Lockheed R3O-2, BuNo 02947; Rehins, County Mayo 1945
On July 29th, 1945 an aircraft made an abrupt landing in a field near Rehins just south of Ballina in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. The war was but months over in Europe and Ireland had seen its fair share of crashes as can be seen on this site. The kind help of a number of researchers and viewing of the files at the Irish Military Archives however, have allowed some what of a picture to be built up.
The photo at left was scanned from the book 'Landfall Ireland' by D MacCarron. In this book the photo is incorrectly titled as a Lockheed Ventura from another incident. The photo in that book was credited to Mrs Ursula Teague who kindly gave permission for it use here. The two bladed propellers on the aircraft in the photo are a give away that this is a lighter aircraft than the Ventura bomber.
Research found details of the aircraft's July 29th 1945 flight
from the local Ballina Herald newspaper. This local newspaper
told that the Lockheed was en route from Collinstown to Lough
Erne when it force-landed in a field at the rear of Mr Frank
Trimble's farmhouse at Rehins, 1.5 miles south of Ballina,
County Mayo, and hit a wall, damaging the undercarriage. On
board were "Flt/Lt Charles Dold", from New York, "Flt/Sgt
Hale", from Texas, and two un-named civilians, an
Englishman and a Norwegian. No one was hurt. The aircraft had
run short of fuel and was off course. To further report from the
article, it went on to make a landing in a field which the
reporter told was the only suitable field in the area. The only
damage caused to the aircraft was reported to be "an engine
cowl, a wheel and one arm of the retractable undercarriage". The
article goes to dramatically describe how "Having over run a
hill, the plane was rolling fast towards" an outhouse
adjoining Mr. Trimbles house when "the pilot in an endeavor
to 'avoid what would have been a disastrous crash, swung the
machine around almost at a right angle". The article
continues: "One wheel then hit the top of the wall a glancing
blow and the aircraft came to a rest astride the wall. Word
was immediately sent to the military in Castlebar and within a
short time a number of Army men arrived to guard the machine.
In its sombre green and brown camouflage paint, the plane was
quickly surrounded by a large crowd of sightseers".
The Irish Press and Irish Independant, on the Monday, July
30th, published the following short article:
U.S. PLANE DOWN NEAR BALLINA
An American Lockheed twin-engined transport plane which left Collinstown aerodrome yesterday for Lough Erne made a forced landing at Rehins, 1 1/2 miles south of Ballina, yesterday evening. It carried, in addition to the American pilot and sergeant, two English civilians. The undercarriage of the plane suffered damage when it struck a wall 30 yards behind the farmhouse of Mr. Frank Trimble. None of the occupants suffered any injury.
In contacting Mr. Trimble's son Wesley in 2008, he confirmed that no items or memories of the crash were retained by the family. Franks son was born after the event and he records that his parents never mentioned the crash much in the ensuing years. He does recall that they said that they provided food to the soldiers that were stationed at the aircraft. The site of the crash is now covered by a cattle shed but the field that they landed in was a large field and as such would have seemed a good choice for landing in. A shorter news story in the July 31st, Cork Examiner lists those on board as, "Wing Commander T. S. Cotton (London), First A/C Charles C Dodd (American), Sgt. Hale (Texas) and Mr. Janessen (Norwegian, London)."
During a visit to the Irish Military Archives in 2007 it was possible to view the Irish Military's files on this crash, G2/X/1426 & ACF-S-260. The reports contain running log entries concerning the outcome of the aircraft incident. The file is handwritten but the military authorities recorded the people on board as follows:
1st Lt. Charles C Dold
The men stayed in a Guest house in Ballina on the night of the crash. Recollections printed in the Western People in late 2011, reported that this was the former Hurst Hotel in the town. An entry on the 30th July by the Western Command G2 officer notes that the aircraft carried no markings except for the "American star". No aircraft serial number or markings were recorded in the Irish Military files. On the 31st July permission was granted and customs permits arranged to allow the crew to have parts for the aircraft sent over the border in order that the Lockheed be repaired on site and flown out. It was noted that both the 'Army' men on board were in uniform, referring presumably to Dold and Hale.
The August 1st entries then mention that all but Sgt. Hale had
left the area on the previous day and crossed into Northern
Ireland and the replacement parts had not arrived. By the 2nd of
August, it had been decided that the aircraft was to be salvaged
and a party was to be escorted from the border to the aircraft
to carry out this work. The report mentions at this point that
Sgt. Hale, after four days, "remains behind on rations with the
1st Btn". Troops from the Irish Army 1st Battalion having
provided the guard for the aircraft.
The log for August 5th records that a call had been received by Western Command that the aircraft was prepared for transfer across the border in two low loader loads. One was scheduled to pass over at 17:00 on that day while another, larger load would pass through Monaghan the day after.
