Royal Air Force Castle Archdale
Castle Archdale Air Operations Board (IWM Picture) beside a Notice Board which is for the benefit of visiting tourists.
The "R.A.F. Castle Archdale" stone is near where the Security Check at the main Gate (Shown above) used to be positioned.
Interestingly some of the Personnel on Guard tristed some small twigs together and the photograph above right shows how these have grown!
Now maintained as a Country Park with many facilities I am pleased to say that much of the old Flying Boat base remains to be explored and indeed this history is celebrated with various W.W.2 sites of interest being marked and even a Visitor Centre. - I would strongly advise that if you want to see all that is available then get your waterproof clothing on and go off into the woods using your eyes! - There is a visitors plan available on site but not all interesting locations are marked.
On the left is one of the Markers which were used by Air Crew to navigate their way to and from Castle Archdale.
The "War Grave" Information tablet is beside this whilst nearby are two chairs with plaques attached.
One says "This Bench was erected in memory of Flight Sergeant BILL PARKER of 422 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force who was stationed at Castle Archdale during World War 2 1943 - 1944 where he served as a Wireless Operator and Air Gunner" The second says "Wing Commander Kenneth William Mackenzie D.F.C. A.F.C. A.E. 8th June 1916 - 5th June 2009. 'One of The Few'"
The two photographs above show the Approach Aids which were used by aircraft leaving and returning to Castle Archdale.
(My sincere thanks to Ken Wilson of Lough Erne Heritage for permission to use these photographs.)
Rita Hamilton, Women's Auxiliary Air Force, at Castle Archdale
The first photograph shows Rita Hamilton in her W.A.A.F. Uniform. The photograph on the right shows her (Right) with her friend Mrs Frankie Hornby at Castle Archdale.
(Thanks to Selwyn Johnston for these four photographs)
Rita Hamilton is shown above at Castle Archdale in her role as a Driver and is on the left of the group photograph below which was taken at Castle Archdale.
Castle Archdale jetties and Incinerator Building
In the photograph above you can see two Sunderlands which may be berthed at the jetties in my top photograph.
You can also see one of the white Markers below the nose of the aircraft as I have photographed above. (Imperial War Museum Photograph)
This Incinerator was used to ensure that all sensitive documents were destroyed.
Petrol Store, Ordnance Store and Blast Shelter
On the left is the Petrol Store which is well concealed in undergrowth. The Ordnance Store can be seen on the right. It has a concrete surface and is surrounded by tall banks of earth with the entrance illustrated.
Below is a Blast Shelter which is in close proximity to where the Mess once stood.
Workshops, Photographic Block and Fuel Compound
The Building on the left is where the Workshops and Photographic Block used to be while to the right is one of the Fuel Compounds
Water Filter House
There are a number of Informative signs around the Castle Archdale complex to give visitors details regarding what they have found.
The Sighting of the Bismarck
It was from Castle Archdale that Catalina Z of 209 Squadron sighted the German Battleship Bismarck on 26th May 1941. - The actual aircraft is shown below.
Contrary to general opinion it was not the aircraft's Captain - Flying Officer Dennis Briggs who first saw the ship but his Co-Pilot Ensign Leonard B Smith.
It was not until the following December that the United States entered the war however "Tuck" Smith was an American and part of a secret arrangement where U.S. aircrew were gaining operational experience while passing on their knowledge of the Catalina Flying Boat.
As a result of the necessary secrecy Briggs’ involvement was not made public as illustrated in this article from "The War Illustrated"
The final operational patrol of R.A.F. Coastal Command from Castle Archdale took place on 3rd June 1945 by 201 Squadron.
The Shetland Docks at Castle Archdale
This photograph shows one of the jetties at the Shetland Dock - You can see where the steps are uneven heights and are designed specifically for crews of the Shetland Flying Boats.
The rusting boat is a "Bomb Scow" which can be seen at Shetland Dock. It would have been used to take Depth Charges out to the aircraft.
Castle Archdale Shooting Range
This was a case of me having an idea of where this structure stands and I was not going to be happy until I had located it!
