Consolidated Catalina JX208, Castlegregory, Kerry, 1944
As the second world war ground its way toward its painful end,
the Squadrons of the Royal Air Force's Coastal Command continued
the missions they had carried out for five long years. The
aircraft of Coastal Command had figured more often than not in
the events that encompassed the tale of wartime Belligerent
aircraft landings in and around Ireland. Of the final four fatal
wartime crashes, the two most deadly were of Coastal Command
aircraft. Sunderland ML743 crashed in February 1945, and it's
story is told here on the site.
On the night of the 20th of December 1944, the penultimate
Coastal Command loss in Ireland occurred, resulting in the death
of 9 airmen of the RAF 202 Squadron occurred on the slopes of
Benoskee Mountain above the seaside town of Castlegregory on the
Dingle Peninsula. Witness on the night, including Jeremiah
Dowling, Thomas Kelleher, Edward Rohan and his son his son
Patrick, provided statements two days after the crash that they
had heard an aircraft flying particularly low at about 2 am on
the morning of the 20th of December. They were familiar with
hearing aircraft flying around probably due to previous wartime
time traffic and proximity to the Foynes flying boat base. They
and others on this occasion were concerned that the aircraft was
flying so low that it might indeed crash into the village of
Stradbally. The aircraft passed over head however and moments
later the engine noise ceased and an explosion produced a
glaring fireball that lit up the surrounding area, in the words
of Edward Rohan - ‘As soon as it crashed it went on fire
immediately and you could pick a pin in my front yard with the
light’. Each of the three older men lived no more than one and a
half miles from the crash scene. Rohan and Kelleher lived in
‘Goulane’ per their witness statements, this is a townland on
the northern side of Benoskee Mountain. The crash was recorded
as being on the land of Timothy Lynch, Knockacorrin, Stradbally.
The peak of Benoskee Mountain is highlighted in the map above
and the circle indicates the possible crash locations but this
needs to be confirmed.
A party of Gardai under Sgt. D F O’Connell from the station in
Castlegregory made their way to the scene arriving at about 5
am. Locals were at the scene and it was 8 am before a party of
the Military from Tralee arrived to take over the area from the
police, L.S.F. and L.D.F. Members of the local Red Cross were
also present at the scene. The military party that attended the
scene came from the 15th Infantry Battalion based in Tralee.
Major M J Leamy from that unit submitted a report dated the 28th
of December 1944 and it is worth quoting from that in summary:
I have the honour to submit the following report on the
crash of R.A.F. Catalina which crashed about 2 miles
South of the village of Stradbally, Castlegregory, Co.
Kerry, at 03:00 hours on 20.12.1944.
The nine occupants of the craft were killed and were all
badly burned with the exception of Flight-Sergt,
Williams. With difficulty all were identified and the
following is a list of the occupants:
Pilot 114373. Fl/Lt. Langton, Anthony Basil.
2nd. Do. 1586500. Fl/Sgt. Williams, E
Nav. 1322824. Sergt. Lowe, P. L.
F.M.E. 166665. do Cuthbert, G. A.
F.E. 914922. Fl/Sgt. Perkins, I R.
Wom/A.G. 1484496. do Wotherspoon, R.
V.O.r/A.G. 1397870. do Durrant, R.F.
- 1394808. do Aldrich H.G.
- - - Lewis, A.R.
The craft went on fire and the petrol tanks must have
burst as an area of about 150 yds. Long by 50 yds. Wide
showed evidence of burning. There must have been a
considerable amount of petrol in the tanks to spread
over the area. The only portion of the craft not burned
were a small portion of the tail and wings. The portion
which went on fire must have burned fiercely as all the
metal parts had melted.
A military party under Major M.J.Leamy arrived at the
scene of the crash at 08.00 hours and took over from the
Guards and the L.D.F. who were then at the scene. Lieut.
Hennessy, Lieut. O’Shea and Lieut. Keohane were among
the military party.
On examination of the scene four depth charges were
discovered and a quantity of S.A.A. of .50 and .303
calibre. All .50 ammo. Had been blown with the heat and
what remained of the .303 was collected together and
later handed over to Lieut. Cusack, Air Force, Rineanna.
Captain Pringle, A.O.C., disposed of the depth charges
by exploding them. The following list gives what was
found in the line of armament:
Vickers .303 in. Guns 2. Serial Nos. a12415 & A7013
Browning .50 2.
Verey Light pistols 1.
