Short Sunderland DD846, Clare Island, Mayo, May 1943
At 03:07 hours of the 25th May 1943, an aircraft was observed
by members of the Irish Coast Watching Service (CWS) at LOP No.
57, Roonagh Point, flying north east over Clare
Island. It was also heard and plotted by Corraun
Look Out Post near Achill Island to the north of Clare Island.
It was reported to have crashed into the sea after passing
close to the island. Immediately the men of the CWS began
to make arrangements to investigate and report the incident to
higher command. About three hours after the crash, Cpl.
Gallagher of Corraun LOP along with others arrived on the scene
and met with two local Clare Island men who had also rowed
out. These two were in fact Dick Hayes, Clare Island
lightkeeper and Michael Joe O'Malley, well-known local farmer
and fisherman from Ballytoughey, Clare island - who owned the
currach they used. Their actions are also recorded in the
register of the lighthouse itself.
Sadly, all that was found were the floating remains of six airmen. The group then together took the bodies on board their boats and conveyed them to Clare Island where they were placed in an out building of an island resident. The Garda on the mainland having been informed called out local Red Cross personnel and an ambulance from Castlebar in the hope that survivors might be treated. The six airmen were identified from belongings found on them and the sad task of preparing their bodies for transport began. They were taken by local boat to Roonagh Pier where an Irish military party awaited them with six coffins. From there, they were brought to Castlebar Barracks, and following issuing of death certificates, sent onwards with Captain Birthistle of the Armies G2 section to the border with Northern Ireland, passing through the towns of Swinford and Tubbercurry on way to Belleek on the 27th May. Of the six bodies, five could be identified by personal belongings as:
E F Page; Robert Bruce Bryers; W G Hopps; Sherwood, Ronald; A D O’Dowd.
The sixth body could not be identified by the Irish authorities. All six were afforded military honours by the Irish Army during the hand over.
On the day after the crash, a seventh body was washed up on Dukenella Strand, Achill, the larger island to the north of Clare Island. This was identified locally as J W Clarke and sent to the border on the 27th where the Irish Army 17th Battalion provided military honours for the handover of the remains.
Other items found in the water included a dingy and log book
which identified the aircraft as a Sunderland Mk III DD846.
Those members of the Irish military reporting to higher command at the time made mention of the possibility that the aircraft struck a summit on Clare Island called “Beetle Hill”. However, the writers also point out that the airmen when found were wearing life preservers and had removed their flying boots. The Irish officer also comments that the aircraft had been in contact with the RAF base at Castle Archdale and it was known that it was suffering some problems and that Castle Archdale knew the approximate location of the crash. It should be noted here that the author of these reports likely was mixing up some of the local place names in so much as that the highest part of Clare Island is known as Cnoc Mor or Big Hill, and the western tip of the Island is referred to as Beetle Head or Kinatevdilla.
On the morning of the 25th May, at the RAF Flying boat base at Bowmore, Argyll, Scotland, the men of 422 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force awaited news of their comrades in Sunderland DD846, which had left the previous day on a patrol mission. They had been directed to land at Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland while on their patrol. The eleven young men would never return. The Squadron ORB for the day recorded:
Form 541, Record of Events:
1353 Airborne Bowmore on A.S. Escort to HX239
1915 TKKE. 5531 Estimated time & position on patrol
0015/25 LTDQ 1040 Estimated time end position off patrol
0100 MFB 1 “Land at Castle Archdale’ message aknowledged
0210 MT Castle Archdale “Expect to arrive 0330”
0244 A/C asked for course to steer for Castle Archdale, but signals were to faint for bearing to be obtained.
0355 Message from Castle Archdale “ When do you expect to arrive”. Message acknowledged by very faint signals but aircraft failed to arrive at Castle Archdale.
A/C Subsequently reported crashed off Beetle Head, Clare Island, in Clew Bay, Co. Mayo at 0405. & members of crew Killed. W/O Thomson, Sgt. Purvis, Sgt. Rowe, Sgt. Hird missing believed killed.
In the following days, members of the Squadron would have to attend the funerals of the Canadian members of the crew at the cemetery in Irvinestown.
The crew of the aircraft were:
F/O. Ernest F. Paige J/6007 + RCAF (Captain / First Pilot) -
Killed in Action, buried Irvinestown Cemetery
F/O James W. Clarke J/12829 + RCAF (2nd Pilot) - Killed in Action, buried Irvinestown Cemetery
Sgt. William G. Hopps R/133113 + RCAF (3rd Pilot) - Killed in Action, buried Irvinestown Cemetery
W/O. Wallace Roy Thompson R/76084 + RCAF (Navigator) - Missing, named on Runnymede Memorial
Sgt. James Hird 935914 + RAFVR (Flight Engineer) - Missing, named on Runnymede Memorial
Sgt. Donahan A. O’Dowd 527272 + RAF (Flight Engineer) - Killed in Action, buried Bandon Hill Cemetery, Surrey
Sgt. John Rowe 623554 + RAF (WOM/AG) - Missing, named on Runnymede Memorial
Sgt. David Purvis 1309732 + RAFVR (WOP/AG) - Missing, named on Runnymede Memorial
Sgt. Derek H. Richardson 1172574 + RAFVR (WOP/AG) - Killed in Action, buried Nottingham Northern Cemetery.
Sgt. Ronald Sherwood 1289040 + RAFVR (WOP/AG) - Killed in Action, buried in Waterhouses Cemetery, Durham.
W/O II Robert B. Bryers R/125283 + RCAF (Air Gunner) - Killed in Action, buried Irvinestown Cemetery
F/O Ernest Franklyn Paige RCAF
F/O James W Clarke RCAF
Sgt William G Hopps
W/O II Wallace Roy Thompson RCAF
Sgt James Hird
Sgt Donahan Anthony O'Dowd
Sgt Jone Rowe
Sgt David Purvis
Sgt Derek Harold Richardson, Nottingham - Seeking relatives
Sgt Ronald Sherwood, Esh Winning, Durham - Seeking photo
W/O Robert Bryers (Bruce Glasgow), RCAF Philadelphia