This is the Butts of the Machine Gun Range at Castle Archdale. - The area is VERY overgrown and took considerable effort to reach.
All the walls of the butts remain in good condition.
Castle Archdale Refuelling Jetty
Here we can see the Flying Boat Refuelling Jetty which remains in great condition along with the Fuel Pumping Station which is on the bank beside the jetty.
Flying Boats at Castle Archdale
A VERY Busy Castle Archdale! (Thanks to Ed Luke)
Short Sunderland of 201 Squadron, Royal Air Force photographed on 20th May 1943 at Castle Archdale. (Imperial War Museum Photograph)
Photographed from below the wing of another aircraft are 2 Short Sunderland Flying Boats at Castle Archdale.
They are DP181D and DD867 2-G. Both of which were with 423 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force.
Short Sunderland MkIII EJ137 "I-T" of 201 Squadron Royal Air Force taking off from Castle Archdale.
This is Short Sunderland Mk III W6013 which is shown moored to a buoy on Lough Erne where it was being operated from Castle Archdale by 423 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force.
On the 5th December 1943 this aircraft was detailed to carry out a non-operational transit flight.
Those who were on board that day were :- F/Sgt W. Alexander, F/Lt R.S. Oakes, P/O R.J. Russell, WO 11 R.G. Locke, F/Sgt W.H. Russell, F/O H. Forrest along with LAC. Edward Lowson, RAF, F/Sgt. David Cowan Douglas, RAF, F/Sgt. Donald Thomas Bromhead, RAF, Sgt. George Wilkinson, RAF, S/Ldr. Philip Michael Hermann Thomas, RAF, Sgt. Christopher George Edward Wellington, RAF, Sgt. Randell Hunter, RAF, F/O Herbert Douglas Blair, RCAF, F/O. Frank Moss, RAAF.
I have laid out the names in this way because on the 5th December 1943 this aircraft was detailed to carry out a non-operational transit flight when it was involved in a Fatal Accident.
The aircraft crashed at 1307 hours whilst on a transit flight from Castle Archdale to Stranrear and was on the second leg of the journey from Lough Foyle to Rathlin Island when at 13.07 the aircraft hit the side of Knocklaid Mountain which is approximately 3 miles south of Ballycastle.
The Accident Report says “The Captain and the Navigator were flying by DR Navigation alone and they were assuming to be crossing the coast line and on track from Limavady to Rathlin island. The DR navigation was inaccurate and no use was made by the crew of the ASR nor was any use made of other WT aids to establish the correct position of the aircraft.
The aircraft hit bottom first as the Pilot attempted to pull up at the last moment. The bottom disintegrated and the engines followed, before the top part of the aircraft came to rest upside down and the aircraft caught fire about 100 yards from the first point of impact.”
Of the 15 on board, nine were killed and six were injured including the Pilot Flying Officer Russell.
The first six names listed above are those who were fortunate to survive this crash whilst the remaining names are of those who lost their lives in this crash.
FO Moss, a Navigator Bomb Aimer, is buried in the Irvinestown Church of Ireland.
This picture shows a Crew Member of a Sunderland from 201 Squadron, Royal Air Force photographing a naval vessel from a hatchway using a Hand Held Type F-24 Aerial Camera during a patrol over the Atlantic Ocean from Castle Archdale. (I.W.M. Picture)
On the right is a Catalina crew making their way to shore.
Both photographs above show Short Sunderland GR Mk V ML778 NS-Z flown by Wing Commander J Barrett, Commanding Officer of 201 Squadron, Castle Archdale. (I.W.M. Pictures)
Above is Short Sunderland Mk III, DD-867, 2G of 423 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force based at Castle Archdale.
The scene inside a Short Sunderland of 201 Squadron, Royal Air Force based at Castle Archdale. (Imperial War Museum Photographs)
Thanks to Irwin Brown for these pictures of a Catalina and Sunderland (Which is in U.S. Livery)
Sunderland aircraft flying over an R.A.F. Boat and a Sunderland Crew leaving the aircraft. (I.W.M. Photograph)
Castle Archdale Aircraft Sinks a U-Boat
These photographs show U-Boat, U-625 being attacked by a Short Sunderland Mk III of Number 422 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force based at Castle Archdale.
