main banner

Consolidated Catalina II, Leitrim, March 1941

On the 21st March, 1941, seven airmen of the Royal Air Force and one from the Royal Canadian Air Force took off on their very first patrol mission from their new base on Lough Erne.  They had arrived on the Lough only the day before but sadly would never return to its waters.  Their new Consolidated Catalina Flying boat crashed into a hill side in the Kinlough Valley in Leitrim killing all eight.
.
AM265 map

Extensive reports by a number of Irish Army officers provide back ground to what Irish Authorities found at that crash site on that morning.

"The aircraft had apparently hit a bank at the base of a very steep hill.  After bouncing off this bank it had come to rest facing the direction from which it had come.  The engines were buried in the ground about 15 feet from the fuselage.  The visibility there on the morning of the crash was very bad, the mountains on the borders of Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal being covered with heavy fog."

Of the eight men killed, Whitworth, Davidson, Chalk, Dunbar, Oldfield and  Slack were all buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyeard while Harry Newbury was buried in the nearby Irvinestown Roman Catholic cemetery.

Only Harold Seward's remains were returned to his family for burial in Apuldram, outside Chichester, Sussex.
The local Irish registrar was able to record the deaths of Whitworth, Slack, Newbury and Seward, with the remaining four men entered on the death register as 'unidentified' airmen of the RAF.

The Squadron operations Record Book is rather sparse in names for the months prior to the crash.  Operational missions are recorded with only the two pilots names.  On the 13th February 1941, it is noted in the ORB that P/O Harding and F.Lt T A W Edwards proceeded with eleven airmen to Lough Erne to establish an advanced based.  The first of the Stranraers from 240 Squadron proceeded there on the 20th February and flights were carried out on the 24th February searching for mooring sites.  Beginning in March there is mention of the appearance of Catalina's at the squadron, with 15th March being the first observed mention of the ill fated AM265. On that date, its compass was swung in Stranraer.

The names of non commissioned aircrew are rarely mentioned within the ORB unless they were unfortunate enough to be lost on a mission.

On the 20th March W/Cmd Watt and P/O Seward, F/O's Louw and Whitworth, and P/O Davidson proceeded to Lough Erne.  It is not clearly stated but this would seem to be inferring that three crews flew their aircraft to the new base in Northern Ireland.

The following day of course would see Seward, Whitworth and Davidson board AM265 with another two crews on two more Catalina's.  Only two of these would return from that mission, and one of those had to land at RAF Bowmore.

The early RAF Form 765 filed for this crash and now found in the AIR81 casualty pack only states that there was poor weather at the time of the crash.

The location of the crash site is marked with a memorial plaque raised by the Lough Erne Aviation Museum in 1988.  That organization no longer exists it seems but at the time of writing in 2020, a number of individuals continue to maintain the memorial.

The crash site is found not at the base of the large cliffs but on a piece of rising ground just at their base and not to far distant from a distinctive outcrop of rock.  This location places it within the townland of Cleighragh which borders on the "Eagles Rock" car park.

Please note, that the crash site may be on private land and one has to cross fields to get to it so please bear this in mind if you decide to visit.  Permission of the land owner should be obtained.


AM265
          site

Zooming in on the fence line in the middle right of the image above, one can see the memorial cross poking above the fence.

AM265 site

This image provided by a relative of one of the airmen shows the proximity to the rocky outcrop.

AM265 site

This image below, taken at the memorial, looks back towards the road from where I walked, and you can see a little of Glenade Lough in the middle left and the beautiful rock column at Eagles Rock or Clontypruglish.

AM265 site

The following two images show the traces of metal and debris at the site, which had recently been disturbed during a visit of a relative of one of the men.  The fragments are little more than blobs of melted aluminum, testament to the fire that occurred.

AM265 site


AM265 site

The inscription on the memorial cross is shown below:
AM265 site

Seeking photo of Albert
            Edmond Whitworth 33555F/O Albert Edmond Whitworth 33555 appears in the 240 Squadron ORB for 1941 on 3rd January, flying a patrol in Stranraer K7298 as co-pilot, flying almost 4 hours for a convoy that never sailed.  He fly's again with F/O Louw on Jan 6th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 24th, 29th, 30th, 31st, Feb 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th.  On the 3rd of February is was recorded by the Squadron that he had completed completed night training on the Stranraer.  He co-piloted a Stranraer to Greenock with F/O Louw on 19th February, and was back on the 22 Feb to allow him go on leave the following day.  On the 6th of March he was part of a crew that delivered Catalina AM267 to the base at Stranraer.  He was born in Manchester in May 1920.  At the start of his RAF career, Flight magazine printed in march 1939:  "Viscount Wakefield" scholarships, at the Royal Air Force College, of the value of 75 each, have been awarded to Fit. Cadet R. H. Clifford, and to Fit. Cadet A. E. Whitworth, an open competition entrant.

His local newspaper, recorded his death with the following short note:
PILOT IS KILLED Flying-Officer A. E. Whitworth, son of the late Mr. G. H. Whitworth, Parkhills, Bury, and of Mrs. Whitworth, of Glasgow, has been killed on active service at the age of 20. Flying-Officer Whitworth was educated at Bury Secondary School and Cranwell.

His father had died in 1933, and at the time of his death his mother lived at 182 Whitehill st, Glasgow.  For this reason he appears on the Scottish National War Memorial. He was survived also by a brother named James Kay Whitworth.

