Lockheed Hudson, AM885, Kinnagh, Wexford, 1943
Nine old tattered pages are all that is contained in the Irish Army archive report on the crash of a British aircraft near Ballycullane in County Wexford, Ireland on the 16th of September 1943. Three airmen from the British and Canadian air forces lost their lives in this little known crash.
The authorities recorded that at about 15:15 on the afternoon of Saturday, the 16th September, an aircraft crashed into a field in the townland of Kinnagh. Local Gardai and members of the Local Defence Force (LDF) were first to the scene and they reported back to the Irish Army coastal fort at Duncannon. The owner of the field was one Moses O'Neill. Sadly, no aid could be brought to the occupants of the aircraft as it had been completely destroyed in the crash. The aircraft had been consumed by the post crash fire. The military party from the 1st Field Company based at Duncannon could do no more than gather up the wreckage and return it to the fort for disposal.
Before this however, those present had the sad task of
recovering from the wreckage the remains of those on board. Upon
arrival the Irish army party had immediately found the remains
of two men. Despite the fire which burned on into the evening,
these two bodies were recovered and another was then found under
the the aircraft. From these bodies some letters were recovered
and it was possible to identify two of the airmen provisionally.
It was believed they were
R/131724 F/Sgt. Chabara, A.J.,, R.A.F., Lyneham
657975 Sgt. J. Colhoun, R.A.F., Station, Lyneham, Wilts
Part of a typed report in the Army file records: "The number of
the plane was given as P.8825. It was a twin engined one and the
Military Officer who went to the scene thought it was a
"Beaufighter". "Afterwards I learned that it was a Hudson
Bomber." It is not made clear in the Irish Army
report where the supposed number P.8825 was being read or
guessed from, the serial AM885 would would have been painted on
the rear fuselage of the aircraft but by all accounts this was
The report goes on to say:"The Command O.C. [Officer Commanding] gave instructions that Officer quality coffins should be procured and the bodies conveyed to the Border on the 17th instant. Duncannon reported that they would be procured in Waterford.
This report was sent by Commandant D Mackey of the G2, Army Intelligence, Section in Curragh Command. He goes on in his concluding paragraphs:
I had a phone call from Comdt. Quinn at 10.00 hrs. on the 17th inst. informing me that an Official from the British Office would call to the Curragh later and go to Duncannon and that he would probably send an officer with him. The Officer from Baldonnel with the British representative called to headquarters, Curragh at 13:15 hours and proceeded after an interview with me to Duncannon Fort.
Capt. O'Toole proceeded with the bodies from Duncannon Fort to Dundalk at 14.20 hrs. on the 17th inst. The adjutant, Eastern Command was notified accordingly so that the arrangements for handing over at the Border could be completed.
It was also arranged that the handing over of personal papers etc. would take place at the same time.
Further hand written notes in the file indicate that Capt. P. O'Sullivan and F.Lt Moore of the RAF did visit the scene on the morning of the 17th of September. The remains of the aircraft were such that the Irish Air Corps indicated no interest in salvage and what could be removed was taken to Fort Duncannon for disposal. And thus the sad affair ended.
The aircraft had been recorded in the hour prior to the crash
flying around the south coast of Ireland, it was believed to
have been heard by Gardai at Skibbereen in Cork, flying south,
and then by the Irish Coastwatching Service Look Out Post (LOP)
at Toe Head, the Garda stations at Cobh and Whitegate flying
overland on the east coast of Cork Harbour, where they believed
it turned south and was next heard by the LOP's at Ballycotton
and Hook Head moving North East. Little mention is made of the
weather conditions in the filed reports and memo's from Irish
sources but it should be perhaps noted that the aircraft was
'heard' by the Gardai and LOP's personnel, rather than sighted.
In June 1945 following the end of the war, the local Wexford
newspaper, the New Ross Standard, ran a short article about this
crash and the loss of an Anson in the same year. This article
begins, "On Thursday, 16th Sept., 1943, a day on which
visibility was very bad, a British aeroplane crashed at Kinnagh,
in a field adjoining the main Wexford-Duncannon road. There were
three occupants and all were killed."
It goes on to mention the names of the two men identified and that the third man, who could not be named at the time, had 'objects of piety' in his possession which indicated he was Catholic. An inquest was held by the Coroner for South Wexford, Mr F M O'Connor with evidence from Capt. Coughlan of the Irish Army and Dr. Toohill both from Duncannon. No reason for the mens deaths could be arrived at by this civil court but it was assumed that mechanical defect or fuel starvation caused the crash. The three men were registered dead in the New Ross registration district following this inquest, their names being recorded as, 'J Male Colhoun'; 'A J (Male) Chaloner' and the final member simply as 'Male'.