The recovery work was completed by Irish personnel assisted by
some from the Royal Air Force's 226 Maintenance Unit based at
Mallusk. In that units Operations Record Book (ORB), there
are two mentions of the aircraft, namely:
August 21st: Congratulatory message received from H.Q. R.A.F. N.I. regarding salvage of Lockhead 02947 at Ballina, Co. Mayo.
In the monthly summary, it is the sole American aircraft salvaged, under the following entry: American aircraft salvaged X for X-ray Lockhead 12A.
In 2003, a query arose on the Air Britain Information ExchangeAB-IX forum concerning a British Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) contract to Short and Harland to cover the repair of a "US Navy R30-2947". John Gregory identified the aircraft as 02947 and Vic Smith was able to supply further information confirming the repair.
The subject aircraft, Lockheed 12A, construction number 1287 was delivered in August 1941 and assigned the US civilian registration NC33615. The original log books are not known to exist but sources record that the aircraft was ordered by Sky Kraft (or Skycraft) Corporation of Mobile, Alabama. It is suggested that the aircraft was bought by the famous Astor family or by the Guggenheim Foundation but this is unconfirmed. With the subsequent entry of the US into the war, the aircraft, like many others, was impressed for military use and passed on to the US Navy command where it gained the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial Number 02947. It seems to have flown for some months in the United States, based at NAS Quonset Point, before being sent to England. The archives of the Commander United States Naval Forces in Europe (COMNAVEU) in April 1942 contain the following statement, which may relate to 02947: A letter of April 18, 1942, from Commander United States Naval Forces in Europe to U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, stated that, beginning April 23, 1942, the Lockheed aircraft attached to the Embassy Air Unit at Hendon will maintain frequent flights between London, Belfast and Londonderry. for the purposes of transporting Army and Navy passengers, mail and light freight.
In US Navy service the aircraft, constructors number (c/n) 1287, was designated as Lockheed R3O-2. At around this time seven new production Lockheed 12A's were purchased and designated Lockheed JO. Other Lockheed 12A's in US Army Air Force service were designated as C-40 and later UC-40. George Kernahan was able to provide details from the aircraft's navy history card:
R3O-2 BuNo 02947
Accepted: 23 August 1941
August 1941 to November 1943 NAS Quonset Point
November 1943 to September 1944 Naval Attache London
Stricken: 30 September 1944
The war diary of Fleet Air Wing 7 records three small
administrative records for the aircraft, all from 1944:
May 31, 1944: Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe transferred one (1) JRF, one (1) R3O and two (2) Oxford aircraft to headquarters Squadron Seven for administration and directed that a service unit be established at the Royal Air Force Station Harrowbeer to maintain these aircraft.
July 4th, 1944 R3O aircraft bureau number 02947 was detached from Headquarters Squadron SEVEN by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.
December 28th, 1944 R3O-2 aircraft bureau number 02947 was assigned to Headquarters Squadron SEVEN after having been received from Naval Attache's Office in London.
In its last service with the Naval Attache it served with the
HQ Squadron (HEDRON) of Fleet Air Wing 7 based at Dunkeswell in
Devon. An old website dedicated to Dunkeswell airbase used to
list the aircraft present thus:
|Type||Lockheed 12A||Bu No/Serial||Assigned or arrival||Departure, Strike etc||Notes|
|R-30||Make||02947||31-5-44||7-45||Detached 4-7-44 Reassigned 28-12-44|
(The site is no longer in operation however)
The US Navy Utility Squadron was based at RAF Hendon north of London. The then Commanding Officer of both the Dunkeswell and Hendon squadrons, Lt/Cdr. Clair W. Waterbury was contacted by John Gregory and was able to give details of the aircraft's service with his squadron. It was kept in civil configuration and, at war's end, used very much as an executive transport, carrying military and civil dignitaries around the recently liberated Europe. John was able to trace flights it had made far and wide to Paris, Naples and Copenhagen, sometimes with London Embassy staff.
Some discussion of the names of those recorded as being on
board the aircraft outside Ballina is required as the various
sources above, do not go into great detail. The Cork Examiner
printed that it was one "Wing Commander T. S. Cotten",
this may well have been the next owner of the aircraft,
Frederick Sydney Cotton.
He held the rank
of Wing Commander during the war with the RAF. If this is
the case, Mr. Cotton was quite a famous personality during the
A short biography of him is presented on this page
from the A.E.G. group, and contains the following
interesting paragraph about his post war activities.
"Knowing that the RAF still had a number of Lockheeds he
persuaded an American with dollars to buy them all and sell
them on. Both Sidney and his co-dealer made money from
the deal and each kept a Lockheed 12 and a stack of
spares. Now with Caprice, which he named his own plane,
he could widen his sphere of activity."
The second passenger, Mr. Jonasses or Janessen was
said to be from Norway by Nothing firm is known
about this person at this time. Norwegian historians have
advised that neither spelling are common Norwegian
surnames. The names published by the Cork Examiner in the
case of Dold and Cotton have proved to be most accurate, so it
is thought Janessen will be the surname.
