Short Sunderland DD848, Mount Brandon, Kerry, August 1943
On the 22th August 1943, less than a month after the tragic
crash of the British Overseas Airways Corporation Sunderland
flying boat, G-AGES, another Sunderland
flying boat crashed into the same piece of sloping ground on
Slieveglass, next to Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula,
Kerry. This second crash involved a front line Royal Air Force
Sunderland flying boat from 201 Squadron based at Pembroke Dock
The Irish Army's 15th Infantry Battalion filed a report on the
24th August 1943 that began with the following information.
A British Sunderland Flying Boat
(Shortt Type) of the R.A.F. crashed at Mount Brandon
(0337-1143) at 05:45 hrs on the 22/8/'43. There was a
crew of 11 (eleven) of which 8 (eight) were killed and 3
(three) received slight injuries. The injured were
removed to Tralee District Hospital.
The report went on to name the men on board where they could be
identified from effects found on them or directly from the
survivors. Three of the men could not be firmly identified
by the Irish Army from available evidence but the survivors were
able to provide names.
It ends with a description of the disposition of the
remains: The bodies were removed
from Brandon by lorries en route for Northern Ireland at
09:10 hrs on the 23rd instant. The officer in charge
of the party conveying bodies had with him for hand-over,
Certificates of death, and the personnel effects of each
identified body in a sealed envelope. Each envelope
bore on the outside, Number, Rank and name of the owner and
a list of its contents.
At the same time, it was reported that eight machine guns were
recovered from the wreckage, the four from the tail turret being
described as undamaged.
On the 20 September 1943 the Irish Air Corps filed a summary
report of events. Among the recorded items were:
Condition of Aircraft:
Completely burned out. Tail and Tail Turret
remain but are unserviceable. One engine was
burned out. 3 remaining are unserviceable, owing to
distance they were flung from the fuselage.
Probable Mission: On
Rescue work from base in Northern Ireland
The land where the Aircraft
crashed is boggy, and treacherous, salvage
of remains of aircraft is not feasible.
While it is not
mentioned in the above summary, some burned out ordnance was
recovered from the site.
The following year,
the land owner wrote to the Irish Defense Forces to complain
about the amount of wreckage that still remained at the
site, but he was told to deal with it himself.
The Operations Record Book for 201 Squadron is sparse on
information about the crash. It does record the mission, a
Sea Slug mission that would take the aircraft out into the bay
of Biscay to search for U-Boats running on the water surface.
The aircraft carried a crew of eleven men of which eight were
killed in the crash. And while the crash of the civilian
Sunderland G-AGES a month before made the headlines all over
Ireland, the UK and further afield, the eleven military
personnel on Sunderland DD848 would receive no attention save
for the lonely death notices published by family and friends.
With the eight men being from England it might have been
expected that they would have been returned to their families
for burial, however today, one can find that six, F/Lt Grossey,
F/Lt Griffin, F/O Wilkinson, F/Sgt Coster, F/Sgt Pickford and
Sgt Tilt are actually buried in adjacent graves in the Church of
Ireland graveyard in Irvinestown, Tyrone in Northern Ireland.
The British Air Ministry crash record card held by RAF museum
in Hendon provides the RAF findings on the crash. While the
handwriting on the report is difficult to read, the RAF
concluded that the aircraft was flying to the south east of its
intended track in darkness with low cloud. The text reads:
A/C (FLT) crashes into hillside &
catches fire. Cause obscure. A/C flying to the
east of intended track. Weather dark with low
cloud. AOC ?????. AOC in C Concurs. A/C
off course. Flying below minimum safety height. Error
of navigation due to? error of navigation. S.E.
operator boobed. ??? Competent SE operator ????
regard to height
CO Poor crew co-op. Met underestimated W/V
AOC Faulty navigation
AOC in C - Concurs
SE in the text below refers to
Given that the crash occurred in neutral Ireland and the
aircraft was completely destroyed, there was no investigation as
people might understand nowadays. There were however three
survivors, Sgt's. Mclean, Applegate and Davies.
