Consolidated Liberator, AL577, Jenkinstown, Co. Louth
In terms of loss of life, the worst of the wartime air crashes occurred on a lonely hill top in County Louth in early 1942. The 16th of March, 1942 would see the deaths of sixteen young allied airmen when their bomber crashed in to the mountain named Slieve na Glogh, which rises up above the townland of Jenkinstown on the Cooley Peninsula. It was the second of three fatal wartime crashed in the area, the others being in 1941 and the last in 1944.
The mountains in this area would claim the destruction of three aircraft before the war ended. A British Hudson bomber crashed with three fatalities in 1941 and a P-51 Mustang fighter of the US Army Air Forces crashed in September 1944 killing its pilot.
The story of the aircraft crash has been told many times in a number of publications and these are listed below. On this page I aim to share some information shared with me by family members of the men.
The story of the crash began in the far away deserts of North Africa in the winter of 1941/1942. During 1941, Royal Air Force (RAF) 108 Squadron was engaged in bombing missions in support of the British campaign in North Africa. In December 1941, it was decided that in the coming months the unit would transition from the Wellington twin engined bomber to the American built, Consolidated Liberator. The process of transition is explained in detail by Andreas Biermann in his 'Crusader Project' Blog - The first B-24 Liberators in the Desert.
Following this introduction into service it was decided that the entire Squadron should convert to the Liberator and it was decided that one of the bombers would fly to the United Kingdom with a cadre of experienced 108 Squadron members where they would collect and prepare new bombers for ferry to North Africa. Ahead lay a long and dangerous flight from Egypt, across North Africa to Gibraltar followed by the long over water flight to England over the Atlantic. As squadron veteran Steve Challen explained in his writings, the Squadron leader and squadron gunnery officers both volunteered to take one of the bombers to England. On board the aircraft were a crew of six men with thirteen more members of the squadron as passengers. These included six pilots, three navigators, three wireless operator/air gunners (W.Op/A.G) and one fitter mechanic. The nineteen men were a mix of English, Scottish, Australian, Canadian and a lone Kiwi.
Sources for research on this crash are many. Primary among these are the Irish Army Military Archives report dating from March 1942. The Australian National Archives also have Casualty files for three of the Australians on board the aircraft. From one of these files comes this text describing the outline circumstances of the crash.
EXTRACT FROM REPORT ON FLYING ACCIDENT - LIBERATOR
AL.577 16th March 1942
* The above transcription is somewhat confusing as it could be read as meaning the aircraft was intending to land at Dundalk however the original wartime transcriber may have missed some words indicating that the aircraft 'did crash at' Dundalk. The punctuation would suggest suggest this. The text below comes from a page in the Australian National Archives Casualty file for Sgt L R Williams.
This stark summary issued possibly by RAF officers based in the UK who had not known or been familiar with the airmen of 108 Squadron. The history of the flight and crash of AL577 was researched after the war by a former comrade of the men, Steve Challen, who as F/Sgt Grenfell Stephen William Challen 937815, flew with many of the who came down on AL577 in Louth. Steve Challen died in 2004 but not before he attempted to contact the survivors of the crash, T E Pattison, S F Hayden and J R Anderson. He also contacted many of the relatives of the dead men, including the sister of Paul Morey who provided copies of the information Steve had collected. Steve Challen wrote an article about the brief use of Liberators by 108 Squadron in Flypast magazine in 1998
First hand testimony of the flights events survive from at
least two of the survivors, from letters they wrote to the next
of kin of their comrades and later after the war to Mr. Challen.
Sgt Pattison wrote to tell the father of Sgt. Morey:
We left Egypt on March 15th in a Liberator (giant
American four engined bomber); there were nineteen of us
together with full kit on board.
From various sources the following collection of photos has been assembled of the men on board AL577. Some have come from family members, some from publications and others from online sources.
