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Handley Page Harrow K7005, December 17th, 1943

The afternoon of December 14th 1943 would see the death of four young airmen of the Royal Air Force on a bleak hillside on the Innishowen penninsula in County Donegal.

Research begun by Ian Woodford, the great-nephew of Albert Edward James, one of the men on the aircraft resulted in the tracking down of families of all four airmen who died and also contacting the sole survivor of the terrible crash.

This page is to remember the men in their photos collected during the research

Carol Brown James Swaby Arthur Shaw Albert James John Taberner
P/O Carol Herbert BROWN 155367
Pilot (Killed on Active Service)
Son of George Harry and Elsie Mabel Brown, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire
P/O James William SWABY 156061
Pilot (Injured on Active Service)
F/Sgt Arthur Bain SHAW 1126638 +
Navigator (Killed on Active Service)
Son of Arthur and Mary Ann Shaw, of Hazel Grove
LAC Albert Edward JAMES 942850 +
(Killed on Active Service)
Son of Albert John and Ellen Ada James, of Evesham
LAC John Thurston TABERNER 993107 +
(Killed on Active Service)
Son of Jack and Rose Hannah Taberner; husband of Alice Taberner, of Prenton

The above panoramic image from my old camera shows the location of the crash to the left and the cottage at the right where James Swaby went after the crash.

In December 2006, I was contacted by Ian Woodford from near Evesham. His mother is the niece of Albert (also Bert) Edward James. I put Ian in touch with a team of people here in Ireland and between us we managed contact all the famililes involved. Anne Tierney of Tuam and the intrepid reasercher of Halifax EB134, discovered that John William Swaby, the sole survivor of the crash, was alive and well in Leeds. The brother of John Taberner, Bert Taberner stilled lived near his birthplace near Liverpool. Bert has since passed away but he was extremly delighted to have been contacted about his brother and informed in detail about how he lost his life. The local Vicars in Hazel Grove, Cheshire were able to put us in touch with the nephew of Arthur Bain Shaw. And after much searching, relatives of Carol Brown were found via Ancestry.com and his family tree.

The airmen were flying at the time with 271 Squadron which was based at RAF Doncaster. The squadron operated both Handley Page HP54 Harrow and Douglas Dakota transports. The H.P. Harrow was a rather old twin engine, high wing aircraft, a former bomber design. The fist prototype had flown in October 1936 and the aircraft was largely outdated by the time the war started. It served in small numbers as a transport during the war. The construction of the Harrow is explained in some detail in a May 20th, 1937 article in Flight magazine, decribing the methods of putting together the mixed, metal, wood and fabric structure of the aircraft.

The Irish Army report on the crash records the following about the aftermath of the crash, in a memo from the G2, Army Intelligence Branch in Western Command to G2 Headquarters in Dublin:
"I beg to inform you that the above mentioned plane-crash took place on 14/12/1943 at 14:00 hours approximatley.
The plane, which was unarmed, took off that morning from Eglinton, apparently to return to its home base which was Doncaster, and crashed on top of Crocknasmug Moutain (1,076 ft high), 4 miles NW off Innishowen head, Co. Donegal in dense fog.
Search parties which consisted of Gardai, L.S.F. and a military party from Fort Lenan experienced great difficulty in locating the crashed plane and rescueing the crew, 4 of whom were killed and one injured.
The dead, who were taken to a nearby house, were later taken to Buncrana Military Post."

P/O Swaby was taken to Carndonagh hospital that evening and was taken then by RAF Ambulance to Northern Ireland on December 15th. It was not entirely clear from the file but the four dead airmen appear to have been brought to the border on December 15th also and handed over to the authorities there.

Martin Gleeson, a member of the 'research team' here in Ireland, looked at the 271 Squadron records for the period around December 1943. At that time they were flying general cargo transport missions around the United Kingdom. On the day of the accident, Harrow K7005 was taking off from RAF Eglington in Northern Ireland. Martin believes it was taking off empty having flown cargo into the airfield, but at this time we do not know the purpose of the flight. At that time, the squadron was operating aircraft to and from various airfields carrying freight. There were also aircraft sent on detachments to various airfields around the UK for similar duties. They would also assist combat squadrons in transferring between bases. The Irish Military recorded the time of the crash as 13:30hrs. A search team of Irish Army Soldiers and Gardaí (The Irish Police) took to the hills in an effort to find the crash. The aircraft would have been heard flying over by the local police and military posts. The Irish military report mentions that they had great trouble finding the site due to the conditions at the time.

According to the information provided by Martin Gleeson from the 271 Squadron records, the weather on that day was very foggy. His determination is that the aircraft flew out across Lough Foyle and impacted onto a 1056ft high hill called Cnocnasmug (also known as Crock-na-smug).

The remains of the four airmen killed were returned to their families for burial in England.

P/O Swaby's daughter was kind enough to send a copy of this photo belonging to her father whcih shows one of the squadrons Harrow aircraft with airmen in the foreground

The Brown family were also able to provide this photo of air force airmen below, listed as 'B' Flight Instructors, 19 March 1942. It is not known at this time if Carol Brown was with 271 Squadron at that time or another unit. The names are, left to right. Sgt. Kelly, Sgt Ratcliffe, P/O Daley, F/Sgt Brown, F/Sgt Bryant, F/Sgt Cartwright.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2012, Dublin and Sligo with the aid of all those listed above. If you have information on any of the people listed above, please do contact me at dp_burke@yahoo.com