Draperstown Artillery Range
A 25-pdr field gun of 150th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, 148th Independent Infantry Brigade Group, firing during Exercise 'Dragoon' in the Sperrin Mountains near Draperstown in Northern Ireland, 1 April 1942. (IWM picture http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198301 refers.)
The U.S. Army trained in the use of small arms as well as Artillery between Draperstown and Feeny.
When visiting I was told of sheep being killed by Artillery and an Artillery shell remaining in a wall.
The photograph below shows the area where the Artillery Firing took place.
If you are walking in this area please be aware that there is a possibility of finding unexploded ordnance which is extremely dangerous.
Draperstown Church of Ireland
Lieutenant William J. Boal D.C.M. was a Pilot Instructor with 755 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm.
He was based at H.M.S. Kestrel, Royal Naval Air Station Worthy Down near Winchester and was killed in a flying accident when two aircraft collided.
Toome Military Hospital
There was a Military Hospital at Leslies Hill which is on Aughrim Road however on visiting the site there appears to be nothing remaining.
Rifleman Arthur Desmond Bradley was serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles, when he was killed in action in Northern France on 17th June 1944 when he was just 19 years old.
He is buried in La Delivrande War Cemetery at Douvres 14 kilometres north of Caen.
Dutch Sailor named on Castledawson War Memorial
Among the names listed on the War Memorial in Castledawson is "G.J.P. Pijl (R.D.N.)" which refers to Gerriet Yan Pijl who was an Able Bodied Seaman serving with the Royal Netherlands Navy as a Gunner aboard the Torpedobootjager HNLMS Isaac Sweers. (Pictures below from Wikipedia and Castledawsonwardead.co.uk )
On 12th November 1942 Isaac Sweers was in the Southeast Atlantic intending to join Force "H".
The plan was to refuel whilst underway and then protect Force R on one flank before leaving the following morning however at about 0500 hours on 13th November the Isaac Sweers was attacked by German U-Boat U-431 under the Command of Wilmhelm Dommes.
Two torpedoes struck the starboard side with the first one penetrating a fuel tank and spreading burning oil in all directions while number two penetrated the Officers Quarters killing all those within. The ship sank with the loss of 108 men including Gerriet Yan Pijl
The reason why Gerriet Pijl is named on the War Memorial is because he had met his future Wife, Miss Armour, who was a WREN from Knockloughrim in Pembroke Dock, Wales. (For more information on this story please visit castledawsonwardead.co.uk)
Desertmartin Supply Depot
There was a Depot at Desertmartin beside the Draperstown Railway Line.
In 1942 this was operated by 397th Engineer Depot Company who were assisted between 5th August 1942 and 9th November 1942 by 467th Engineer Maintenance Company.
For a time it was known as General Depot G-10-8 and later Engineer Depot E-510.
From 11th October 1943 until 26th May 1944 there was a Detachment, 2nd Platoon, 457th Engineer Depot Company.
All of the Units referred to here are United States Army.
The photograph above shows the site of the Railway Station including the Station Building.
Ballinderry G.C.I. Station
There was a "Ground Control Intercept" Radar Station in the townland of Derrychrin, Ballinderry, County Londonderry.
It operated with the nearby Cluntoe Airfield and was at Ballinderry Bridge Road however unfortunately it now appears to have been demolished.
Anti-Landing Obstructions Black Brae, Londonderry
There were a number of rows of Anti-Landing Obstacles within the townland of Black Brae, Londonderry.
This first picture shows a row of 6 concrete bases for these Obstacles. - These are the lowest row in the middle field which is shown in the aerial picture below.
There appear to have been eight rows of approximately 6 obstructions and reason for these being here is the close proximity to a number of important Facilities during WW2.
There were airfields in the immediate area at both Maydown and Eglinton as well as the Major Naval Bases at Lisahally and Londonderry to the west whilst a short distance away to the right was two more airfields at Ballykelly and Limavady.
Consideration has obviously been given to the land in this area being ideal for an Airborne landing and so these obstructions have been included in the defences.
(Thanks very much to Edward Blakeley) (Google aerial picture)
Clooney Road Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Battery
The photograph on the left shows the Gun Battery in the bottom left with the comparrison picture showing the same location as it looks today. (Bing Maps)
R.A.F. Castlerock Chain Home Radar Station and nearby Small Arms Range
These are the buildings which remain of the R.A.F. Castlerock Chain Home Radar Station.