And so what of the three men, their names could finally be confirmed by the UK authorities and we can easily find their names now using the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website, www.cwgc.org. The crew consisted of a Scottish pilot, a Welsh navigator and a Canadian radio operator/ air gunner. Details of the crew can also be confirmed from the Royal Canadian Air Force service record of F/Sgt A J Chabara.
Among the records in F/Sgt Chabara service file are copies of telegrams sent in the immediate aftermath of the crash and an Air Ministry Form 765, 'Report on Flying Accident or Forced landing not attributable to enemy action'. These provide the background to the flight that ended so tragically in Kinnagh.
F/Sgt John COLHOUN 657975 +, Pilot
F/Sgt Pryce OWEN 655407 + Navigator
F/Sgt Alexander James CHABARRA R/131724 + RCAF
John Colhoun came from Paisley in Scotland, the son of
Patrick and Margaret Theresa Colhoun. His remains were returned
to his parents and are buried in Paisley Hawkhead Cemetery. He
had attended Saint Mirins Academy pre-war and was a 1939
Graduate of the University of Glasgow.
Little else is known about John. He is buried with his parents
in the plot in Paisley. He had at least four older
siblings, Sarah, Patrick, James and Francis and one older,
Michael. The last of these, Patrick and James both died in
1973 it seems. John Colhoun's grave was unmarked unmarked
until at least 2015, except for the family headstone which
commemorates his father, died 1932, and grand father, died
1925. John's mother passed away in 1940.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission placed a memorial slab
on the grave sometime after November 2015.
Pryce Owen was the third airman from the crew, the man
whose name could not be identified by the Irish authorities. His
remains were returned to his mother for burial in the local
Penygroes Cemetery, Llanllyfni, Caernarvon. A local resident was
kind enough to visit his grave in 2006 and provided the words
from the headstone inscription, which reads:
In Treasured memory of
our dear son
Flight Sergent Pryce Owen
12 Maes Dulyn Penygroes
who lost his life over Ireland
Sept 16 1943 aged 23 years
Only those who know are able to tell
How sad is the parting without a farewell
His parents were Sarah Ellen and Albert Richard Owen. His father was described as an aircraft fitter in his sons probate records.
A letter sent to his sister in 2006 was replied to by his
nephew, the late Judge M Farmer from Wales. He was aware of the
crash and told of a local man from Wexford who wrote to Sgt
Owen's family. Sadly, his nephew has since passed away before
any further information could be exchanged. His niece very
kindly provided a scan of his wartime portrait which is found
below. His sister kept the photo as a treasured memorial
to her lost brother.
Pryce had moved to London for work prior to his enlisting the RAF. A local Wexford man, Michael Power, wrote to the Owen family on June 24th, 1945 to say: His plane crashed into a field beside my house. I was the first on the spot. I saw immediately that the boys were past all human aid so that nothing could be done but just let the plane keep on burning, the bodies were all thrown from the plane by the shock of the crash and were not burned.
Pryce's name is recorded on the Penygroes town war memorial, with the spelling Price Owen.
F/Sgt Alexander James CHABARA was the final member of the crew of Hudson AM855. The son of Nick and Rose Chabara, he came from Vilna, Alberta, Canada, a small village founded only in 1907 during the building of the railroads. He worked from 1935 to 1940 as a clerk and later manager in a general store in East Coulee, Alberta. He enlisted in the Air Force on 19 September 1941 and began his training early in 1942 in Canada. He trained in No. 2 Wireless School in Calgary and 7 Bombing and Gunnery School in Paulson, Manitoba. He sailed to Europe in March 1943 and was posted to number 1 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit ((C)OTU) in June 1943. This unit was based at RAF Thornaby in Yorkshire. The three airmen may have formed a new training crew at this location and may have been in training together to form a future frontline crew together. His service file lists a posting dated 18th August 1943 to RAF Lyneham from 1 (C) OTU. A J Chabara was laid to rest in the cemetery in Eglantine, County Down in Northern Ireland.
The documents relating to the crash in F/Sgt Chabara's file in
Canada indicate that the aircraft they were flying, a Lockheed
Hudson serial number AM885 was assigned to number 301 Ferry
Training Unit, based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. RAF Lyneham
had become in 1943 a headquarters for RAF Transport Command and
an important center for the management of aircraft being sent
overseas to the Mediterranean for example. The reason for the
flight of AM885 on the 16th of September is listed as being a
non operational, daytime, consumption test. This mission type
points to the aircraft and crew preparing for a ferry flight
from the UK to perhaps Gibraltar in the weeks ahead.
Consumption tests were carried out by crews in preparation for
such flights to allow them get a good understanding of the way
their engines consumed fuel and operated.