The attack took place on 10th March 1944 and first photograph shows splashes where Depth Charges have been dropped by the aircraft. To the left you can see where machine gun fire from the Rear Gunner in the Sunderland has hit the water.
In the second picture the depth Charges have exploded to the stern of the submarine and at the same time the machine gun bullets are striking the area to the front of the Conning Tower.
The U-Boat crash dives only to resurface a few minutes later and the Crew can be seen abandoning ship.
The last picture shows that the Survivors have gathered themselves together to await rescue.
All of these men died in a storm the following day as they awaited rescue making the total loss of life 53 which was all hands. (Imperial War Museum)
Tragedy at Castle Archdale
On 14th October 1942 a Marine Dinghy with 10 Maintainence Men on board capsized with the loss of all hands.
Here are the Rank, Number, Name, Age, Service, Nationality, Buried, Grave
of all those who were killed.
LAC 1103801 Francis Hart, 28 RAFVR United Kingdom, Chorley, (St.Gregory's) Roman Catholic Churchyard Grave A 49
Cpl. 1120540 Frank Stafford, 21 RAFVR United Kingdom Healey (Christ Church) Churchyard Spec. Memorial
AC1 1446250 Walter James Lanham, 21 RAFVR United Kingdom Irvinstown Church of Ireland Churchyard Plot 1 Grave 16
AC2 1120278 John Smith Falconer Thomson, Age N/K RAFVR United Kingdom Edinburgh (Portobello Cemetery) Sec.Q. Grave 217
AC1 1555497 Robert McAndrew, 21 RAFVR United Kingdom Kirkaldy (Hayfield) Cemetery Comp. H Grave 435
AC1 1117076 David Pullar 27 RAFVR United Kingdom Balgay Cemetery, Dundee Sec B, Grave 5
AC2 1489553 Owen Edwards, 21 RAFVR United Kingdom Llanbeblig Public Cemetery Grave1259
LAC 626152 William John Thomas, 30 RAFVR United Kingdom Llamsamlet (St.Samlet) Churchyard Row N Grave 19
Cpl. 406119 John M. Butchart, 47 RAF United Kingdom Belton (St.Peter) Churchyard NE of Church
AC2 1618038 William Arthur Barton ? RAFVR United Kingdom Manor Park Cemetery Sec.125 Grave 104
Castle Archdale - Robert Sidwell Collection.
The main Building at Castle Archdale with Observation Tower on the roof
On the roof of the main building and the Royal Air Force Flagstaff and Radio Masts in the front Garden of the Castle Archdale Building.
Sign at the main entrance.
Work being carried out on Sunderland Flying Boats at Castle Archdale.
(My sincere thanks goes to Robert Sidwell for these personal photographs).
These photographs show everyday like at Castle Archdale.
On the left work is being carried out on Sunderland NS-K which has had its Vertical Stabiliser, Rudder and both Elevators removed.
The men above are Royal Air Force and Air Ministry M.T. Staff at Castle Archdale.
Some of these men can be identified as Eddie Brogan (Third from right in Front Row)
Peter O'Donohue (5th from the right) and Tommy Rooney(2nd from Right)
The photograph is from Eddie Brogan Junior.
(Thanks to the Old Enniskillen Facebook Page for permission to use these pictures)
"Straddle" The Squadron Mascot of 422 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force at Castle Archdale
Dogs are referred to as "A Man's Best Friend" and this is true during Wartime as well as all other times.
Shown here is "Straddle" who was the Squadron Mascot of 422 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force who were based at Castle Archdale.
I believe the photograph above was taken in Irvinestown and shows Straddle wearing his Squadron Coat.
It seems that Straddle went on a number of Operations during the War during which his favourite position was at the Navigators Table.
On the left is Straddle in the co-pilot's seat in a Short Sunderland flying boat.
Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Detwiller is the Pilot.
422 Squadron Navigator, John Moyles said “I knew LLoyd Detwiller and also Straddle. We took Straddle on patrols and he stayed on the Navigator's table during take off.