The site consists of around 5 or 6 buildings which remain as well as the concrete in fields where masts would have stood.
The site would have consisted of a Transmitter Block, a Receiving Block and an Electricity Generating Building and due to the heat which was produced by the equipment being used large extractor systems were used.
Shown here is one room with the ducting still attached to the roof.
This appears to be the largest building remaining and includes a fuel tank suggesting that this would have been where the electricity was generated.
Below is a panorama type picture showing 3 concrete features which remain in the field which I believe were where masts would have been secured.
Only a short walk from the buildings shown above are those which are illustrated in this old map. (Many thanks to James O'Neill)
This was "R. Site" of the Chain Home Station on the southern side of the Road with the Army Guard buildings being on the Northern coastline side.
The buildings of the Army Guard site are shown here.
Top left appears to have been to hold Oil Tanks with the other four photographs showing an Air Raid Shelter complete with sturdy central concrete supporting pillar and side bench seating.
The Concrete bases show where other buildings would have stood.
In this photograph can be seen various concrete paths which are near the tree centre right of the aerial photograph above.
There was a Small Arms Range in the Sand Dunes nearby and I believe the photograph below shows John A. "Jack" Quaid,1st Lieutenant in Company H, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army during training at these Sand Dunes. For more see http://www.ww2ni.com/countylondonderrypt1.htm
Castlerock Golf Course
Shown here is a United States Army WW2 veteran explaining that he had been camped at Castlerock Golf Course before going to join the U.S. Army Rangers who were formed at Sunnylands camp in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.
(From a documentary programme)
The Diamond, Londonderry
The picture on the left dates from February 1944 and shows SP2/C David Credson of the United States Navy with Private First Class Henry Bitzes of the U.S. Army and Private First Class Herbert Pickins if the United States Marine Corps. (Picture on left from "After The Battle" Magazine)
Tank Traps and Air raid Shelters in Bishop Street, Londonderry
Here are two views of Bishop Street.
In the top photograph you can see that a number of Air Raid Shelters have been constructed.
The second photograph shows Tank Traps which were large concrete blocks with heavy metal rods placed between. - in the picture a car can be seen negotiating the obstruction.
With the construction of the Air Raid Shelters the Tank Trap Blocks remain at the side of the road ready to be put into position if required.
The Street has changed completely since then with only the spire of St Columb's Cathedral and one of the round Towers of the old Prison remaining.
This tower is shown in the photograph above. (Thanks very much to Derry City and Strabane District Council Archive Collection)
Billy Duduk with Bernadette and Tony Heany in Derry
This picture shows 8 years old Bernadette Heany, from Maybrook Terrace, Buncrana Road and her baby Brother Tony in the pram with U.S. Navy Sailor Billy Duduk.
The photograph was taken in 1943 and sadly Bernadette died of appendicitis when she was just 12 years old in 1947.
(Thanks very much to Derry of the Past Facebook page with Phil Cunningham and Brendan Kerr)
St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry
A visit to the City of Londonderry is not complete without a call at St Columb's Cathedral which stands within the old City Walls.
The building is filled with numerous War Memorials going back hundreds of years and the Second World War is well represented. - The picture here shows the ensigns of some of the Armed Forces who were based in Londonderry.
The Royal Air Force ensign was presented to the cathedral on 19th September 1965 to commemorate the close ties between the R.A.F. and the citizens of the City during WW2.
The United States Stars and Stripes was presented by the United States Navy on 25th November 1945 to commemorate the U.S. Naval Base in Londonderry between 12th May 1942 and August 1945.
A White Ensign of the Royal Navy can also be seen.
The two photographs here show the United States Stars and Stripes flag, which had hung in St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry since 25th November 1945, being received by Lieutenant Colonel Tilly Nunick, United States Marine Corps on 27th June 2014.
The presentation was made at the United states Consulate's Residence in Belfast and the intention was that the flag could be preserved rather than being hung in the Cathedral as is the procedure within the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately the flag was beyond repair and has been returned to St Columb's Cathedral where it is now displayed within a glass covered drawer.
U.S. Shore Patrol in Londonderry
United States Navy and Marines Shore Patrol at Londonderry Railway Station checking Passes of Personnel to ensure none are A.W.O.L. (Life Magazine Picture)
A Navy and a Marine Shore Patrolman standing duty outside a barber shop near the US Naval Operations Base. - More can be seen of the American Barber Shop below.
