main banner

Fairey Swordfish, Gormanstown, August 1944

The evening of Thursday, 31st of August 1944 would see another foreign visitor to the Irish military base at Gormanstown in County Meath.  The Daily summary report for aircraft observations by Army and police compiled by Irish Army Intelligence for the period ending at 9am on September first 1944 reported:
EAST COAST: 18:04-18:08 - LOP RUSH, GDA. SKERRIES obsd. a Br. a/c mov. N.W. overland.  Later obsd. by LOP CARDYS ROCKS circling GORMANSTOWN.

The landing was noted as having been perfect and that the weather was bad at the time.  The two crew members were recorded only as Lt Comm C K Hayward RNVR and Sub Lt Lewiston, the pilot.  They were flying on a Swordfish bi-plane, of the type used by the Royal Navy.

The Irish Army report records that the pilot explained they were on a communications flight from the Isle of Man to Northern Ireland.  He stated that they had become lost enroute and didn't know where they were.

The two men were accommodated over night at the base.  The aircraft was examined in the morning and they took off at 0942 hrs on the 1st September 1944.  No identification marks from the aircraft were recorded by the Irish Army, either unit markings or serial number.  The only expenses associated with this event were the costs to the Irish Army 18th Battalion mess for the food and drink provided to Lewiston and Hayward during their stay.

The two crew members names were confirmed with the help of Hans Houterman from the website, and this eventually allowed them to be traced, although the pilot had been contacted by researchers many years before my attempts.

Derek Rufus
          LewistonThe pilot of the aircraft was determined to be Derek Rufus Edward Lewiston, born in 1923 to Ada and Rufus Lewiston.  His father had served three years from 1915 in the Mediterranean with the British Armies Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as a private.  Derek's parents can be found listed on the 1939 register at 9 Ventnor Drive in Barnet, Herts.  At the time of writing, a third occupants name is not available to view, presumably due to age, but it is expected that it will be Derek himself. 

A happy co-incidence is that Derek submitted his wartime story to the BBC 'The Peoples War' project during the 1990's, and thus we can read it in his own words clicking on the image below:

          Lewiston BBC

Derek sadly passed away on the 3rd June 2017 in Dover.  Derek had remained in contact with Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm veterans and it was for this reason that it was possible to make contact with him over the years, I had the opportunity to speak with him in a phone call in 2010. After his death, contact was made with his grad daughter who very kindly provided the images on this page including those of his log book, recording his flight and his own report on the subject.

The log book records the flight as follows, and it is not clear what was meant by two passengers, except that perhaps he carried one to Belfast and was returning with Lt Cmdr Hayward to his base at 'R', Ronaldsway on the Isle of Man.  It will be noted that he was at that time posted to the Station Flight in Ronaldsway.
Derek Lewiston

The times associated with the flights were recorded on the following page, with the entire flight to and from Ronaldsway accounted for in the one line as over three hours flying.
Derek Lewiston

The next same page of the log book includes a photo of a Swordfish aircraft.

Derek Lewiston

This finally identifies the aircraft that landed at Gormanstown as Swordfish HS410, whose history in Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 - 1945 is:  Delivered 15 January 1943, assigned to 779 Squadron at North Front in Gibraltar.  It is reported as having a Category Y accident on the 10th June 1943 when its undercarriage collapsed on landing.  No further history is recorded in the book, so finding it in Ronaldsway in August 1944 shows it must have been repaired.

And stapled into the log book is a copy of a report Derek would have submitted to his superiors, no doubt to explain his absence for the night.

Derek Lewiston report

Derek was at the time of the landing serving as an Acting Sub-Lieutentant (Air) and posted to HMS Urley, the Royal Navy air establishment on the Isle of man.  The October 1944 Navy list confirms this posting.  In the January 1945 Navy List Derek is found on a posting at HMS Goshawk, the Fleet Air Arm base in Trinidad in the Caribbean.  At some time during this posting to the Carribbean, he suffered a taxiing accident in a Fairey Barracuda of 750 Squadron based at RNAS Piarco.  Derek sailed into New York on the 22 September 1945 on the vessel SS Cantuaria coming from Port au Spain, returning from his posting in RNAS Piarco.

With the war over, Derek was released from the service in June 1946.

Charles Henry
          HaywardThe passenger on the Swordfish was Charles Henry Hayward, born in 1909.  The 1939 register finds Charles living with his widowed father and first wife in Poole.  The register records the following entry for him.
-  Normal Occupation Local Government Officer.    At present on leave Serving .  Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

He had enrolled in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the summer of 1937.
His initial war service seems to have been assigned to the cruiser HMS York, between 1939 and 1941.  That role was as an officer in the Meteorological Branch of the navy.  HMS York was damaged by Axis bombing on the 18th May 1941 and abandoned beyond repair on the 22nd May but it is not known if Charles was on board His next posting was to the shore establishment HMS Nile in Egypt after a period which lists no station in the Navy lists.

From December 1943, he appears back in the UK with postings showing up in many places including HMS Ringtail at Burscough, Lancs, HMS Gadwall at Belfast, HMS Valkyrie and Urley both in the Isle of Man.  A final wartime posting seems to have been at Lee on Solent, but there after he remained on the RNVR lists but may have been reservists.

He lived in the town of Alne for many years and served 12 years on the parish council.  he is rememebred fondly there by former friends with whom he indulged in sailing interest.  Charles passed away in December 1997 and his daughters in law have been very kind in sharing memories of him.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2019.  With thanks to the families of Charles Henry HAYWARD and Derek Rufus LEWISTON.