1 Case of Smoke Floats containing 9 floats.
1 Box of Radio Equipment.
Above were collected by Lieut. Cusack, Air Force,
It appears that the crash took place during a heavy
shower. According to Thomas Rohan of Stradbally (and his
brother Patrick) the plane was flying in a southerly
direction and flew very low over Stradbally village.
They formed the opinion that she was in trouble and
would crash. They got up as they were afraid she might
crash on the village. They next heard the explosion of
the crash and saw the plane go on fire. They rushed to
the scene and arrived there about 03.28 hrs. There were
some persons there ahead of them including Jeremiah
Dowling, Stradbally, Edmund Rohan, Stradbally, Patrick
O’Shea, John Joe O’Shea. The plane was still burning
fiercely but they were able to get Flight-Sergeant
Williams clear of the wreck. He was dead but was
anointed by Fr. Browne of Castlegregory.
All the bodies were removed to an out-house the property
of Mr. Timothy Lynch, Stradbally, Castlegregory, where
they were removed from at 02:00 hours on the 21st.
instant to Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee. They were
removed to Baldonnel with escort under Lieut. Hennessy
and handed over at 14:45 hours on the 21st instant.
All personal effects were listed and handed over in
sealed packets and a receipt obtained.
The Catalina was operating from Castle-Archdale on the
Erne and it would appear that is was on a 24 hours
patrol from 19:00 hrs. on 19.12.1944 to 19.00 hrs, on
the 20.12.1944 from documents received. The fact of
having four depth charges indicated that it was on an
anti-submarine patrol and documents and the area would
most likely be the Bay of Biscay. The cause of the crash
would appear to be that the plane was in trouble and
flying low and that the pilot and navigator thought they
were over the sea. The crash occurred at about 1,000
feet altitude at point 145-110.
The following documents have been forwarded to G2,
Southern Command: Diagram of Catalina (Charred).
Documents giving particulars of Submarines.
Antenna Tuning Chart A.T.B.
Three pieces of charts of Erne.
One degree scale in case.
Map of Ireland
The Air Almanac, 1944 Sept. to Dec.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant
J Hennessy Lieut, For Major,
W. J. Leamy
The remains of the men were taken from County Kerry on the 21st
of December and driven by a men and trucks from the 1st Division
to Baldonnel aerodrome outside Dublin. There they were
transferred to fresh vehicles and with flags at the airfield at
half mast, they departed for the border. 2nd/Lieut. T.J. Guy of
the Irish Air Corps Transport Section, accompanied the remains
to the border at Carrickarnon. There, a Guard of Honour under
Capt. Fitzgerald from Dundalk Military Barracks awaited. The
remains were transferred to an RAF officer that evening.
The photo above of Stradbally and Benoskee mountain was taken
in 2008 from the tip of Brandon Point to the north west. The
town of Stradbally is just out of view to the left of the photo
but the crash site should probably be located on the center left
of the image. The noticeable hollow in the top of the mountain
contains a lake.
The namesand family details of the men from the crashed
Catalina can be found in the records of the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission and it is from this source that relatives of
the crew members were traced in 2012-2015.
F/Lt Anthony Basil LANGTON 114373
Pilot 27 or 37 years
Son of Ernest C. Langton and Elsie Langton, of
Fishbourne on the isle of Wight, he is buried in the
church yard of St Olave's Church. His headstone gives
his date of birth as 1908 but civil records suggest his
birth was registered in 1918. He was at the start of the
war a 2/Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery before
transferring to the RAFVR in 1942. The family of F/Lt
John Howard Dunn, confirmed that their father was the
regular second pilot for F/Lt Langton but had been
posted away to 131 OTU in order to himself become an
aircraft Captain. Thus he always told how he had
survived the loss of his crew.
F/Sgt Eric WILLIAMS 1586500
Pilot Aged 23
Son of Frederick John and Dorothy Williams, of
Devonport. Eric is buried in Plymouth. His sister Ann
who was only 8 at the time that he died provided the
above photo of Eric. Eric is not in the above photo as
of the two pilots in the photo, the one sitting is F/Lt
John Howard Dunn of the RAF. F/Lt Dunn's family
understand that this photo was taken in around April
1944 at about the time their father joined 202 Squadron.
F/Sgt Peter Lloyd LOWE 1322824
Navigator/Bomber aged 21 Son
of Leonard William and Nelly Lowe, of Outwood, see below
for further details of Peter.
The photo at right was taken during one of Peter's last
leave visits to his parents.
P/O Robert Raymond PERKINS 196829
Flight Engineer aged 25 Son of
Robert James Perkins and Minnie Perkins, of Basingstoke.