Glendermott Road, Londonderry
Not the sort of thing you would normally expect to find sitting in a street but here we have a British Mark VIII Torpedo which can be seen off Glendermott Road in Londonderry.
Weighing approx 2452 Lbs of which 805 Lbs was made up of Torpex Explosive in the warhead this torpedo had a range of 5000 yards at 45 knots.
Clooney Park Camp, Londonderry
This is a game of Baseball between the United States Marines and United States Navy.
The house in the background of the old photograph can be seen here. (Google)
Here is a picture of one of the Gates into Clooney Park Camp which was taken in 1945 during Chris Paul's Tour of Duty.
Thanks to Chris Paul's Photographs we can see what life was like inside his Living Quarters at Hut 15, Clooney Camp
Clooney Terrace First World War Gun
Shown on a Playing Card this is a captured First World War German Gun.
It had stood at the junction of Clooney Terrace and Bond's Hill but like the similar guns in Comber, Lurgan and Holywood it was sut up and used for the War Effort during WW2.
(From Derry of The Past Facebook site) - Do You have a Photograph of this Gun? If so then Please Email me at the address below.
Glendermott Cemetery, Lisnagelvin, Londonderry
John Alexander Rosborough was serving with the Royal Navy.
On 7th November 1944 he was on board LST 420 (Landing Ship Tank) when it struck a mine off the coast of Ostend, Belgium with the loss of 14 Officers and 224 Men. His body was never recovered and a buoy now marks the position of the wreck.
(This picture of LST420 from the Navsource.com website)
Marine J.A. Smith was serving with 41 Commando, Royal Marines and was fighting for the Liberation of Lion-Sur-Mer at Sword Beach, Normandy on 6th June 1944 when he sustained the wounds from which he subsequently died.
William Logue was serving with the Merchant Navy when he was Killed as a result of Enemy Action.
American Barber Shop, Londonderry
The photographs shown United States Marine Corps parading along Strand Road, Londonderry past the American Barber shop which stood at the junction with Custom House Street. The same location is shown below - Unfortunately the "E.W.S." (Emergency Water Supply) sign which can be seen painted on the original photograph has now gone.
The U.S. Marine at the front of the Parade is Captain John S. Hudson (Thanks very much to his Son J.M. Hudson for these photographs)
The photograph top left was taken on 6th May 1943 and the Marines are being led by Captain John S. Hudson who is also shown below while in Londonderry. He then served in the Pacific and retired from the U.S.M.C. as a Colonel in 1967.
Following his death at the age of 89 in 2009 he was buried with full Military Honours in Arlington National Cemetery.
The other photographs show a Sailor and Soldier outside The American Barber Shop. (Life Magazine Photographs)
Thanks to John Hudson for all his help with the information and photographs of his Dad.
Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp - New Buildings
These pictures show what remains of the Gibraltarian Evacuee Camp a short distance from New Buildings.
The first view shows a building close to the road as well as the larger one which would have incorporated a Water Tank and is a regular feature in various other such camps I have visited.
The second picture is from the opposide direction and shows another building which appears at all these Camps - The Cold Store.
This is the white building and inside you would find a sturdy metal rail running along the ceiling on either side of the door from which meat was hung above work benches.
This site is in the townland of Tagherian on Clampernow Road.
More Gibraltarian Evacuee Camps in Londonderry
As well as the few Gibraltarian Evacuee Camps I have illustrated there are another 2 I am aware of however I do not have a precise location for them.
One was in the townland of BALLYARNETT with another one in the townland of MULLENNAN.
Ballyarnett is in the area of Alder Road to the north of the City while Mullennan is to the Southwest at Ballougry Road.
If you have any information regarding these Camps please contact me.
Ardmore Cemetery, Drumahoe
There are 6 Graves in this Cemetery relating to the Second World War, some of which are shown here.
Flight Sergeant Joseph Edmund Campbell was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died on 29th December 1941.
Aircraftman First Class George Carlin was serving with 272 Squadron, Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. Commands website shows that he may have lost his life when Hawker Hector I Aircraft K9776 overshot its landing at Hanworth.
Leading Aircraftman Shane Douglas died on 6th March 1940.
Gunner Stephen James O'Donnell was serving with 23 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery when he died on 27th July 1942. He was 18 years old.