F/Lt Charles Seymour GROSSEY 45199, 1st Pilot,
Captain, - Seeking photo of C S Grossey
F/Lt Arthur Charles GRIFFIN 62311, 2nd Pilot
F/O Guy Nelson WILKINSON 51121, 3rd Pilot
F/Sgt Norman Baron PICKFORD 657043, Navigator
Sgt George William DAVIES 952226, Flight Engineer
F/Sgt John Robert COSTER 1259732, Wireless
F/Sgt William MCLEAN 996639 DFM, Air Gunner
Sgt John Sidney APPLEGATE 647007, Flight Mechanic
Sgt George Frederick Walter TILT 1338702, Wireless
Operator/Air Gunner - Seeking photo
F/Sgt Joseph William BURTON 1287499, Wireless Operator
Mechanic/Air Gunner - of Essendonbury Cottage, Essendon
F/Sgt Walter Noel PITTS 749904, Flight Mechanic
A review of the Operational Records Book (ORB) for 201
Squadron reveals the flying history of the 11 men.
F/O Guy Nelson WILKINSON 51121 was posted in to 201
Squadron with effect from 3 August 1943.
F/Lt Charles Seymour GROSSEY 45199 Appears to have
been posted to 201 Squadron in June 1943
F/Lt Arthur Charles GRIFFIN 62311 Was posted in to 201
Squadron with effect from 3 August 1943
F/Sgt Norman Baron PICKFORD 657043 can be found in the
ORB from at least Sept 1942, earlier than that, only men of
Warrent Officer rank and upwards are recorded.
F/Sgt Joseph William BURTON 1287499 His name appears on
just one other operational flight on August 17th in the ORB,
so this tragic mission was possibly only his second sortie
with the squadron
F/Sgt John Robert COSTER 1259732 + F/Sgt Coster's name
can be found in the ORB from at least November 1942.
F/Sgt Walter Noel PITTS 749904 + F/Sgt Pitt's name can
be found in the ORB from at least November 1942.
Sgt George Frederick Walter TILT 1338702 + Sgt Tilt's
name can be found in the ORB from at least July 1943.
Sgt John Sidney APPLEGATE 647007 Sgt Applegate's name
can be found in the ORB from at least Nov 1942.
Sgt George William DAVIES 952226 Sgt Davie's name is
be found in the ORB from at least February 1943.
F/Sgt William MCLEAN 996639 F/Sgt Mclean's name can be
found in the ORB from at least Feb 1943.
The core of the crew had thus come together during the summer
of 1943 and flown a number of missions under the command of
F/Lt Grossey, however, it is worth noting that crews swapped
and changed quite a bit in 201 Squadron.
CWGC records F/Lt Grossey was the husband of Adelaide
Lily Ann Grossey, of Kidlington, Oxfordshire. The couple
had married in 1938 in London. His mother lived in St
Pancreas, London during the war so the connection to
Kidlington is unclear since his wife's family also were from
London. His brother Raymond was missing in Action since 1939
flying with the RAF. Their parents were Charles and Louise
Grossey. They had two other brothers, Dennis who served
with the RAF during and after the war, and Ralph who was a
Royal Navy officer. It has proven impossible to find a
photo of Charles Grossey despite a number of contacts being
made with family relatives.
Arthur Charles Griffin 62311 was the son of Charles
and Emma Griffin of 27 Queen Street, Leighton Buzzard.
He had been an employee of the of the I & R Morley Ltd.
clothing company according to the book, The Secrets of Q
Central: How Leighton Buzzard Shortened the Second World War
by Paul Brown and Edward Herbert.
The family of F/O Guy Nelson WILKINSON 51121 were
instrumental in efforts to remember this crew. His
daughter Maureen and her husband Les Ingram travelled to
Ireland to visit his grave and reached out to try and contact
families of the other airmen.