Robert was commissioned as an officer around the time of
the crash and the notice of promotion was published
posthumously in the London Gazette in 1945. His nephew
was able to confirm that he was among the airmen
photographed above and provided the photo shown at right
which is believed to have been taken in
Weston-super-mare, Robert is seen on the left of the
photo. Before the war he was a technician with Kelvin
Hughes Instruments in Basingstoke. His family understand
that he had completed tours of duty with RAF Bomber
Command. His service number at enlistment was 914922
indicating an early enlistment in perhaps 1939 or 1940.
Sgt George Alfred CUTHBERT 1666665
Air Gunner aged 21 Son of George Alfred and Mary Hanah
Cuthbert, of Euston, London. His remains were not
returned to England and lie at rest in Irvinestown
cemetery in Northern Ireland.
Sgt James Malcolm WOTHERSPOON 1494496
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Aged 22 Son of James A. Wotherspoon and
Annie Wotherspoon, of Burnley. James was the youngest of
three brothers. All three joined the RAF during the war,
Robert spending much of the war in Canada in a training
role while John Wotherspoon became a POW when his
Whitley bomber was shot down while taking part in
Operation Colossus, the first British parachute raid of
the war. James is buried with his parents in Burnley.
Sgt Reginald Frank DAMANT 1397870
Wireless Operator (Air) Aged 20 Son of Frank and Alice Mary Damant,
of Ipswich. Reginald was recognised in the group photos
by his sister after this site was tracked down by her
daughter. His sister, a wartime member of the Women's
Auxilliary Air Force (WAAF), had become engaged only two
days before her brothers crash. His sister recalls him
as having a love of aviation and that he may have served
with Bomber Command before his posting to Coastal
Sgt Henry George ALDRICH 1294808
Wireless Operator (Air) Aged 33
Son of Henry Herbert and Beatrice Constance Aldrich from
Ruislip; husband of Eileen Marie Aldrich, of Blackfen,
Sgt Albert Raymond LEWIS 2204497
Air Gunner Aged 19
Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Lewis, of Whitefield, Greater
Manchester. Albert was one of nine children and at the
time of writing one brother survives. Albert's neices
hope to be able to provide some more details of his
The photo above was supplied by the family of Peter Lowe, the
navigator of the aircraft. The family of the man seated at the
front with pilots wings confirm that he is F/Lt John Howard
Dunn, the co pilot for A B Langton from April 1944 to September
of that year. The sister of Eric William's understandably could
not recognise her brother in the photo.
While the names of those in the photo are not known for certain,
Peter Lowe is the man standing at the far right of the photo.
The two men at the front of the photo have pilot wings badges,
while all other men appear to have the single wing badge of
navigators, radio operators etc.
The second photo, above, was provided by the nephew of J M
Wotherspoon. This wonderful photo clearly names all the men and
was also in the possession of the family of F/Lt Dunn albiet
without the names recorded. To aid in reading the names are
Back Row, Left to Right: Aldrich, Perkins, Damant,
Front row Left to Right:Wotherspoon, Dunn, Langton, Lowe,
Peter Lowe was a 21 year old Flight Sergeant. His trade
recorded on his Commonwealth War Graves entry is that of
Navigator/Bomber (Nav/Bom). He was the son of Leonard William
and Nelly Lowe from Outwood in Surrey, just to the east of the
modern M23 motorway south of London. The photos below come from
Peter's belongings. They appear to show him in a slightly warmer
climate than Northern Ireland. It is explained that his
belongings indicate that he served in Rhodesia and probably
trained at a training unit there.
This particular photo above from Peter Lowe's belongings shows
some airmen mucking around. The Middle Eastern influences and
the pith helmets suggest that this may have been taken in
Gibraltar. The background image would suggest again though that
it was somewhere in Africa perhaps. The sign post on the left of
the image points to Iraq on one of the arms
The wartime Operations Record Books for 202 Squadron,
retained in the United Kingdom national Archives in Kew
London under reference AIR27/1185 can be used to trace
the last few months service of F/Lt Langton and his
crew. The first operational mission for F/Lt Langton and
his crew was on 29th June, 1944 from Gibralter. The crew
was that which died in December with two differences.
F/Lt Dunn was of course the Co-pilot and there is a Sgt
H Rudkin flying as a tenth crew member. Fl'lt Dunn's log
book shows that he continued to fly with Langton up to
the 28th of August after which he transferred back to
Northern Ireland. From at least as far back as September
1944 the nine men who died on JX208 flew as crew
together out of Gibraltar and later from Lough Erne.