Assault Course Training
Unfortunately I do not have a precise location for the Assault Course Training shown here. It took place on 31st March 1942.
The Rifle Drill shown below took place on the same day. (Getty Pictures)
Use of Radio Equipment and operating a water cooled Maching Gun are all skills necessary for the Soldier (Getty pictures)
With Kit Inspection done there may be some spare time in which to do some knitting like Robert Cozad from Red Oak, Iowa and Manny Hamburger from Des Moines Iowa who are shown above or how about James Jillson and Raymond Peterson from Clarendon, Iowa who are blackening up for a Minstrels Show (Getty images)
Beech Hill "Base One Europe" / Camp Holcomb. Drumahoe
The Beech Hill Hotel, at Ardmore Road in Drumahoe, and surrounding grounds were used by both the United States Army Air Force as both an Ammunition Depot and the 1st Provisional Marine Battalion of the United States Marine Corps as a base between May 1942 and August 1944.
Huts being constructed at the Beech Hill / Ardmore Site in January 1942. (Imperial War Museum photograph) and a DUI (Distinctive Unit Insignia) of which I am the proud owner.
The photograph immediately above shows Lieutenant Michael Hines from Kewanna, Indianna with Miss Peggy Diggins and Corporal Mike the Goat Mascot.
This photograph was taken on 4th October 1943 at Londonderry Marine Detachment. (PLEASE DO NOT COPY)
Above left is an old WW2 Hut which remains in use at Beech Hill while the picture below shows the Holywood Star Peggy Diggins, who was serving with the United States International News Service photographing United States Marine Private James Lines from Orange County New York at Beech Hill Camp in 1943.
The Memorial shown here can be seen at Beech Hill. (From http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news)
Shown on the left is a United states Marine Corps emblem which was photographed at Camp Holcomb.
The Upper photograph shows U.S. Marines in review and the picture directly above shows a Barrage Balloon near Camp Holcomb.
All these photographs were taken in 1943. (From ww2db.com)
The role of the U.S. Marines was to protect the various U.S. Naval Facilities in the area and as you can see from the layout of the Camp it was a considerable size.
The Officers stayed in the main building while ordinary ranks lived in Quonset Huts in the Camp.
The owners of the Hotel have a Walking Trail around the extensive gardens where you can see lots of evidence of the presence of the U.S. Military including "The Marines Tree" and concrete bases for the Huts the Marines lived in as well as the original perimeter fence of the camp.
(Picture above from BBC Foyle)
Inside there are lots of photographs and information. The plaque shown here is at the front of the Hotel.
Towards the end of 1943 the Commandant of the US Naval Base, Commodore Cortland C Baughman, had moved to Aberfoyle House in Londonderry.
With the United States Marine Corps at Beech Hill they renamed it Camp Holcomb.
(Fore more see http://www.derryjournal.com/news/)
Company B, United States 1st Marine Provisional Battalion at Beech Hill in 1942 (From ww2dbase)
There was also 205 Company Military Police, less Detachments, based here.
This is the Personnel Quarters Area of the Camp. The buildings were constructed by U.S. Navy contract in 1941 / 1942. This photograph was taken in May 1943.
(From http://www.history.navy.mil which is available to Everyone.)
The nine images shown here illustrate life at Base One Europe, Beech Hill.
Top left is an aerial view of the site and you can see the Beech Hill Hotel in the centre of the picture with an extensive number of Huts all around.
The dark picture on the right above the Sentry was taken from within an Ordnance Store.
The final picture shows construction of the Nissen Hut Camp.
(For more please see the BBC programme "Our Secret History - Dive WW2")
United States Marine Corps Piper Bud Hansen at Base One Europe
Here is Bud Hansen, who is shown in the middle of the top row, photographed with 5 other Marines speaking with a War Correspondent at Beech Hill on 14th January 1944.
Bud Hansen is shown in this United States marine Corps photograph and he also appears on the front cover of the October 1943 edition of "The Leatherneck" magazine.
(Picture from wartimepress.com)
Bud Hansen is shown in the photograph above leading a group of Pipers with his Drum at Beech Hill Camp on 16th June 1943. (Soldiersandsailors.us)
Shown on the left are the United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps complete with Pipers.
