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Landings at Leopardstown Racecourse,

Dublin, May 1941  

In the short history of foreign aircraft landings in neutral Ireland during the 1939 - 1945 period, apart from the airfields at Gormanstown, Baldonnel, Rinneanna and Collinstown, not many places would see multiple landings of foreign aircraft.  The Marsh in Skibbereen, Cork, would see two bomber landings in the space of two months in 1944 and the the subject of this page, Leopardstown Race Course and its surroundings would receive two aircraft, one British in May 1941 and an American in February 1944.

The first of these landings took place next to Leopardstown racecourse itself, in the townland of Ballyogan, which lies to the south of the race course track.  The Irish newspapers on May 23, 1941 carried the very subdued report that:   The Government Information Bureau last night stated:  A British aircraft crashed this afternoon in County Dublin.  The crew, who were uninjured, have been interned.  This was reported alongside reports of the fighting on the island of Crete.

The previous afternoon had seen the dramatic arrival of a twin engined Royal Air Force fighter aircraft, one of the still relatively new Bristol Beaufighter aircraft.  The Irish Military Archives File G2/X/0744 records that the aircraft arrived at 17:40 hours on the Thursday evening in a field 'adjoining Leopardstown'.  On board the aircraft were two RAF officers and a Sergeant.

A report from the local Garda, the Irish Police force, recorded how a passing lorry driver had reported to Stepaside Police station that an aircraft was on the ground.  An officer arriving at the scene had to stop the crew members from destroying equipment on the aircraft.  Shortly thereafter, members of the Local Security Force (LSF), a wartime force set up to assist the Garda during this time of emergency, had to be used to keep the growing crowds of civilians back from the aircraft.  It is said that people wanted the crew to join them for 'refreshments'.  They were finally brought to the LSF post at Foxrock and given refreshments by members of the group.  Later again they were taken to Cabinteely Garda Station and thence to Portobello Barracks. They were interrogated there, and said to be friendly, but uncommunicative.  They were concerned about the security of their aircraft.

They reported that they were part of a flight of four aircraft flying from Gibraltar to the UK, and had run out of fuel due to loss of bearings and failure of their wireless equipment.

Their names were recorded in the report in a number places but in general on the first day they were understood to be:

F/O H C Berity 72507 Sydenham, Bisley St, Strand, Gloucester
F/O J B Holgate, 33426, 113 Shirley Way, Croyden, Surrey
Sgt Barnett, W, 973926, Main St, Grosssgates, Dunfermline

Given the procedures being followed by the Irish government at that time, it was determined that they must be interned as belligerents and found themselves in short order being driven to the Curragh Camp in Kildare.

Their aircraft was largely intact, and its identity could be read from the rear fuselage as serial number T3235.  And, a photo of the aircraft exists in the field, presented below with the kind help of A. Flanaghan.

Beaufighter T3235

One can see the serial number T3235 on the rear fuselage along with the partially obscured squadron markings of ?N-H.  This was a Beaufighter IC, the long range heavy fighter version for Coastal Command use.  The aircraft was dismantled and removed from the site by an Irish Air Corps team.  It was an aircraft operated by 252 Squadron, Royal Air Force.  They had been based in the UK but were deployed to the Mediterranean to operate from Malta and support the shipping convoys trying to keep that island from falling into Italian and German hands.  Bombing raids on the Squadron had resulted in the need to fly four damaged Beaufighters back to the UK for repairs.

Using a combination of modern day records and the accumulated research of others over a 40 year period, the story of the crew becomes known.

Hugh VerityThe pilot of the aircraft was non other than the soon to be famous Hugh Beresford Verity

The British Military Attache in Dublin, Lywood, sent a telegram, now recorded in the events AIR81 file in the UK National Archives, to the Air Ministry and RAF Northern Ireland with the following report from F/O Verity.

Report of F/O Verity Pilot of Beaufighter No.T3235 (PNM) which force landed in Eire on 22/5 is as follows.

Airborne Gibraltar 0905 GMT. Last fix Cape Carvoiero. Finisterre obscured by cloud. Wireless receiver found unserviceable at 1400 hours. Visibility and height of cloud zero-zero at 1435  G.M.T. E.T.A. Land’s End. Climbed above cloud to 6,000 ft. and  searched for gaps in cloud and land. Transmitted messages to St.Eval
 about (OMR) movements and left I.F.F. on Stud 3. Petrol exhausted after 7 hours 25 minutes in the air. Forced to land Fox Rock, Dublin at 1630 G.M.T. Undercarriage and port engine and starboard aircrew badly damaged. Destroyed I.F.F. charts with co-ordinates torn up and some fragments left in aircraft and other fragments and C.D.75 taken by Military Intelligence of Eire. Report Ends.