Charles
            Peers DavidsonP/O Charles Peers Davidson J/3113 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, is noted, without initials or mention of being RCAF, as being posted into the Squadron at Stranraer on January 8th from Uxbridge.  He was in the base hospital for a number of days, returning on the 1st of February.  On the 12th March, it appears that he accompanied F/O Louw of the Squadron to Greenock and they brought Catalina AM268 to Stranraer.

Charles was the son of Campbell and Mary Davidson, of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, Canada




Harold
            Lewis SewardP/O Harold Lewis Seward 84330 was recorded on the Squadron as having been posted in from the FBTS (Flying boat Training School) on January 25th, 1941.  He was posted on leave on the 7th of February 1941`but was back on the unit by 21st February when he is noted as as proceeding to Lough Erne with "secret documents".  Harold was the son of Percy Harold and Frances Amelia Seward from Birdham Road in the Chichester.

A local newspaper on the carried the following short notice in March 1941.
"Mrs and Mrs P Seward, of Southlands, Birdham Road, Chichester, have received notification from the Air Ministry that their son, Pilot Officer Harold Lewis Seward, has been killed on active service.

The following obituary was printed on the 3rd of April 1941 in the Sussex Gazette and South of England Advertiser:
THE LATE PILOT-OFFICER H. L. SEWARD
Full service honours were rendered at the funeral at Appledram last Wednesday of Pilot-Officer H. L. Seward, of Southlands, Birdham-road, who was killed in a crash in Northern Ireland.  By a sad coincidence, he was on the point of celebrating his 21st birthday.  As an old boy of Chichester High School he left a fine record there in scholarship and sport.  While engaged with the National Provincial Bank in Southsea after leaving school he volunteered for flying duties with the Volunteer Reserve at Portsmouth before the war, and was granted a commission about a year ago.  The coffin was carried to the churchyard by R.A.F. bearers with an escort, and with the covering Union Jack was laid the dead officers forage cap.  The Archdeacon of Chichester conducted the service with Rev. H. Watson, rector of St. Pancras.

Pilot Officer Seward before volunteering for flying duties with the R.A.F. was on the staff of the Palmerston Road branch, Southsea, National Provincial Bank.  He would have been 21 yesterday."



Frederick
            ChalkSgt Frederick Rodney Albert CHALK 534048 was the son of Joseph Hiram and Alice Louisa Chalk, of 18 Prospect Place, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire and the husband of Doreen Mildred Chalk.






Henry
            DunbarHenry Dunbar, son of David and Edith Dunbar, lived at Molesden Hough, Mitford, Northumberland.  He was born in Sunderland in February 1921.  His nephew visited Irvinestown in March 2019 and then travelled to Leitrim to visit the area of the crash.  He was very kindly able to provide a number of photos of his uncle Henry.





The image below shows Henry standing on the rear fuselage of a Supermarine Stranraer flying boat, the type used by 240 Squadron in the months just prior to the arrival of the Catalina aircraft.

Henry Dunbar on
        Stranraer

The image below shows Henry Dunbar behind three of his comrades.  Some of them may be members of the fatal Am265 crew, but at this time, it cannot be confirmed.

Henry Dunbar
          Group

Ronald Henry
          OldfieldAC1 Ronald Henry OLDFIELD 940612 was the son of Father Henry William Oldfield, Mother Dorothy Mildred Oldfield (nee Young) residing Acton,Middlesex and was born on 21 Nov 1917.   Ronald served as a Special Constable prior to joining the R.A.F."

Ronald was a Fitter Mechanic (A) on the aircraft and may nor normaly have been a member of air crew.  Around this time the RAF had began to only allow aircrew hold the rank of Sergeant or higher.





Gordon Henry
          Slack
Sgt Gordon Henry SLACK 754693 was the son of Philip Arthur and Mabel Browne Slack of Elm Tree Hotel, Staveley near Chesterfield, Yorkshire.

Gordon was an airgunner on the crew of AM265.











Harry Harley
          Newbury
Sgt Harry Harley NEWBURY 624214 +






In early March 2020, during the COVID19 pandemic, three young boys and their father very kindly visited various spots in the area to find and document wreckage of Catalina AM265.  The McCabes, James, Oscar and Myles very kindly shared their exploits with the website, and their photos can be seen below.

McCabes with AM265
        wing

The boys are seen above with a large section of wreckage that at first glance might not be identifiable except that it came from very recognisable part of the Catalina's vast wing, namely the recess at the wing tip for the folding wing tip floats. That area is very evident in this snippet from a diagram of the wing.  The trapazoidal area filling the gap in the float support strut.

Catalina wing
        tip

The three photos below show the section in detail and allow for a good comparison with the diagram.  This section of wreckage lies a good distance from the crash site, across the nearby road and is visible on satellite photos due to its bright colour lying in the grass of a farmers field.


McCabes with AM265
        wing


McCabes with AM265
        wing

McCabes with AM265
        wing

McCabes with AM265
        wing

McCabes with AM265
        wing

The upper surface of the section reveals the yellow paint associated with the aircraft's original customer, the pre war United States Navy. 

McCabes with AM265
        wing McCabes with AM265
        wing McCabes with AM265
        wing

At some distance from the crash site then one can find this animal shelter made using a large section of a wing.

McCabes with
          AM265 wing McCabes with AM265
          wing

McCabes with
          AM265 wing


Compiled by Dennis Burke, July 2020, Dublin and Sligo. A great amount of credit must go to young James McCabe for his wreck hunting skills, as well as his dad Simon and brothers.  Massive thanks to the niece and nephew of F R A Chalk, and Ronald Oldfields sister and brother in law, the family of H Dunbar and the family of H H Newbury, If you have information on any of the people listed above, please do contact me at dp_burke@yahoo.com