(Picture from www.nps.gov)
From Londonderry to Winning the Congressional Medal of Honor
Corporal Anthony Peter Damato, United States Marine Corps
Anthony Peter Damato was born on 28th March 1922, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. and after finishing High School he worked as a truck driver before joining the United States Marine Corps immediately after the Japanese attack on Peral Harbour in January 1942.
Following Initial Training he arrived in Londonderry in May 1942. - I have included a Letter which he sent to his Mother and it is interesting that he refers to having difficulty understanding the Northern Ireland money and his concern about Submarine attack when crossing the Atlantic.
Damato was quick to build a reputation as a quality Marine and volunteered for special duty in relation to invasion party that took part in the North African landings.
Following action at Arzew, Algeria, on 8th November 1942, he was promoted.
Landing with an assault wave he assisted in boarding and seizing vessels and subsequently the port.
Having returned to the United States in March 1943 he sailed for duty in the Pacific the following June.
Damato was serving with an assault company of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines, 5th Amphibious Corps, on Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands on the night of February 19–20, 1944, while in a foxhole with two companions, he threw himself upon an enemy grenade, absorbing the explosion with his body and was instantly killed while saving the lives of his two comrades.
The Citation for his award of the Congressional Medal of Honor says:-
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault company of the Second Battalion, Twenty-Second Marines, Fifth Amphibious Corps, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Eniwetok Atoll Marshall Islands, on the night of February 19,-20, 1944. Highly vulnerable to sudden attack by small, fanatical groups of Japanese still at large despite the efficient and determined efforts of our forces to clear the area, Corporal Damato lay with two comrades in a large foxhole in his company’s defense perimeter which had been dangerously thinned by the forced withdrawal of nearly half of the available men. When one of the enemy approached the foxhole undetected and threw in a hand grenade, Corporal Damato desperately groped for it in the darkness. Realizing the imminent peril to all three and fully aware of the consequences of his act, he unhesitatingly flung himself on the grenade and, although instantly killed as his body absorbed the explosion, saved the lives of his two companions. Corporal Damato’s splendid initiative, fearless conduct and valiant sacrifice reflect great upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
(Photograph from U.S. Navy Archive. Letter from U.S.M.C. Archive Information from http://www.hawaiireporter.com/)
Ashbrook House, Drumahoe
Immediately beside Beech Hill and included within "Base One Europe" was Ashbrook where there were living quarters for American Military personnel.
The American Officers used to have Sunday Lunch at Ashbrook and on one occasion General George Marshall (The U.S. Army Chief of Staff and a man who Churchill called the "Organiser of Victory"), Averill Harriman (President Roosevelt's Special Envoy to Europe to coordinate the Lend-Lease Programme) and Harry Hopkins (Roosevelt's Emissary to Winston Churchill) stayed at Ashbrook.
Some evidence of the Army Camp which had been constructed in the grounds of Ashbrook House can still be found.
The photographs above show a Fuel Dump and Latrines.
Shown here is a letter to Major Beresford-Ash, who resided at Ashbrook House from General George Marshall of the United States Army.
(Thank-you very much to Melanie Cunningham for assistance with information and pictures regarding this location.)
Shooting Range, Eglinton
This is an old Rifle range photographed from on top of where the targets would have stood facing back down the range.
You are looking into where the men would have stood to mark targets. There is one building on the left with 2 rooms inside and on the right you can see that a urinal has been included!
The picture on the left shows a concrete post and base where I suspect a red flag may have been flown when the range was in use. There is also a white line painted at an angle near the concrete base which relates to trajectories of bullets and the all important safety areas.
This particular range appears to have been well marked as there are 2 concrete posts with 3 of the concrete bases.
St Canice's Church Main Street, Eglinton
Many of these are Airmen who lost their lives during training accidents and I have been able to find a little information about some of these men.
Pilot Officer Philip Lionel Soothill, 152 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve was practising Air Firing over the sea when he crashed into the sea and was killed on 15th February 1942.
Entry from Operations Record Book regarding Pilot Officer Southill crash.The Operations Record Book refers to this as a bad day for the Squadron as the engine of Sergeant McKay's aircraft cut out while he was circling Eglinton Airfield and when he was attempting to land he hit a tree and crashed however he luckily escaped with slight injuries.
On 24th February 1942 Flight Lieutenant Crelin Arthur Walford Bodie D.F.C., Flight Commander of B Flight, had been practising aerobatics when he got into a spin and was killed instantly.