By this stage in the war, the Lockheed Hudson had been largely
replaced as a front line aircraft in RAF Coastal Command for
patrols in the Atlantic. It was however used in the
Mediterranean extensively into 1944. It is possible that the
crew of AM885 might have been posted overseas had they not
crashed in Wexford.
Although born and raised at or near Vilna, Alberta, for a while
prior to joining the Air Force, Alexander worked in the
small mining community of East Coulee. When he died, East
Coulee claimed him as one of their own, and his name appears on
their cenotaph. Alex's neice provided this photo of the
Due to the complete destruction of the aircraft and the fact that the crash occurred in neutral Irish territory, the contents of the RAF Form 765 for AM885 are extremely limited. Where one might normally find some piece of narrative in the Sections 10 to 13, one only finds the statements, 'None available - Pilot Killed', Not available - crash occurred in neutral territory' etc.
The location of the crash is shown in the maps and photos below. The Irish Army variously describe the location as Kinnagh and Ballycullane and to have been adjacent to the main road. During a visit to Kinnagh in August 2015, a call to some of the houses in Kinnagh resulted in meeting the Whelan family who currently own the field into which the aircraft crashed. The current owners assured me that the location was on the south east corner of the cross roads in Kinnagh townland between the road in Kinnagh and the main R733 road from Duncannon to Wellingtonbridge. The field is shown in the below screen grab from the OSI website, with the modern day field having been formed from about six older, smaller fields. I was told that despite the lack of any debris from the crash, if one was ploughing the field, traces of blackened soil is still evident.
The field location shown on a map of the local area below.
Below is a photograph of the field itself taken from the gateway.
On the 15th September 2019, the community in Kinnagh, Ballycullane unveiled a memorial stone at Kinnagh old cemetery to the crew of AM885 and the other foreign airmen who died in crashes in world war two in Wexford. All photos provided by Sean Egan.
They also held a ceremony at the crash site, with piper leading
the assembled group from the cemetery to the crash site.
The granite stone design incorporates a swept back wing of an
aircraft. The hole in the top that of the crash site just half a
mile away. The circular plaque reflects an RAF Roundel. The
three cut sections at the rear represent the three lost lives
and also each country Canada, Scotland and Wales.
From left to right. Grace Downes (organiser), Roddy Bailey
(organiser and member of Royal British legion), Rev Canon Arthur
Minion (Church of Ireland), Billy Downes (organiser), Cllr
Michael Sheehan, New Ross; TD Minister Paul Kehoe, Sean Egan
(organiser), Father William Byrne, German Ambassador's
representative Nancy Reek and Graham Cadogan.
The aircraft was a Lockheed Hudson, carrying UK Air Ministry
serial number AM885. This was one of a batch of just over 200
Hudsons delivered too the RAF of the Hudson V (LR)
version. The aircraft's short but varied history is
recorded on its Air Ministry Form 78, and shows it many postings
with three different front line Squadrons but also long periods
with repair and maintenance organisations, but military and
civilian. The records for these do not provide a clear
picture as to the aircraft having suffered heavy damage on any
of these postings.
YYMMDD Unit or Station
410802 10 MU (Maintenance Unit)
410814 Lockheed S.A.S.
410903 24 MU
410904 59 Squadron
411208 48 Sqn SK???
411215 ROS (Repaired on Station)
420124 CRO (Civilian Repair Organisation)
420311 48 Squadron Wick
420623 53 Squadron
This posting is of particular interest as in July 1942 53 Squadron was posted to the Carribean for anti-submarine duties. This is recorded in a book written by the navigator of another aircraft, Reid Johnson of the Royal Australian Air Force. Included in the book is a photo of three of the squadron's aircraft taken during a stop over in Greenland, with the tail of AM885 just jutting into the left of the frame. The Squadron wartime diary shows AM885 was coded PZ-G and was flown from the UK on July 7th, arriving in Quonset, USA on the 19th. It departed there on the 3rd August
The unit was posted back to the UK in December and was re-equiped during the spring of 1943 with Whitley aircraft. AM885 arrived back in the UK on February 13th before being posted out to 3502 SU per below.
430218 Gosport 3502 Servicing Unit
430303 53 Squadron
430305 Edzell RIW (Repair in works)
430318 Cunliffe Owen Edzell AW/CN
430322 22 MU
430521 Speke Mods
430608 29 MU
430902 301 FTU
430916 301 FTU CAT E FA
AM885 was the final of three Hudsons from this batch to end up landing or crashing around neutral Ireland. AM834 crashed a year earlier of Wicklow and AM864 made an emergency landing in late 1941. A brief history of the Hudson aircraft type can be read on Joe Baugher's website. You can watch footage of a restored example of the Hudson, based in Australia, at this Youtube video: