Handley Page Harrow K7005, December 14th, 1943
The afternoon of December 14th 1943 would see the death of four young airmen of the Royal Air Force on a bleak hillside on the Innishowen peninsula in County Donegal.
Research begun by Ian Woodford, the great-nephew of Albert Edward James, one of the men on the aircraft resulted in the tracking down of families of all four airmen who died and also contacting the sole survivor of the terrible crash.
This page is to remember the men in their photos collected during the research
Pilot (Killed on Active Service)
Son of George Harry and Elsie Mabel Brown, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire
Pilot (Injured on Active Service)
Navigator (Killed on Active Service)
Son of Arthur and Mary Ann Shaw, of Hazel Grove
(Killed on Active Service)
Son of Albert John and Ellen Ada James, of Evesham
(Killed on Active Service)
Son of Jack and Rose Hannah Taberner; husband of Alice Taberner, of Prenton
The above panoramic image from my old camera shows the location of the crash to the left and the cottage at the right where James Swaby went after the crash.
In December 2006, I was contacted by Ian Woodford from near Evesham. His mother is the niece of Albert (also Bert) Edward James. We contacted a team of people here in Ireland and between us we managed contact all the families involved. Anne Tierney of Tuam and the intrepid researcher of Halifax EB134, discovered that John William Swaby, the sole survivor of the crash, was alive and well in Leeds. The brother of John Taberner, Bert Taberner stilled lived near his birthplace near Liverpool. Bert has since passed away but he was delighted to have been contacted about his brother and informed in detail about how he lost his life. The local Vicars in Hazel Grove, Cheshire were able to put us in touch with the nephew of Arthur Bain Shaw. And after much searching, relatives of Carol Brown were found via Ancestry.com and his family tree.
The airmen were flying at the time with 271 Squadron which was based at RAF Doncaster. The squadron operated both Handley Page HP54 Harrow and Douglas Dakota transports. The H.P. Harrow was a rather old twin engine, high wing aircraft, a former bomber design. The fist prototype had flown in October 1936 and the aircraft was largely outdated by the time the war started. It served in small numbers as a transport during the war. The construction of the Harrow is explained in some detail in a May 20th, 1937 article in Flight magazine, describing the methods of putting together the mixed, metal, wood and fabric structure of the aircraft.
The Irish Army report on the crash records the following about
the aftermath of the crash, in a memo from the G2, Army
Intelligence Branch in Western Command to G2 Headquarters in
"I beg to inform you that the above mentioned plane-crash took place on 14/12/1943 at 14:00 hours approximately.
The plane, which was unarmed, took off that morning from Eglinton, apparently to return to its home base which was Doncaster, and crashed on top of Crocknasmug Mountain (1,076 ft high), 4 miles NW off Innishowen head, Co. Donegal in dense fog.
Search parties which consisted of Gardai, L.S.F. and a military party from Fort Lenan experienced great difficulty in locating the crashed plane and rescuing the crew, 4 of whom were killed and one injured.
The dead, who were taken to a nearby house, were later taken to Buncrana Military Post."
P/O Swaby was taken to Carndonagh hospital that evening and was taken then by RAF Ambulance to Northern Ireland on December 15th. It was not entirely clear from the file but the four dead airmen appear to have been brought to the border on December 15th also and handed over to the authorities there.
Martin Gleeson, another Irish researcher, looked at the 271 Squadron records for the period around December 1943. At that time they were flying general cargo transport missions around the United Kingdom. On the day of the accident, Harrow K7005 was taking off from RAF Eglinton in Northern Ireland. it is not clear from the Squadron diary what the purpose of the flight was, but since no mention was made of cargo in the Irish Army reports, it is assumed it was returning from a cargo mission to the airfield. P/O Swaby was noted on December 5th 1943 as going on a detachment to Errol in Scotland with Harrow K7005. At that time, the squadron was operating aircraft to and from various airfields carrying freight. There were also aircraft sent on detachments to various airfields around the UK for similar duties. They would for example assist combat squadrons in transferring between bases. The Irish Military recorded the time of the crash as 13:30hrs. A search team of Irish Army Soldiers and Gardaí (The Irish Police) took to the hills in an effort to find the crash. The aircraft would have been heard flying over by the local police and military posts. The Irish military report mentions that they had great trouble finding the site due to the conditions at the time.
According to the information provided by Martin Gleeson from the 271 Squadron records, the weather on that day was very foggy. His determination is that the aircraft flew out across Lough Foyle and impacted onto a 1056ft high hill called Cnocnasmug (also known as Crock-na-smug).
