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Vickers Wellington, Co. Kerry, December 1943

Following the earlier tragedies of July and August 1943, with the crashes of Sunderland G-AGES and Sunderland DD848, the night of December 20th 1943 would reveal yet another crashed aircraft on the slopes of Slieveglass above the village of Cloghane on the Dingle Penninsula in County Kerry.

23:30 hours on the night of the 20th, is the time reported in the Irish Army reports at which the aircraft crashed.  There appears to be no mention of who reported the crash, be they local residents of the area or members of the Brandon Head Look Out Post.  The hand written Unit Journal of Office of Chief of Staff, General HQ contains some of the earliest reports from that night.

The same journal noted at 19:30 on the 21st or 22nd December, that Gardai at Tralee were reporting that 2000 rounds of .303 ammunition had been recovered from the site along with other items such a dingy, a flare pistol, parachutes and a box of rations.  At that time, the names and serial numbers of the crew were also transmitted by the Gardai.  An Irish Air Corps memo to G2 Branch dated 6th January 1944 mentioned that it was their opinion the aircraft had been on an operational mission due to the large amounts of ammunition carried, both ball and tracer.

The aircraft was captured in at least one photo, found published in the 2015 Polish language book "Polskie skrzydla nad Irlandia" by Łukasz Gredys and Piotr Sikora.
Wellington HF208

Coffins were obtained from an undertaker, Thomas B Kennedy in Tralee.  The bodies of the six men were taken by Irish military convoy to the customs post at Middleton, Co. Armagh and handed over there to British authorities at 1830 hrs on December 22nd.  They were accompanied by Captain Birthisle of the Irish Army G2 branch.

The Operations Record book for 304 Squadron records the following on 27 December 1943:  The funeral took place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery of MILLTOWN, BELFAST, of F/S ADAMOWICZ, SGT S CZERNIAWSKY, SGT N H KUFLIK, SGT P KOWALEWICZ, SGT W PIETRZAK and SGT T LUGOWSKI.  The officiating chaplain was the Rev. Father KELLY, and the Chaplain of Royal Air Force Station LONG KESH, the Rev. W. T. BOYD, attended.  The funeral party, with an officer in charge, consisted of firing and escort parties.  The bearers were provided by personnel of No. 303 (Polish) Squadron, Royal Air Force Station, BALLYHALBERT., who were represented by three officers.  Wreaths were provided by Royal Air Force station, Long Kesh, on behalf of No. 305 (Polish) Squadron, and there was also one from the Commanding Officer, Officers and Airmen, Long Kesh, and one from Headquarters, Royal Air Force, Northern Ireland.

The following June, Belfast news papers reported on the burial of Sgt Kuflik in Carnmoney Jewish Cemetery, though it is not mentioned in the newspaper articles that he had died some six months prior.  

On the 29th December, Major J P O'Connnell of G2 Branch, Southern Command filed a memo to Dublin Headquarters which contained a report sent to the Army by the Gardai on the 22nd.  It read:  "I beg to report that a British Aircraft crashed at Slieveglas Mountain, Cloghane, County Kerry, at 11.20 p.m. on 20/12/43.   I give hereunder the following particulars in accordance with the terms of commissioners Circular  C.M.2217/40of 19/5/'43: -
(1) 20th December, 1943, at 11.20 p.m. at Slieveglas Mountain. Cloghane, County Kerry.

(2) British Royal Air Force machine - Wellington Bomber - two engined land 'Plane H.F.208.

(3) There were six (6) members of a crew on board and all were killed in the crash.  All the members were of Polish nationality."

The report goes on to name the sixe men and described the conditions of the bodies before concluding with:

"There were no civilian casualties and as far as can be ascertained no damage was done to private property.  The aircraft was completely wrecked in the crash.

 Sergeant M. Duffy, 8230, and Gardai from Cloghane arrived at the scene at 12.45 a.m. on 21.12.43 and took charge of the wreckage, etc, until it was handed over to the military at 3 a.m. on 21/12/43.  The coroner was  informed of the incident and he decided that no inquest will be held.  The six (6) bodies were removed from the scene of the crash at 9 p.m. on 21/12/43. by the military for interment at Cloghane, Ferbane, County Limerick.