Once over the ocean the order, 'test guns' was given. There were four .303 Browning in the tail turret, 4 in the nose turret, and 2 in the mid upper. The gunners liked to position their turrets, tail starboard, nose port, and fire simultaneously. The recoil would throw the ship off course, much to the pilot's annoyance.
One flight when we had Straddle on board, the 10 guns going off in unison, caused him to pee all over the navigator's map!"
After VE-Day he was brought to Vancouver, and a year later was killed after being struck by a car. (Information from Vintage Wings of Canada with pictures from Pembroke Sunderland Trust//Boxbrownie3 )
Restored Catalina Flying Boat
Here are a few photographs of such an aircraft which is similar to the Catalina aircraft which were based in County Fermanagh.
Marker Buoys for Flying Boats and the Endeavour
An important task in County Fermanagh during the War was to ensure that there were Marker Buoys in sections of Lough Erne to assist the Sunderland and Catalina Flying Boats in locating their Bases when returning from patrols over the Atlantic Ocean.
The top photograph shows the boat "Endeavour" which was used for this purpose and above left you can see one of the Buoys being held by the crane at the rear of the boat.
This final picture shows some of the local civilians who worked with the Flying Boats. The picture was taken as the war ended. (Thanks to Roger Edmondson for this)
The Lough Erne Yacht Club is the current owner of what had been a major base for Flying Boats on Lough Erne.
The Base was constructed by the U.S. Government with the main County Fermanagh Headquarters being at Ely Lodge as well as Killadeas.
Commissioned in 1942 by the U.S. Navy and known by the Royal Air Force as 131 Operational Training Unit, the R.A.F. carried out repair work on site.
Coastal Command took charge in 1942 from the United States Unit - Company K, 2nd Battalion 168th Infantry. From 13th May until 13th December 1942 109th Engineer Battalion of 34th Infantry Division U.S. Army was also based at Killadeas.
The pictures show the original Royal Air Force flagstaff, a memorial stone at the base of the flagstaff, 2 Flying Boat Mooring Blocks and the remaining large repair hangar.
Credit is due to the members of The Lough Erne Yacht Club who display the 2 pictures shown on the left.
The top one is a Roll of Honour listing all the Catalina Flying Boats which were based on Lough Erne during WW2 that crashed with loss of life.
It includes details of all the crewmen who gave their lives in these crashes.
The lower item is called "Find The Bismarck" and describes the actions of the crew of Catalina I AH545 "WQ-Z" of Number 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
The two pictures on the right show the Camp buildings on the hill between where the yacht club and Manor House Hotel now stand along with the Nissen Huts which were much closer to the shoreline. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston)
The Water Towers and on top of the Control Tower which stood on the high ground above Killadeas.
(My sincere thanks goes to Robert Sidwell for these personal photographs).
This Building was the Pyrotechnic Store (Ready Use) which is the first building you see on the right when you are approaching the Killadeas complex.
These impressive photograph was taken on 22nd April 1944 by 131 Operational Training Unit.
Above shows Killadeas in the centre of the photograph with Gublusk Bay clearly visible at the lower shore.
(Thanks to Selwyn Johnston for this photograph)
This photograph was taken at the same time as the one above.
It shows Killadeas including the large number of Nissen Huts on the left side - This is where the Bomb Store that is shown below in Located.
The large building in the background is now the Manor House Hotel. There are a number of Catalina aircraft on the Lough. (Thanks to Selwyn Johnston for this photograph)
Killadeas Bomb Store
These few photographs show a Ordnance Store.
The concrete road winds its way from the Manor House Hotel around the shoreline towards what is now Lough Erne Yacht Club.
The Ordnance was secured within the area shown in the photograph on the right which is surrounded on three sides by banking. Sorry for the poor photograph.
Safety is paramount in such operations and here is a small storage area where Fire Fighting Equipment would have been retained for use in the event of an emergency.
This is an amazing space - on the opposite side of the bay from Killadeas this was where the Flying Boats were taken out of the water for servicing and repair.