|1. W/Cmdr (Pilot) Richard John WELLS DFC 39918 +||2. P/O (Pilot) John Peile TOLSON 67640 +||3. Sgt (Obs/Nav) Paul Herrick MOREY 917067 +||4. Sgt (WOP/Air Gnr) Henry James GIBBONS 948393 +|
|5. Sgt (WOP) Charles Joseph INGRAM 916998 +||6. F/Lt (Air Gnr) Francis Charles BARRETT DFC 77959 +||7. F/O (Pilot) James Robert ANDERSON DFC 79508||8. Sgt (Pilot) Cyril Rowland AMOS 1182180 DIS|
|9. F/Sgt (Pilot) Lindsay Ross WILLIAMS 402429 + RAAF||10. P/O (Pilot) Wilfred Bertrand STEPHENS 113267 +||11. Sgt (WOP/Air Gnr) Thomas Edward PATTISON 644625||12. Sgt (WOP/Air Gnr) Sydney Frederick HAYDEN 910905|
|13. Sgt (Fitter 2E) Andrew McMillan Smith BROWNLIE 546659 +||14. Sgt (WOP/Air Gnr) Walter Paul BROOKS 931402 +||15. F/Sgt (Pilot) George BUCHANAN 1060536 +||16. F/Sgt (Obs/Nav) Carlton Stokes GOODENOUGH R/62738 + RCAF|
|17. F/Sgt (Obs/Nav) Leslie George JORDAN 905148 +||
18. P/O (Obs/Nav) George Frederick KING J/15525 RCAF +
|19. F/Sgt (Pilot) Herbert William Thornley SLOMAN 402677 + RAAF||-|
Jim Anderson the son of J R Anderson was so kind to send on many photos from his fathers collection including this one below of a 108 Squadron football team.
J R Anderson is seated in the middle of the of the above group, his pilot's wings badge visible on his chest, and the DFC award below that. James Anderson came from New Zealand and had trained with the Royal New Zealand Air Force prior to transferring to the RAF. He began his wartime career with 40 Squadron of the RAF, piloting Wellington bombers on raids against targets in Germany and France.
A group photo from Jim Anderson of 108 Squadron airmen, without names recorded. The grandson of the airman on the extreme right of the photo recognized his grandfather, David Fairclough Smith.
The above photos was supplied by the Anderson and Brooks family and is described as a press photo of 108 Squadron. Identified in this are Walther Brooks standing at the left, wearing shorts and with flight jacket open. Kneeling on the ground in front of him appears to be F C Barrett based on other photos received of him. Compared to the photos that the Pattison family sent, T E Pattison seems to be the sixth airman from the right kneeling.
The remains of the dead airmen were returned to their families for burial with the exception of the Australian and Canadian airmen. They were buried in adjacent graves in Belfast City Cemetery.
Richard John Wells was a 28 year old combat experienced pilot. Son of Richard Alexander and Ada Wells he came from Diss in Norfolk. He had been commissioned as an RAF officer in 1937 and was posted to the Middle East. His service career say him twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941, first with 148 Squadron then with 108 Squadron.
John Peile Tolson
John Tolson came from Harpenden in Hertfordshire. Aged just 21, he was co-pilot on this flight. John's father died only a year after him and both son and father lie side by side in adjacent graves. John's brother and family members came to County Louth in 2002 and met some former members of the Irish Army who had attended the crash site, along with local witnesses and some who were raising a memorial to the lost crew men. Members of John's family have been active in remembering John's service and death. This short documentary was created by his nephew to tell the story of John, Paul Morey and commemoration efforts in Louth.
Let us not forget from Heirline Films on Vimeo.
Paul H Morey was a 22 year old navigator from Leamington Spa. His sister Cynthia wrote a book about her family and the death of her older brother. That book included some of the details she had obtained from Steve Challen in the 1990's. The book is titled - 'Dark is the Dawn' and was published in 2009. T E Pattison one of the survivors wrote to Paul's father after the crash to tell what had happened and to pass on his memories of Paul. Similarly the new commander of 108 Squadron also wrote to the family to tell of his devotion to service and skills.
Henry Gibbons was the son of Herbert F. J. Gibbons and Lilian E. Gibbons, of Newport. He was 20 years old at the time of his death. He was an air gunner and wireless operator from the squadron. Correspondence with former residents of his parents, it was learned that Henry was an only child and his photo rested on the mantle of his parents house until their deaths. No relatives were found in the Newport area and it appears that his father, a railway clerk, was born in Gloucester.
Charles Joseph Ingram was buried in West Ham cemetery in London. His CWGC entry contains no next of kin details but his death registration in Ireland gives his age as 24 years and there is a corresponding birth registered in West Ham district in 1918. His parents, Agnes and Charles W Ingram had married in 1914 and in 1942 lived at 10 Lincoln Rd in Plaistow. The photo of Charles above is a cropped image from the WW2 images collection.
C Barrett was a an Australian born officer serving in the
Royal Air Force. Son of Alice Ida and Francis James Barrett from
South Australia, Francis had been awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross in April 1941 for his service with 70 Squadron.