F/Sgt Norman Baron PICKFORD 657043, Navigator lived
at Maythorne, 90 Holmfield Road, Leicester and formerly off
'Broadholme', Manor Rd, Leicester. He was the son of Edith and
James Pickford. His mother had passed away shortly after
he was born. His entry on the calendar of wills for 1944
records him as "PICKFORD, Norman Baron otherwise
Norman otherwise Norman Byron of Maythorne 90 Holmfield-road
LEIESTER died 22 August 1943 on war service".
George William Davies 996539, one of the survivors
gave his next of kin and address as his wife at 116 Kensington
Road, South-end of Sea, Essex.
His family were able to provide this scan of his log book,
which rather understates events as many wartime documents
do. It is noted that he had flown mostly that month with
F/O E F H Bent J5910, had been posted into 201 Squadron only
in July 1943. His log book earlier confirms his posting
to 201 Squadron in February 1943.
Sgt Davies was no stranger to the dangers of war time flying
having survived the crash of 120 DQuadron Liberator AL519 on
3rd November 1942. That aircraft had taken off from
Ballykelly on night flying training when it crashed into
Benevenagh mountain near the airfield. The pilot was
killed but the remaining crew survived.
McLean 996639 had an address at Alwinton,
Harbottle, Morpeth in Northumberland recorded by the Irish
Army and had had an already busy wartime career. He had
already served a tour of duty with Bomber Command's, 7
Squadron on Stirling bombers. On the night of 6 Dec
1942, his aircraft, Stirling R9259 was shot down over
France. Of the crew of seven, six lost their lives with
only Sgt McLean managing to escape the aircraft and then
evaded capture and escaped through Belgium to neutral Spain
and thereafter making his way back to England. AS can be
seen above from the 201 Squadron ORB, he back in service with
Coastal Command in February 1943.
Les Ingram provided the following information about Sgt
Mclean. Sergeant W McLean was
recommended for the DFM by his squadron commander, Wing
Commander O R Donaldson, in a letter dated 24 January 1943
(PRO AIR2/4947 2449) - 'Whilst over the target the
aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the rear
turrett (sic) was put out of action. Sergeant Mc.Lean made
his turret function under manual control and when the
aircraft was later attacked by a night fighter, his
conduct, courage, determination and devotion to duty were
of the highest order under very harassing circumstances'.
Despite this statement the recipient, in a letter dated 19
October 1980, regarded the award of his decoration as
being due to his succesful 'evasion' and escape from
German occupied Europe following the destruction of his
aircraft. His letter states: 'We were returning from a
raid..in a Stirling of No.7 Squadron, in which I was a
rear gunner. When over Belgium the aircraft had a direct
hit in the port wing, and burst into flames. The aircraft
started to go down, and pieces of wing was (sic) breaking
off. I could get no contact with my skipper, so I decided
to bale out. I managed to get out with difficulty as the
aircraft was going straight down, and I landed in a
ploughed field. I managed to evade capture by hiding for
several days until the search for the survivors of the
aircraft crash by the German army had been called off.
After 5 days I went to a remote farm and the farmer gave
me a civilian suit of clothes, and put me in touch with an
escape organization. From then on I travelled to Brussels,
Paris, Bayonne. I then walked over the mountains into
Spain, and contacted the British Consul in San Sebastian.
From then on I went by road to Madrid, Saville (sic) and
by ship to Gibraltar, and back to England by air. I was
the only survivor of the crew....I was awarded the DFM for
escaping from Germany in 1942'.
It is understood William was born in Morpeth in 1912 and
passed away in 1988 in Northumberland.
If you can provide any help in finding relatives of the crew
members listed above with no photos I would be most grateful.
The photo below was published in a post war newspaper, likely
in the 1990's, the date is to be confirmed. It shows the
white painted tail of the aircraft.
The following photos were taken during a hike up the slope of
Slieveglass in July 2007. They show some of the remains of
Sunderland DD848 which lie on the mountain side. All four
Pegasus engines can be found in the heather.
Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2022, Dublin and Sligo. If
you have information on any of the people listed above, please
do contact me at email@example.com