As result of my previous representation to Director of  Eire Intelligence I consider documents taken over by them are in safe custody.

F/O Verity upon his escape reported for duty with 54 Operational Training Unit (OTU) on the 27 July 1941 and there after to 29 Squadron.

His family provided a copy of a memoir chapter that he prepared, and his description of the arrival in Ireland is as follows:
So we four crews and our passengers found ourselves in Gibraltar being briefed on the morning of Thursday 22 May, 1941.  It seemed that the weather would be cloudy and then clearer.  I asked Sergeant Barnett to plan a flight where we could let down through cloud, if need be, to sea level fifty miles southwest of Land's End.  When we could see the sea, in very poor visibility, there was a coast-line to the East but it was not Land's End.  We were near a small ship called the François Xavier with no national colours.  We circled it and John tried to make contact in Morse flashing an Aldiss lamp.  We could not decide where we were, as the poor meteoro­logists in Gibraltar had very sketchy information to base a forecast on, and had probably given us very misleading forecast winds.
    As the weather closed in down to sea level I pressed on north climbing up through the cloud and rain.  The next sight of land was trees and hedges going by in the clouds at 1,500 feet indicated.  I thought that there could be Welsh mountains ahead and climbed up higher.  Then I resolved not to go down to sea level again until I could see a clear way down.  I think I must have flown down the top slope of a front before I could see the sea again.  Ahead was a coastline and I thought that I might just have enough fuel to reach it before my tanks ran dry.
    Inland there was a racecourse which I thought might do for a forced landing but it was obstructed by tripods of pine trees.  So I managed to glide, all fuel gone, to belly-land in a field beyond.  A girl ran up to us.  ‘Where are we?’ I asked.  ‘Sure you are in Eire,’ she said.
    What an amateur aviator I was!  Could not find England!
    There was poor old H Hugo on her belly not far from the concrete wall whose top we had dented, surrounded by friendly and curious local people.  Sergeant Barnett and I heard a small explosion from the Beaufighter and saw a puff of smoke.  It was only John Holgate, my passenger, blowing up the secret IFF (Identifica­tion Friend or Foe radar responder).  It had not occurred to me to do it.
    Out of the little crowd emerged a charming doctor.  He noticed my bleeding forehead where it had set forward against the glass reflector plate of my gun sight.  He persuaded the Army and Garda that he had to dress the wound in his house ‑ and give us, all three, cups of tea.  He secretly took my logbook and diary to deliver to the British Office in Dublin.  He anticipated the inevitable ‘missing’ telegram with his own good news to Bisley.  To avoid getting him into trouble, I have forgotten his name, but I never cease to be grateful.

F/O Verity, was interned with the others but he and Holgate seized the chance to escape during the Darby Day escape, with four other RAF men, on 14 June 1941.  His son, Richard had been born during his time interned when he was appointed senior British officer in the British internee group.  Following his escape, he wrote to the Colonel Thomas McNally, the Camp commander to thank him for his and his men's conduct during his time interned.  Hugh would be around in 1999 when the movie, The brylcream Boys, was released.

Hugh's later wartime exploits were written about in his book, We Landed by Moonlight, published first in 1978.  It told of the missions he is beset known for, flights into occupied Europe in Lysander aircraft, dropping and collecting agents working with the resistance movements in German occupied areas.

Hugh passed away in November 2001 and his obituary featured in the Telegraph newspaper.

          BarnettThe Radio Operator/Observer on the aircraft, seated at the rear canopy, was Sgt William Barnett 973926.

William was born in Dunferline on 8 January 1917, the son of XXX and XXX.  His parent resided at Burnside Terrace, Crossgates, Fifeshire during the war.

He was interned in the Curragh internment camp until October 1943 when he was released along with another batch of airmen what the Irish government agreed were not on combat missions at the time of their internment.  Upon his release he filed a short escape and evasion report that recorded his previous two years: 

Internment: I was a member of the crew of Beaufighter which took off from Gibralter on 22 May 1941 and came down on the same day at LEOPARDSTOWN, CO. DUBLIN.  I was thereafter interned in THE CURRAGH Camp.

