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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:

Sir,
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, Rineanna.

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
Navigation Tables.
Astronomical Tables
The Air Almanac, 1944 Sept. to Dec.
Note Book.

I have the honour to be,
Sir
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 Command.

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, Sidcup, Kent

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 short life.

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 transcribed here:
Back Row, Left to Right: Aldrich, Perkins, Damant, Cuthbert;
Front row Left to Right:Wotherspoon, Dunn, Langton, Lowe, Lewis

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 1944:
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.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2013, Dublin and Sligo. If you have information on any of the people listed above, please do contact me at irishwarcrash@yahoo.com

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