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Avro Anson, Off Co. Wexford, April 1944

The 25th of April 1944 would witness yet another sadly unexplained loss of an Allied training aircraft close to the coast of Ireland.

That afternoon, an aircraft was observed off the coast at Irish Army Look Out Post (LOP) #12 at Ballyconnigar Hill between Cahore and Curracloe.  It was recorded as flying inland and the Gardai at Castlebridge reported an aircraft overhead and flying east.  The Coastwatchers at LOP #13 at Greenore Point, minutes later recorded an aircraft as having "suddenly spiraled into the sea" 1 1/2 miles north of the Tuskar Rock lighthouse.

RAF Historian Ross McNeill kindly transcribed the following entries from the RNLI Records of Service on a thread of the RAFCommands forum.  The RNLI records cannot be accessed online but can be seen by appointment and a donation to the service is always welcome.

At 2.40 in the afternoon the Greenore military look-out post reported that an aeroplane had crashed in the sea about a mile north of Tuskar Rock Lighthouse. Messages were also received from the Life-Saving Service, Dublin, and the Air Defence Department. After the first message a fishing boat was seen going in the direction of the accident. The weather was clear and the sea calm, with a light north-west wind. After the second message the motor life-boat Mabel Marion Thompson went out, leaving at 3.25, with the secretary, Mr. W. J. B. Moncas, on board. She met the fishing boat and took on board a dead body, which the skipper said was the only one to come to the
surface after the crash, and landed it at Rosslare pier at five o’clock. - Partly paid permanent crew. - Rewards, £1 6s.
(See Rosslare Harbour, Services by Shore-boats, page 57, RNLI Records of Service 1939-46)

The motor fishing boat Lake of Shadows was fishing near the Tuskar Rock on the afternoon of the 25th of April, 1944, when at 2.35
her crew saw a British aeroplane crash in the sea about one mile north of the Tuskar Rock. The weather was calm. The fishing boat was
about three-quarters of a mile away. She went at once to the aeroplane and found a body, which she took on board. She made for Rosslare Harbour, but at four o’clock met the Rosslare Harbour life-boat, and transferred the body to her. - Rewards, £1 17s. 6d., with £4 for loss of fishing and 4s. 6d. for fuel used.

(See Rosslare Harbour, Accounts of Services by Life-boats, page 20; RNLI Records of Service 1939-46)

The casualty file for one of the Australian crew members contains a copy of an Air Ministry Form 765, Report on Flying Accident or Forced Landing Not Attributable to Enemy Action.  It was signed off by the Commander of 10 Radio School on the 1st May 1944.  In its description of accident it records:
The aircraft took off on a 3 hour W/T training exercise from Carew Cheriton at 1357 hours on 25th April, 1944.  At 1500 hours a fit was obtained 52 10'N.06 05'W.  Nothing further was heard from the aircraft.  The body of A.C. Carr was picked up by the Rosslare lifeboat at 1530 (G.M.T) hrs.  All other information is second hand and probably unreliable, as communications with Eire are unsatisfactory.  Appropriate overdue action was taken with 10 Group.

N.B.  There is an unconfirmed report from the Eire authorities that an aircraft was seen to dive into the sea from 4000 ft., the time being probably 1516 hours, at a position 4 miles S.E. of Greenore Point and 1 mile north of Tuskar Rock.

The body recovered was that of a Ronald R Carr, his death being recorded in the Broadway Registration District of Wexford following an inquest held on 1st May 1944.

The crew and aircraft had come from the RAF station at Carew Cheriton in Pembrokshire, Wales between Milford Haven and Tenby.  This was at that time home to No 10 Radio School, which was a training establishment where wireless telegraphy (W/T) was taught to Wireless Operators (W/OP) who would go on to fly on multi-engined aircraft with Bomber, Coastal and Transport Commands.  It used the twin engine Avro Anson and Airspeed Oxford in this role.

The Form 765 for this loss lists the crew as Pilot, F/Lt R I Johnson, 1st and 2nd Pupil W/OP F/Sgt.'s R J Tudehope and S J H Young along with passenger AC2 R R Carr.

Both Tudehope and Young were members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

Seeking Photo -
          Robert Irvine JohnsonThe pilot of the aircraft, Flying Officer Robert Irvine JOHNSON was born in March 1921 in Belfast to Gladys Olivia and Robert Bannon Johnson.  He went by the name R Irvine Johnson, including on some RAF records.  He appears to be named extensively in Belfast Rugby newspaper notices up to early 1941 due to him being a member of the Collegians Club. 

The photo of Robert provided on this page shows him as a teenager.