The pilot of the aircraft was
revealed after some searching as being Charles C. Dold from Erie
County, New York. He enlisted with the US Army in
1942 in Ohio.
He wrote to me in 2008 to say that he was at that
time assigned to the Mission for Economic Affairs in London, the
successor body to the Harriman Mission. That US government body
was linked to the US Embassy in London. Mr. Dold, who went on to
study business said how he and Sgt. Hale stayed over night in a
Dublin hotel. He did not however remember much of his passengers
or of the purpose of the flight. His letter read:
The reason I crashed in Balina was that I
ran out of gas - a stupid thing to do. I did not know how to
buy gas in Dublin.
I believe the pictures you sent were probably of my plane.
I presume the passenger Mr Cotton may have been the Australian but I really don't know.
As I remember Mr. Jonasses was the Norwegian but I am not sure of the name.
Sargeant Hale and I stayed the night before the crash in some hotel in Dublin.
I don't remember the mission of that flight. Nor was the aircraft assigned to the U.S. Embassy. At that time I was. My role at the economic Mission was as pilot. I stayed there for another year before being sent back to the states and discharged.
The photo below shows Charles C Dold with his wartime bomber crew from the 34th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the US Army Air Forces. He flew the Boeing B-17 bomber on missions over Europe and is the second from the left, standing at the rear of the group. This photo came from the website of the late Gary Ferrell on the 34th Bomb Group Valor to Victory. The portrait image comes from his prewar Oberline University magazine.
The names above are written on the reverse as:
Merk, "Me", Erick, Buck, Mathe,
HIGIE Robie, Lester, Toby
The military report and the paper articles say that the aircraft had flown from Hendon, London to Collinstown (Dublin Airport) on 28 July 1945, which was a saturday. The passengers are described as being 'guests of Senator Quirke over the weekend". There was a Senator Bill Quirke in the Irish Senate at that time. He hailed from Fethard in Tipperary. His family were of the opinion that while his wife and children may have been holidaying in Cong, Co. Mayo, it is possible that Senator Quirke himself would have been in Dublin .
Lockheed 02947 did not end its days dismantled in a Mayo field. Peter J Marson' s book "The Lockheed Twins" gives the following history of c/n 1287, BuNo 02947:
Leased to RAF as D2947 Aug45 [an "official" typo for 02947?]
Registered to F Sidney Cotton G-AGTL "Caprice" 19 Sep. 1945
Delivered 26 Nov. 1946, E-10601 19 Nov. 1946. Used for radio aids development work.
C. of A. 5 Dec. 1946, to Aeronautical & Industrial Research Corp.
Details of a contract to Short and Harland to cover the repair
of a "US Navy R30-2947" was posted on the Air Britain
Information Exchange Forum in 2003. John Gregory identified the
aircraft as 02947 and Vic Smith was able to supply further
information confirming the repair. However, the contract was
dated after the aircraft was registered to Sidney Cotton on 19th
Subsequently (from the book, Lockheed Twins), the aircraft was sold on to K. McAlpine in May 1957 and used by Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd. Sold in France in Jan 1961, it became F-BJJY on 15 March 1963 with 'Escadrille Mercure'. Despite a series of landing accidents, it remained with them until its C. of A. expired on 08 June 1981. It was then sold to Paul Boucher & Phillippe Denis and delivered April 1982 to La Mole. Its C. of A. expired July 1989. the registration was cancelled 29 August 1996 and it was withdrawn from use. It was sold to Jean-Luc Langeard and re-registered F-AZLL in which marks it appeared at the Paris Air Show in 2003 looking better than new! The aircraft now sports three bladed propellers.
Many photos of the aircraft are available on www.airliners.net, and on
the internet in general, just search for F-AZLL. The Lockheed
12A pilot reports are available on www.airbum.com.
In 2018, the aircraft was repainted to resemble Lockheed 10,
registration NR16020 as flown by Amelia Earhart on her doomed
round the world flight attempt in 1937.
And so a little more information is added to the history of Irish Wartime crashes. The above story was put together from work carried out by Antoin Daltun, John Gregory, George Kernahan and Vic Smith with input's from various books and from Clair Waterbury, a wartime pilot of the subject aircraft. Many thanks must go to the four gentlemen for passing the information to myself and allowing its use. They are all members and users of the AB-IX Air Britain Information Exchange. Thanks also go to the Irish Military Archives for the use of their files.
Other links of interest:
- A thread from the 12 O'Clock High message forum, discussing some of Cottons activities.
- A Sidney Cotton website from Australia
- Irish Senate, Mention of Death of Senator Quirke - irlgov.ie
- An artical with mention and photo of Bill Quirke from Fethard Newssite
- Jack McKillop's history of the Naval Lockheed 12A aircraft
- History of USAAF C/UC-40 aircraft.