The deaths have been registered with the Local Registrar, evidence of identification being given by Lieutenant Hennessy of Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee, in the presence of Sergt. M. Duffy, 8230, Cloghane Station.

I arrived at the scene at about 12.30 a.m. on 21/12/'43
Members of the L.D.F., L.S.F. and Red Cross were also present.

The coroner for the district is Dr. D.T. Sheehan, Milltown, County Kerry.

The bodies were identified from discs which were found in the pockets."

F/Sgt Klemens ADAMOWICZ + P780537
          AdamowiczRefer to his bio on the website.

Sgt Stanislaw CZERNIAWSKI + P794362
          CzerniawskiRefer to his bio on the website.

Sgt Naftali Hirsz Pawel KUFLIK + P794712
Naftali H P
          KuflikRefer to his bio on the website.

Sgt Pavel KOWALEWICZ + P703968
          KowalewiczRefer to his bio on the website.

Sgt Kazimierz ŁUGOWSKI + P703438
          LugowskiRefer to his bio on the website.

Sgt Wincenty PIETRZAK + P782657
          PIETRZAKRefer to his bio on the website.

On the 17th January 1944, Major J P O'Connnell filed the following report, forwarding on a report he had received from the Southern Command Ordnance Officer:  "Captain Pringle visited the scene of the aircraft crash at Mount Brandon on 22nd December, 1943, and he found four aerial depth charges, 3 damaged and one burnt out, two damaged incendiary bombs and a quantity of unserviceable or burnt out aircraft flare floats.

He destroyed all the above mentioned material at the scene of the crash by detonating the aerial depth charges"

It is of interest to find in the Irish Army G2 file that in early Feb 1944, an example of an RAF escape package recovered from the wreckage had been sent to Army Headquarters for review.  Each pack contained 2000 French Francs, two small maps on rubber fabric, a small compass and two waterproof cans from two different kits.

A long running set of communications also related to the loss of an Army felling axe on the night of December 20th, 1943.  This axe had been taken by members of the platoon of 15th Battalion to the crash site but was lost in the dark.  It was to be August 1945 before the matter was finally closed and the offending axe struck from the inventory.

In 2008, during a hike to the crash site of Sunderland G-AGES, local farmer Sean Fitzgerald brought me to the locations of the wreckage of Wellington HF208.  Photos taken at that time in July 2008, are shown below.

This section of very distinctive metallic structure lies on a stream down hill from the crash site.  It is very distinctly from a Vickers Wellington, displaying the distinctive geodetic criss-cross method of construction.

hf208 wreckage

HF208 Wreckage

At or near the crash site can be found this large section of wing structure and attached landing gear.  This seems to be the right hand landing gear leg, with the inner portion of the engine nacelle structure.  The long tubes are the main wing spar.  This consisted on the center section of the wing of double tubes upper and lower, joined by diagonal members.  This arrangement ended on the outer edge of the engine nacelles.  This would indicate that the wreckage is the right hand side, with the tubes continuing off to the right of the image where they used to pass through the fuselage.  This wreckage has in the inter-meaning years been rotated towards teh camera, so that in 2022, the leg is pointing upwards while the large metal panel apepars to have collapsed somewhat.
HF208 Wreckage

HF208 Wreckage cutaway
In this view below, one can see the landing year and nacelle described above, and behind that one of the aircraft's Hercules engines.

HF208 Wreckage

In 2022, a Polish man living in Ireland, Andrzej Danielak, produced a set of wonderful memorial items and placed near to the wreckage and hiking paths on the mountain.

HF208 Memorial

HF208 Memorial

HF208 Memorial
Compiled in 2022 by Dennis Burke:  Sources:  Irish Military Archives files, G2/X/1265 and SI/316.  304 Squadron ORB, TNA.