Entry from Operations Record Book regarding Flight Lieutenant Bodie crash.
Pilot Officer Francis Howard Williams D.F.C. was killed on 7th May 1942. He had failed to pull out after a low flying 'attack' on a Wellington. He had completed 21 operational sorties over enemy territory including what is described as "Big shows at Alkmaar, Ijmuiden and Rotterdam" - Interestingly the Operations Record Book also refers to a 'Hun Reconnaissance Aircraft over Londonderry and the Anti Aircraft guns opened up'.
Entry from Operations Record Book regarding Pilot Officer Williams crash.
Sub Lieutenant Alan Albert Pollock was based at HMS Landrail and was flying a Stinson Reliant aircraft, number FK914 (Similar to the one shown below from the Lonesentry.com website) from Eglinton Airfield on 5th January 1944. He was accompanied by Sub Lieutenant Alan Frederick Orchard and Sub Lieutenant John Bernard Johnson.
The aircraft crashed in bad weather killing all occupants.
Sub Lieutenant Ronald John Corkhill was serving with 1839 Squadron FAA and was killed in an air crash on 31st January 1944.
Lieutenant Hugh Grenville Knowles served with 1847 Squadron FAA and was killed in an air crash on 22nd April 1944.
There are two members of the Royal Netherlands Navy of whom Hendrick De Jager remains missing presumed killed following an air crash on 18th May 1944 while E. H. Den Hollander was killed in an air crash on 28th April 1944. Both men were with 1847 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm.
Lieutenant Anthony Wyndham Evans Lawrie was serving with 836 Squadron FAA based at Maydown Naval Air Station. On 28th June 1944 he was in a Swordfish aircraft that struck high-tension cables at Enagh and crashed killing all three on board.
Sub Lieutenant Russell Lawrence Voysey of the Royal New Zealand Navy Volunteer Reserve was serving with 794 Squadron Fleet Air Arm when he was killed in an air crash off Magilligan Point on 7th November 1945.
Leading Aircraftsman Derek Albert Thomas Mew, Sub Lieutenant Frederick Robinson Dobbie and Sub Lieutenant Dennis Herbert Oxby were with 767 Squadron FAA. On 29th August 1944 they were in a Barracuda Mk 2 aircraft, DP872 which took off from Maydown and was to go to HMS Peewit at East Haven in Scotland.
Sadly the aircraft crashed near Enagh Lough in the Waterside area of Londonderry killing all on board.
The Crash and Subsequent Recovery of Barracuda BP872 with the Bodies of Mew, Dobbie and Oxby
Barracuda Aircraft DP872 of No. 769 Naval Air Squadron, was a training unit based at HMS Peewit, in Angus, Scotland.
Piloted by Sub Lieutenant (Air) Dennis Herbert Oxby, aged 21, from Nottinghamshire, with Sub Lieutenant Frederick Dobbie, (Observer) also aged 21, from East Lothian, and the air gunner, Leading Airman Derek Mew, aged 19, from Norbury, London.
Sub Lieutenant Oxby, the pilot of DP872, was in his final week of training and had flown from East Haven to RNAS Maydown on a training flight.
Although Maydown was the home base for Swordfish squadrons that flew from the improvised merchant aircraft carriers, or MAC-ships, it was also used for training purposes by other Fleet Air Arm units.
DP872 was a Barracuda Mark II that had entered service with 769 NAS the previous November. In January 1944 its undercarriage had collapsed when the machine was in the hands of another trainee officer. However, the plane was repaired and returned to service, and many more pilots would have added it to their logbooks before Dennis Oxby flew it from East Haven to Maydown.
At about 2.40pm on 29 August 1944, a bright, sunny day, Oxby lined up to take off on Maydown’s runway 27. Cleared to go, the Barracuda raced down the runway and into the air. However, soon after it became airborne DP872 got into difficulties and began to bank to starboard. It was only 150 feet above the ground, a height that allowed no room for errors. One effect of the banking was that the aircraft lost height and, within seconds, it had spun out of control and smashed into a bog about a half mile from the end of the runway.
One eyewitness, who lived close to the crash site, recalled that the plane ‘was making such a terrible noise that I knew … it was going to crash’. As she watched it plunge down she thought it was going to hit the nearby school. Another witness, who was walking nearby, saw the plane which ‘seemed to lose height’. He thought that the pilot ‘opened up the engines’ (although the Barracuda was a single-engined machine) just before hitting the ground. Another witness, working on a nearby farm, remembered seeing three Barracudas ‘rising from Maydown’, one of which seemed to stall for a minute or two before ‘the engines revved up’ and the plane ‘tipped over and dived’.
