U.S. Army Air Force Bomber Crew Bail-Out over Brookeborough.
On 23rd January 1944 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 42-31507 took off from Goose Bay, Newfoundland to follow the North Atlantic Ferry Route to Nutts Corner Airfield in County Antrim.
The crew consisted of:-
Second Lieutenant Charles G. Smith Jr - Pilot and Flight Officer John M. Haning - Co-Pilot along with Second Lieutenant Ralph H. Stanley, Second Lieutenant Garven F. Williams Jr, Sergeant Kenmore E. Rowe, Sergeant Robert F. Wise, Sergeant George Aviles Jr, Sergeant Raymond Niday, Sergeant Vernon D. Gardner and Sergeant Stanley C. Burton.
Due to the ground being obscured by cloud the Pilot soon found himself flying by his instruments from shortly after take-off.
When approximately 200 miles west of Ireland the Pilot climbed to 23,000 feet in the hope of getting above the cloud however as they approached the coastline Number 1 Engine began to splutter followed by Number 4 Engine doing the same. Propellers were feathered to ensure they did not create drag and as the aircraft reached County Fermanagh the situation became even more serious as Engine Number 3 also began to splutter.
It seemed obvious that the aircraft was about to loose all power and crash so the Order was given for the crew to Bale-Out.
The duty of the Pilot was to ensure that the aircraft, with it’s secret radio Navigation System as well as the famous Norden Bomb Sight and thirteen .50 calibre Machine-guns, did not fall into the hands of the enemy. He was also aware of the danger of such a large aircraft crashing onto a populated area so 2nd Lieutenant Charles Smith set the Autopilot for a heading which would ensure it would crash into the Atlantic Ocean before he also baled-out.
All of the Crew floated to earth in the Brookeborough area as a storm raged and a strong wind blew from the Northwest.
Strange as it may seem the Bomber headed southwards over the neutral Republic of Ireland with its engines still misfiring until it came down to earth and glided to a halt in a field north of the village of Johnstown in County Kilkenny.
Amazingly it had travelled approximately 143 miles with no-one on board and the fact that the aircraft was empty came as a considerable surprise to the Emergency Services who had raced to the scene expecting to find an injured Crew.
The Secret Equipment as well as Guns were subsequently recovered and returned to Northern Ireland.
(Thanks very much to Joe O'loughlin for his assistance with information)
Ashbrooke is near Brookeborough and during 1942 was used as Billits by 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry of the 34th Infantry Division, U.S. Army.
On 15th December they were joined by 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry, 8th Infantry Division who stayed there until June 1944.
The nineteen photographs here are stamped on the rear "Passed for Personal Use Only. Not for Publication. Theatre Censor. ETOUSA" (European Theatre of Operations, United States Army) They are dated 26th and 27th September 1944. ***Charlie Anderson Collection, by kind permission of his family Do Not Copy***
Time for a Break - The soldier on the left is named as "Bob Jones"
The photograph on the right has the name Kline handwritten on the back.
The final photograph above shows that County Fermanagh is known more for its rainfall rather than sunshine.
On the back of this photograph is written "The Flood Outside Our Door. August 1942"
***Charlie Anderson Collection, by kind permission of his family Do Not Copy***
Medal Presentations at Ashbrooke
There pictures show Private Julius Biel (Seated due to Injury) and Private G. Jones being awarded the Soldiers Medal by Major General William Claude McMahon at Ashbrooke on 13th May 1944.
U.S. Army Soldiers training in the Ashbrooke Area
In front of the Soldier on the left you can see some camouflage netting.
Some of the "G.I.'s speaking with Turf Cutters.
Perfecting Shooting Skills.
Weapons being cleaned on the left with a tent being prepared on the right.
Looking down into the Camp you can see that some of the Nissen Huts have been painted in a camouflage pattern.
Another group photograph of U.S. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division at Ashbrooke.
******These photographs are from a Private Collection. Do Not Copy******
Belle Isle, Lisbellaw
In January 1944 this became home to 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, XV Corps United States Army.
Trory Church Graveyard
On looking around the graveyard at Trory Church overlooking St Angelo Airfield I was surprised to find the grave of Major General Thomas Patrick David Scott.
Scott had been Officer Commanding 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers between 1942 and 1944 and subsequently from 1944 until 1947 he had commanded 38th Irish Brigade.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his actions during the war.
Kiltierney Ammunition Dump
This Ammunition Dump / Magazine sits in a hollow at Kiltierney near Kesh. It was constructed by the United States Navy and was part of a considerable plan to provide all the necessary facilities for 4 Flying Boat Squadrons including Maintenance and of course the all important storage of ammunition.
Part of this major construction plan included the Military Hospital at Necarne Castle which is referred to in Co Fermanagh Part 1.
Two large buildings as shown here remain on the site.