Following his return from internment, he spent a period assigned to RAF 45 Group, sailing on the Ile de France arriving in New York on the 7 September 1944 and was crewed on Liberator KH353 being delivered from Montreal to the UK over the 9th/10th November 1944, returning to Montreal as a passenger on Liberator AL592 on 23rd November 1944.  His Ferry Card has an annotation noting that he had been part of Course 14 of 105 Operational Training Unit.

At some point in the weeks following that, William found himself the victim of a dangerous aircraft accident what would see him display a great act of bravery.

St. James's Palace, S.W.1
27th April, 1945.
The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointment to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the following awards of the George Medal and the British Empire Medal:—

To be an Additional Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:—

Warrant Officer William BARNETT - (973926). Royal Air Force.
Awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division).

1521658 Flight-Sergeant Matthew ANDERSON, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

In December, 1944, a Mitchell aircraft, which was fully loaded with petrol, caught fire soon after the take-off. The pilot, Flight Sergeant Anderson, made a crash landing during which he and the navigator, Warrant Officer Barnett, received head and other superficial injuries, burns and shock. They both left the wrecked aircraft by way of the escape hatch and then returned to rescue the radio operator who was trapped in the flames beneath the fuselage. Warrant Officer Barnett, using great strength, lifted the rear portion of the fuselage whilst Flight Sergeant Anderson crawled in and dragged the radio operator clear. They then assisted him away from the conflagration. They showed disregard for their own safety and injuries and, by their courage, undoubtedly saved the life of their comrade.

It seems likely that the aircraft involved was Mitchell KJ722 which has a circumstances of loss of:  Wrecked when crashlanded 4 mi N of Dorval, Canada Dec 7, 1944 after catching fire in air.

The Ottowa Journal on the evening of 7th December 1944 reported: 
CRASH AT CARTIERVILLE. MONTREAL Dec 7. (CP) A twin-engine aircraft crashed in a field near suburban Cartlerville today soon after taking off from Dorval Airport The three occupants of the 'plane escaped with slight bruises.

The following day, The Gazette, from Montreal carried the following article.

2 Fliers Save Comrade In Crash Landing Here
Two men risked their lives to save a third, when an aircraft of the R.A F. Transport Command was forced to land between Cartierville and St. Laurent yesterday morning. It is not known how the aircraft caught fire, but a witness, E. Grou, a farmer of St. Laurent said he saw the fire when the plane was over his farm and expected It to explode when it hit the ground. He saw the pilot and navigator crawl out safely and then return to drag out the radio operator who was unable to extricate himself. all non-commissioned officers of the R.A.F.T.C., had taken off from Dorval airport only a few minutes previously on a routine flight. R.A.F.T.C. officials said the men suffered superficial burns, but were otherwise unhurt. The aircraft, a Mitchell twin-engine bomber was completely destroyed. Rescue operations were hindered for some time owing to the thick snow, but with the aid of J. Lecavalier. S. Sgt Walter E. Plaine was able to render first aid.

John Basil
          HolgateThe passenger being carried on T3235 was F/O John Basil Holgate, 33426, another pilot from 252 Squadron.  He was born in 1919 to Gladys and Basil Holgate in Southend on Sea.

John was commishioned into the RAF in the summer and August of 1939.  He was posted it appears first to 217 Squadron flying Avro Anson's with Coastal Command from February 1940.  It was with them that he suffered a forced landing at sea on 21 November 1940.  John and his crew of three had to come down in the sea off Kelland Head on the north coast of Cornwall flying in Anson R9701.  The four were picked up by a passing british trawler.
After his escape from internment, he was in 1942 posted to 143 Squadron then flying as a non operational, Operational Training Unit using Blenheims.  They then transitioned to Beaufighters and it was while flying these that he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for, as the RAF publicity press release mentioned: Squadron Leader Holgate, now on his second tour of operational duty, has displayed the greatest enthusiasm and keenness to engage the enemy. As a flight commander he has shown both courage and determination and conscientious devotion to duty at all times.

He continued to serve in the RAF post war and in 1952 was awarded an Air Force Cross.

He passed away on 13th January 1983 in Buckinghamshire with a short death notice published in The Times newspaper.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2024, Dublin and Sligo.  With the very kind assistance of the Verity family and pending input from Holgate family.