Crash teams were soon at the site, known as ‘The Moss’, and found the front of the Barracuda submerged completely. Various parts had broken off, including some of the undercarriage and a wheel, which were lodged in a tree. Since DP872 was carrying a new and secret type of radar, its tail section, with the radar unit, and parts of the wings, with the antennae, were removed and the plane was allowed to sink below the bog’s surface. In fact, these had been the only parts of the Barracuda visible when the crash teams arrived.
It was clear that none of the crew had survived. However, since the dangerous nature of the ground made bringing in suitable lifting equipment very difficult, the Admiralty decided that there would be no attempt to recover the wreckage.
A memorial service for the crew was held at the site and a wooden cross erected.
It is known that the family of one of the dead airmen visited the site in the mid-1950s.
None of over 2,700 Barracudas built survived and years later the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) Museum at Yeovilton was anxious to find an example and when the fate of DP872 was being recalled the FAA Museum, Lieutenant Commander L. A. Cox, instigated an investigation into the possibility of a recovery operation.
The site was identified, and a preliminary survey carried out for the museum. By the end of 1970 it had been decided that removal was possible. However, the Royal Navy had neither the technical expertise nor the equipment for the task and so the Army was asked for help. Sappers of 63 Headquarters Squadron (Airfields) of 39 Engineer Regiment (Airfields) arrived on the site in May 1971. Having built an access road they began their work. Using helicopters had been ruled out since power lines now stretched over the crash area. Navy frogmen were deployed to try to free some of the plane from deep underwater mud.
The operation was a lengthy one, and sensitive, since the wreck was also the grave of three young men.
Their families had given permission for the bodies to be recovered and re-interred, a task undertaken by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
Personal effects recovered from the crash site included a watch that had stopped at 2.45, the exact time of the tragedy, and a belt purse containing 3 shillings and 4 pence (16p).
By 18 May 1971 the recovery operation was complete.
Dennis Oxby, Frederick Dobbie and Derek Mew were re-buried in St Canice’s churchyard at Eglinton with full naval honours on 19 May and, the following day, the remains of DP872 were taken to Sydenham in Belfast from where they made their way to Yeovilton.
(For More see http://www.londonderrysentinel.co.uk/news/death-at-maydown)
The plaque shown here can be seen in the Church Grounds.
Eglinton Anti Aircraft Defences Headquarters
During the Second World War this impressive building, which is now a Bed and Breakfast property in Main Street, Eglinton, was used as a Headquarters for local area Anti Aircraft Defences and had a "Gun Operations Room"
Boom Hall, Londonderry
Situated on the banks of the River Foyle off Madams Bank Road on the approach to the Foyle Bridge from the direction of Culmore Road. Accessable from a Lay-by near the bridge this once grand building is sadly now a ruin.
During the War it was accommodation for the Womens Royal Naval Service (Wrens) who had a variety of roles within the Londonderry area.
The picture on the right shows a number of Nissen Huts in the grounds of Boom Hall.
Crashed Vought Corsair, Ballykelly
This Vought Corsair R Serial Number JT693 was with 1843 Naval Air Squadron based at R.N.A.S. Eglinton.
On 9th October 1944 the aircraft suffered an engine fire and the Pilot - Sub Lt. C.H. Schwenger of the Royal Canadian Navy made a forced landing on the mudflats before walking away uninjured.
Thanks very much to Peter Graham for the close-up photographs shown here.
Walworth Camp, Ballykelly
The Camp at Walworth, beside Ballykelly, was used as "Field Force Replacement Depot 7, Casual Detachment 34, Londonderry by the American Military who had a number of Units based here.
From 26th January 1942 there was 112th Engineer Battalion (Combat) who moved on on 1st march 1942.
427th Engineer Company (V Corps) remained until 1st April 1942 which was the day that 427th Engineer Dump Truck Company arrived and stayed until 8th January 1943.
Between 18th March 1944 and 19th April 1944 213 Replacement Company (65th Replacement Battalion) were at Walworth.
From 24th April 1944 until 11th May 1944 Walworth was Headquarters with a Headquarters Detachment for 39th, 67th and 68th Replacement Battalions.
