aircraft on detachment to St. Angelo to counter Luftwaffe aiorcraft operating of the West Coast of Ireland , F/lt Wright ( a beflast man) shot down a JU-290 on one flight , the 235 Squadron a/c encountered several Do's and 290's - Wright's kill was the only one achieved.
    ( Will add details tomorrow).
     
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