The Belfast Telegraph on 2nd May 1944 published the following family notice about Irvine:
Flt.-Lieut. R. Irvine Johnson, eldest son of Mr and Mrs. Robt. B. Johnson, 66 Myrtlefield Park, Belfast, has been reported missing believed killed last month as a result of an accident. Educated at the Methodist College Lieut. Johnson, aged 23, for a short period was engaged in the family business (Messrs. Thos. Johnson and Sons. Ltd.. Bedford Street) but on the outbreak of war joined up. His commission came through so recently that the gallant young officer had not learned of it, nor received the telegram of congratulations from his parents. Flt.-Lieut Johnson, who was noted for the amiability of his disposition, had won a name for himself as an athlete. He played Rugby for his school and for Collegians Club. He was Scout Master of the 40th Troop Boy Scouts (M'Cracken Memorial). He saw active service in Burma and was invalided home for a period but returned to service a short time ago. His brother. G. M. Johnson, who was through the thick of the North African campaign, is serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Another brother Brian, is a pupil at "Inst." At Monday's meeting of Belfast Rotary Club sympathy was expressed with Rotarian R. B. Johnson on the distressing news.

His promotion from the commissioned rank of Flying Officer to Flight Lieutenant was published in the London Gazette on 25 Feb 1944.  He had received his commission as an officer back in 1942.  The only operational history of his service discovered so far is his arrival in 36 Squadron at Tanjore, India on 16 December 1942 with a Wellington bomber and crew.  The unit was not operational at that time, having only been reformed in October.  While the ORB is hand written, names and serial numbers of pilots are recorded, but the only mentions are the posting out and return of P/O Johnson and crew between 4th and 6th January 1943 on temporary duty.  No other mention of him is found.

The Belfast News Letter dated 11 Dec 1944 carried the following death notice:

Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Johnson, 66, Myrtlefleld Park. Belfast, have received official intimation that their eldest son, Flight-Lieut. R. Irvine Johnson, previously reported missing, believed killed, is now presumed killed on active service. He was educated at Methodist College, and, until joining the R.A.F.V.R., was engaged in the family firm, Messrs. Thomas Johnson Sons, Ltd., Bedford Street. His two brothers are in the Services.

Due to the fact that his remains were never recovered, he is named on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.

The remaining crew members were two Australian Flight Sergeants, both wireless operators under taking training.

          Photo - Robert Irvine Johnson

F/Sgt Sydney James Herbert YOUNG 424503 hailed from Annandale, Sydney, Australia, having been born there in September 1923.  His parents are recorded as being Herbert Lionel and Eleanor Adeline Young.  It is noted that he gave no details of his father in his service record and his mother was his only next of kin provided for, though a Miss Joy Evans from Manlay, New South Wales was also named as a contact in event of Emergency.  prior to joining the services in 1942 he worked as a Telephone operator with the General Post Office in Sydney.  His initial training including trade training in aerial gunnery and wireless telegraphy were conducted in Australia. 

Young had arrived in the UK on the 10 Sep 1943 and then passed through a succession of Radio Schools before ending up at 10 Radio School.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, 25 April 1946 carried the following remembrance notice:

YOUNG- Flt.-Sgt. Sydney J. H., R.A.A.F., attached Coastal Command, R.A.F., previously reported missing, now presumed to have lost his life over St. George's Channel April 25, 1944, dearly loved son of Eleanor Young, aged 20 years, loved brother of Joy (Mrs Hancox), Lionel, Iris (deceased), Una (Mrs Pearce), of 44 Weston Street, Dulwich Hill.  So dearly loved, so sadly missed.

          Photo - Robert Irvine Johnson

F/Sgt Reginald James TUDEHOPE, 424479 born in Sydney in July 1919 to James Alfred and Mabel Tudehope.

His brother, James Robert Tudehope served with 576 Squadron as a navigator

Ronald Richard CARRRonald Richard Carr was born on 14 May 1925 to Richard and Violet Carr in Devonport, Devon, the couples only child.  They are found resident in the 1939 register at 3 York Street, in Devonport, Plymouth.  His father was listed as a labourer in the local shipyards while Ronald was listed as a Van Boy.  His remains, at least, having been recovered could be returned to his parents for burial.  He is listed on the aircraft records as flying as a passenger and at times he is listed as being a Cadet rank.  He is buried in the rural cemetery of St Wenna's Church in Morval, Cornwall.  He also is listed on the Morval War Memorial.  With the rank of AC2, or Aircraftman Second Class, Ronald was not of flying aircrew rank and was on the aircraft purely as a passenger.  A war time friend of his, a Vic Rogers sent by email in 200x his recollections of Ronald and their time together at 10 RS.  He explained that the both of them had been allowed to occasionally fly on the training missions.

Anson I serial number DJ639 was one of seven hundred aircraft built by Avro between Dec 1941 and July 1942.  Air Britains book, the Anson file, lists only one previous operator of the aircraft, that being 5 Air Observers School.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2023.