Ballykelly Bombing Range Quadrant Tower
This tower can be found near Ballykelly at the end of Scotchtown Road where it faces Lough Foyle.
The first picture shows Binevenagh Mountain in the background which was known to the Aircrew of Limavady as "Ben Twitch"
It was used as a Bombing Range Quadrant Tower however the yellow and black markings are from later years. At some stage there have been nissen huts attached to the tower as well as another on the single concrete base which remains.
Decoy Sites at Limavady and Ballykelly
The Airfields at both Limavady and Ballykelly were given the added protection of Decoy Sites. - These were supposed to look like airfields from the air in the event of a Raid.
Having visited other Decoy Sites I would expect there to have been one small brick building which would have been protected with extra earthen banking.
I believe the Decoy Site for Limavady Airfield was in the townland of Crindle and most likely in the Carrowclare Road area.
The Ballykelly Decoy was in the townland of Faughanvale and I suspect it may have been off the Clooney Road.
Do any buildings remain at these sites? - If you know please e-mail me.
Alexander Arms, Main Street, Limavady
The Alexander Arms in Limavady was the Station Headquarters for Royal Air Force personel based at R.A.F. Limavady. It was known as "Red Pillar House" to the airmen and provided accommodation to Officers.
A number of photographs can be seen in the entrance hallway from both 59 and 86 Squadrons who were based at Ballykelly as well as 502 Squadron who were at Limavady.
This old photograph shows R.A.F. Personnel from 59 Squadron enjoying refreshment at the Alexander Arms (Photograph from "Covering The Approaches" by John Quinn)
The Alexander Arms is an excellent place for someone with an interest in Second World War history to visit. - Call in soon!
The old Roe Valley Hospital, Limavady
This old Nissen Hut was built by Military Personnel during the Second World War at the old Roe Valley Hospital at Benevenagh Drive in Limavady.
German First World War Gun in Limavady
As with a number of other Towns and Cities in Northern Ireland Limavady had a German First World War Gun which had been captured as a Trophy of War.
These were presented by the Government in acknowledgement of the local men who had served in the Armed Forces during the war - Another example is shown above.
As with so many others I suspect that this gun was cut up and sumsequently smelted down for use during the Second World War!
Do you have any photographs of this or other such guns around Northern Ireland? If so then please email me at the address shown below.
(Many thanks to Nigel Henderson, Great War Ulster Newspapers Archive for this picture)
This Pillbox can be found on the Tircreven Road between Limavady and Downhill.
It is very similar in design to the one at Portna on the River Bann and in this case has a commanding view over Lough Foyle.
The original steel door remains and the entrance is protected with the ports suggesting this would have been used for a Machine-Gun.
Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade YSER of the Belgian Army joined British and United States Troops in being based for a time at Loughermore between Limavady and Claudy.
2nd Battalion The South Wales Borderers were at Loughermore from 24th February 1941 until 11th December 1941.
Unfortunately I dont have any more information so if you can assist please send me an email.
Kilcatton House, Claudy
Kilcatten House is recorded on the "W.B.S. Troop Accommodations Northern Ireland District" as having a capacity of 422 Troops.
There is also a record of Kilcotton (Written here as it appears on the Record) as having been Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of 67th Replacement Battalion, United States Army between 7th and 19th April 1944.
Cumber House, Claudy
Cumber House on Cumber Road was used as a billet by both British and American soldiers.
Among the American Troops in Claudy were a Detachment of A Company, 80 Engineers.
During the War a Firing Range was operated at Benady Glen, Dungiven.
There was also a Mortar Range in the Salterstown Road area at Ballymultrea near Ballyronan.
Shown above is Ballymultrea on the shores of Lough Neagh.
American soldiers from 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained in the use of Mortars here in February 1944 as shown in this ( U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph.)
(The three photographs above are from The Mid-Ulster Mail)
Drumcovitt House, Feeny
Farm buildings and stables at Drumcovitt House, Feeny Road, Feeny were used as accommodation by soldiers of the United States Army who manned Anti-Aircraft guns in the surrounding fields.
With Drumcovitt House having been used by Anti-Aircraft Gun Crews it is suitable that I include this painting by Chris Perkins which is entitled "American Soldiers in an Anti-Aircraft Plotting Room in Northern Ireland"
Northern Ireland is clearly visible on the map. (Imperial War Museum picture)