The 271 Squadron Operations Record Book carries a number of
records of what happened in the days after the crash.
14 Dec 1943
15:30 Information received that Sparrow K.7005 overdue. Captain P/O. J.W. Swaby. Aircraft operating on ERROL detachment.
15 Dec 1943
12:00 K.7005 apparently crashed into INISHOWEN HEAD on 14.12.43, time not known. Captain injured seriously and crew P/O. C.H. Brown (W/Op), F/Sgt. A.B. Shaw (Nav), LAC. Taberner, J.T., LACV. James, A. all killed. No casualty signal received but R.A.F. EGLINTON and R.A.F. LIMAVADY contacted and requested to expedite. Bodied being collected by R.A.F. LIMAVADY for possible collection by this unit. Telegrams to next of kin dispatched under C.A.
18:30 in absence of Casualty signal for K.7005, signal originated by this unit giving all information possible. During the day units and Group in Northern Ireland were contacted but no further information available.
16 Dec 1943
10:00 letters dispatched to next of kin crew K.7005 requesting wishes regarding funeral arrangements.
14:00 Preliminary Form 765C for K.7005 originated and despatched.
Information received that deceased personnel are in mortuary at LIMAVADY and P/O. J.W. Swaby seriously injured in ROE VALLEY HOSPITAL nearby. Amendments to F.A. Signal originated and dispatched to all addresses. Air Ministry P.4 (Cas) had been on the telephone requesting this.
16:00 S/Ldr. I.C. Murison to proceed N.Ireland in Dominie a.m. 17.12.43 to pin point K.7005 on map and obtain from LIMAVADY all information, personal kit and documents available.
17 Dec 1943
11:00 Departure of S/Ldr. I.C. Murison held up by fog. Vis. approx. 600 yards.
12:00 Signal dispatched LIMAVADY giving all particulars of deceased personnel and instructing them to despatch bodies of F/Sgt. Shaw and LAC. Taberner and LAC. James to home addresses. P/O. C.H. Brown is to be given a service burial.
18 Dec 1943
11:00 S/Ldr. I.C. Murison again unable to proceed and arrangements made for travel by rail and boat with F/O J.C. White.
19 Dec 1943
09:30 F/Lt. R.H.J. Mountford (X.7411) proceeded to SEALAND. Officer visiting LAC. Taberner’s wife at STOCKPORT concerning her husband’s death.
14:00 Policy letter regarding flying of aircraftman on Transport Details issued to all flights. With effect from today ACs. will only fly when aircraft proceeding on detachment. Acs. will then be based and will not fly with aircraft on jobs. ACs. will not be taken when aircraft have no set base.
21 Dec 1943
10:42 F/O. Shakes & 2 ACs proceeded EVESHAM by rail for funeral LAC JAMES. F/O Jarvis made arrangements in conjunction with S.H.Q. for funeral P/O C.H. Brown 22.12.43.
22 Dec 1943
W/O Robertson proceeded STOCKPORT by rail for F/Sgt. SHAWs funeral. RAF WILMSLOW providing bearers.
10:42 P/O Topham & 2 ACs proceeded BIRKENHEAD by rail for LAC TABERNERS funeral. RAF BIRKENHEAD providing Bearers.
13:20 Funeral P/O BROWN left mortuary for Station Church, thence CANTLAY BRIDGE Cemetery for internment.
12:30 F/O. Shakes & 2 ACs returned from funeral LAC JAMES
24 Dec 1943
P/O Topham & 2 ACs returned from funeral LAC TABERNER at Birkenhead,
W/O Robertson returned from F/Sgt. Shaw’s funeral at STOCKPORT.
28 Dec 1943
09:30 F/O McLeod (X7519) departed for EGLINTON – TD1163. To report to President of Court of Inquiry on accident to Sparrow K.7005.
P/O Swaby's daughter was kind enough to send a copy of this photo belonging to her father which shows one of the squadrons Harrow aircraft with airmen in the foreground
The Brown family were also able to provide this photo of air force airmen below, listed as 'B' Flight Instructors, 19 March 1942. It is not known at this time if Carol Brown was with 271 Squadron at that time or another unit. The names are, left to right. Sgt. Kelly, Sgt Ratcliffe, P/O Daley, F/Sgt Brown, F/Sgt Bryant, F/Sgt Cartwright.
Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2020, Dublin and Sligo with the aid of all those listed above. If you have information on any of the people listed above, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org