The monthly summary in the ORB reads for September
The Squadron after operating continuously in
Gibraltar from 11th September, 1939 having arrived
from Malta the previous day, was transferred on the
3rd September to Castle Archdale, N. Ireland. The move
was accomplished with great speed and without any
mishap, the first 2 aircraft leaving within 4 days of
the receipt of the movement order, those that remained
left the following day. The ground crew and squadron
equipment travelled by the sea route reaching Castle
Archdale on the 19th of the month. The change over
from A.S.V Mk II to A.S.V. Mk VIII continued and
during the month aircraft were flown to Felixstowe for
this purpose. A small detachment of aircraft remained
at Sullom Voe where F/L Bishop in Y/202 attacked a
U/boat using Schnorkel in posn. 63.38N 0725W but from
the evidence available it was not known whether the
U/boat suffered an damage.
Indeed, from the ORB, it appears that F/Lt Langton and
his crew were one of three aircraft to depart for
Felixstowe on the 5th of September along with aircraft
flown by F/Lt Edgar and Sqd/Ldr Inglis. On the 6th of
September F/Lt Langton is found to be flying Catalina
T/202 from Woodhaven to Castle Archdale. Aircraft P/202
that he flew to Felixstowe from Gibraltar does not
appear in the ORB for that month and in any case, the
ORB does not identify the aircraft by their serial
numbers. Woodhaven is was a flying boat base in Fife,
Scotland. The same entry appears in the ORB for 26th
September, again with aircraft T, perhaps this is an
error in the ORB or simply by the nature of the entries,
the location of aircraft and crews all over Europe might
have resulted in confusion.
For the month of October, there is no mention at all of
the Langton crew. They may have spent the month perhaps
on leave with their aircraft being modified in
Felixstowe. Or they may have been undergoing training
with the aircraft and new equipment.
During the month of November 1944, the only mention of
the crew is implied in these two summary entries, not
recorded in detail as they were non-operational ferry
flights. The The ORB explains that the Catalina aircraft
were being sent to Felixstowe to be fitted with ASV Mk.
VIIIA radar and the resulting training on that. The ORB
does not seem to record training flights which may have
been carried out locally off the coast of Donegal.
Further training was being carried out on using the
Leigh Light equipment. During November the unit had 15
Catalina aircraft and 242 members of aircrew.
The ORB for December contains just these three mentions
of the Langton crew, one mission of just over 11 hours
duration on the 12th of December and their final fatal
mission, taking off late on December 19th and crashing
shortly after in Kerry.
The complete destruction of JX208 in its crash in neutral
territory and the death of its entire crew left little that
could be used to determine the cause of the crash. What
investigations that could be carried out resulted in the limited
entries to be found on the Air Ministry crash form held in the
archives of the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, London.
Despite the fire after the crash, the military and police at the
scene were able to report that the tail of the plane was painted
with the serial '1208' or 'JK208'.
One side of the form provides the basic details of the
aircraft and flight crew. The aircraft was built in the
US by the Consolidated company at San Diego, California
and was in RAF terms a Catalina IVA. This was a non
amphibious version of the aircraft and would have
operated from water only. Flying hours for the two
pilots flying, F/Lt Langton and F/Sgt E Williams are
provided and indicate that both were experienced pilots,
Langton with 600 hours flying and Williams with perhaps
775 hours in total. Indications on the sheet are that
RAF courts of enquiry were carried out and Forms 765 and
412 were created.
The National Museum of Naval Aviation in America has a
wonderful 'cutaway' display of a Catalina, similar to
JX208. The website pages can be accessed at this link,
click on the images below to access.
The rear of the sheet contains the findings of the
investigations carried out.
The time of the crash is given as 0205 hrs after a 2hr
30min flight at night. The aircraft was on an anti sub
patrol. It was found to have 'Crashed into side of
mountain at 1200' a/c burst into flames. With
little else to go on the RAF officers conducting the
investigation concluded simply: It is believed this
accident due to faulty navigation. Captain and
navigator responsible.. Weather conditions were
reported to give good visibility. The evidence contained
in the Irish Army report indicates that those locals who
were spoken too about the crash thought that the engines
on the aircraft were in some kind of trouble. There is
some evidence in the files that the witness statements
taken in Stradbally were forwarded on to the RAF in
Northern Ireland. Also, a note in the file also says
that permission was given for Wing Commander Kay and
F/Lt Moore of the RAF to visit the crash site sometime
after the 29th of December.