(The B&W Picture is from the book "Home Away From Home")
This is the ramp up which the Catalina Flying Boats were hauled out of the water. Metal rings which were used to assist in this process remain in situ.
To the right can be seen the yachts at Killadeas and if you continued around the headland you would arrive at the Manor House.
Boa Island Flying Boat Mooring Station
This is an interesting location which may be referred to as “Rock Bay” and is situated on the southeastern side of the island.
The site was a satellite to Killadeas and was used by 131 Operational Training Unit from 31st May 1944 until March 1945.
As can be seen from the pictures there is one remaining building, with 2 strong metal doors, in a field with another which has been utilised by a private dwelling. There is rubble where a third may have stood close to the pathway from the main road down to the jetty which has a metal end section to which aircraft or boats could be tied.
St Angelo Airfield
Now known as Enniskillen (St Angelo) Airport this can be found at Kesh Road, Enniskillen in the townland of Trory.
Although it appears to be a busy little airfield virtually all of the historic buildings and emplacements have been wiped from the landscape which is rather sad. I have included an article in the "Useful Links" Section which gives more details. - Shown here is a photograph of the WW2 Control Tower (Thanks very much to Fermanagh Genealogy for this picture)
Unfortunately I could only find the singular building pictures above from its busy days as an R.A.F. Fighter Sector Station in 1941 and 1942 or as a diversion airfield for the very busy North Atlantic Ferry route. The following year of '43 Coastal Command used it as a Flying Instructors School.
On the left is how the Airfield Battle Headquarters which was at St Angelo looked before it was destroyed.
To the right is a Fighter Dispersal. The view is towards an Air Raid Shelter which would have been covered with earth. There would have been a tall embankment in the centre designed to protect the Fighter Aircraft, one of which would have been kept on each side of the embankment. - Good examples of these remain at Kirkistown and Ballyhalbert.
Unfortunately the structures in these photographs have since been demolished.
St Angelo Airfield Defences
The photographs here were taken before all of the Defensive Structures were destroyed as referred to in the Link given above.
Airfield Defensive structures are built to provide defence of the Airfield when it comes under attack and the simplest way of attacking an Airfield is simply by landing on it so this is why all of the Airfield defences face inward towards the runway as shown in this photograph.
This was the "Battle Headquarters" from which Officers would have taken Command and Control of the defensive actions if the airfield was attacked.
Typical design would have had the Cupola and Escape hatch (As shown both above and below) at one end with the stairs leading down to the Entrance at the other.
To the left is the inside view of one of the Loopholes while on the right is a view of the stairs leading down to the entrance to one of the Pillboxes.
This final photograph shows the destruction of all of the Second World War defensive structures at St Angelo Airfield.
In the centre of the photograph is one of the Runways - It was to the right of this runway that the photographs of 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army were taken - These can be seen below.
To the left of the taxiway on the far side of the Runway is where one building remains which I have photographed and can be seen above.
(My Sincere thanks to Jim O'Neill for these Photographs)
509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, United States Army at St Angelo
Shown here are Soldiers of 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at St Angelo Airfield. The photographs are dated 7th October 1942 with information from The Roving Historian Blogspot. This first Picture shows kit being checked before a Parachute jump. (Library of Congress Photograph)
Ensuring everything is as it should be. (Library of Congress Photograph https://www.loc.gov/item/owi2001045323/PP/ )
Lining up at the side of Douglas DC-3 Aircraft. (Library of Congress Photograph https://www.loc.gov/item/owi2001045323/PP/ )
Moving to board the Aircraft. (Library of Congress Photograph https://www.loc.gov/item/owi2001045323/PP/ )
With this Aerial Photograph (Bing Maps) you can see the area where the Dakota Aircraft were sitting in the photographs above.
Top left of this photograph is the Ballinamallard River and the concrete paths which led to Fighter Pens before these were removed some years ago.The tree line is the same tree line which can be seen in the photograph 4 above.
St Angelo in Later Years
These last two photographs show one of the Runways at St Angelo being used by the Military during the 1970's and 1980's
(Thanks very much to Adrian Hughes)