This squadron had served in the Middle East from the very start
of the war. Australian newspapers carried the story behind the
awards, his conspicuous service during 1941 including over
Albania. The Advertiser of Adelaide, published:
Flight-Lieutenant Barrett is the senior air gunner of the R.A.F. squadron serving with the Near East Command. He has earned a reputation as a first-class shot, and instructor. he took part in a successful daylight bombing raid over Vlona, Albania and it was chiefly due to his firing accuracy that attacking Italian aircraft were driven off. One enemy plane engaged in a counter attack was shot down by Flight-Lieutenant Barrett.
Being an Australian meant that F/Lt Barrett was interred in the Cemetery in Belfast with the other four overseas airmen. The Barrett family would suffer further during the war as his brother Allen Bernard was also killed in 1945 with Bomber Command. He is buried in Germany. The men's mother may have passed away before the war. The newspaper article at left was published with photo in the The Courier-Mail in Brisbane in April 1941. In March 1942, South Australian newspaper carried a memoriam notice for Francis apparently from a fiancee named Nancy. Another March article published:
Mr. and Mrs. W. Beames, of Main avenue, Frewville, have been informed that their nephew, Flight-Lieut. F. C. Barrett, DFC, was killed on March 16 while on a transit flight in Jenkinstown, Kilkeney, Eire. He joined the RAF in England, and was awarded for the DFC for exceptional accuracy and daring in shooting down Italian planes in Albania. Flight-Lieutenant Barrett attended Pulteney Grammar School, and served an apprenticeship with Herron Engineering. Co. Later he was an engineer at sea, before joining the RAF. He was 32.
James Anderson was born in Lyttelton, New Zealand. His father passed away when he was young. Finishing school he first worked as an Electrical Fitter in the Electrical Supply Department and later the Public Works Department in Addington. He enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in October 1939 and after graduating was posted to the United Kingdom and received a commission in the Royal Air Force. Joining the RAF's 103 Squadron he piloted Wellington bombers on the early raids against targets in France and Germany. His earliest combat missions were two on the single engined Battle bomber during September 1940 followed by raids as second pilot of Wellingtons. In April of 1941 he became the captain of his own aircraft in raids against the French port of Brest in the RAF's efforts to destroy the German warships the the Scharnhorst and Gneisenhau. It was for his actions during another raid on Brest on June 13/14th 1941 that he was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). This raid was delivered at low level against dock buildings. Upon arriving at the target P/O Anderson circled the area in Wellington R1588 until visibility allowed him to bomb the target. His name was published in the London Gazette in July 1941 and his home newspapers carried the citation and his photo that summer. At the beginning of July 1941 he transferred to the Middle East and undertook the dangerous Ferry flight in a Wellington from Portreath in Cornwall, to Gibralter, and thence across the Mediterranean to Malta and then to Egypt. There he joined 108 Squadron flying Wellington bombers and was awarded a bar to the previous DFC when he brought home his crew in the damaged Wellington T2832 on October 23rd, 1941. Sgt's C R Amos and G R King appear to have been with him on that flight. With damage preventing the landing gear from being lowered, four crew members bailed out of the aircraft in friendly territory and P/O Anderson had to bring the bomber in for a crash landing in the desert. After recovering as best he could from his injuries, after the crash, from Aug 1943 until June 1944, he flew non-operationally with No.1 Radio School, mainly in Proctors. From July to September 1944 he flew non-operationally with No.42 O.T.U No. 38 Group, mainly in Whitley bombers. Jim Anderson corresponded with Steve Challen after the war and his son Jim also provided copies of his flying log book and letters he wrote from hospital. He was terribly burnt about his legs in the crash, he recalled coming around after the crash and discovering he was standing in flames. His injuries stayed with him for the rest of his life, requiring dressing for many years. Despite this and having a leg amputated in 1979, he took part in the tragic Fastnet Race in the same year.
Cyril Rowland Amos was born in 1917 to Elsie and Harry Amos, his father being a British merchant who lived in Argentina between the wars. Cyril remained in Hospital in Dundalk until the 19th of March and was then sent across the border with Sgt Hayden. Having survived the crash of AL577, Sgt Amos was commissioned as an officer in the RAF during the winter of 1942 and returned to flying duties. Cyril's luck ran out on December 31st 1943 when as pilot of Wellington X9666 from 21 Operational Training Unit he crashed into Ffrith Caenewydd, above Aberdovey, Merioneth in bad weather. Cyril died from his injuries shortly after this crash, which also killed two other airmen and injured two others. Cyril was buried in Tywyn Cemetery in Wales. His brother Harry was a wartime pilot also.
Lindsay Ross Williams was a New South Wales born pilot from the Royal Australian Air Force. He was the son of Henry Stanley and Elsie Ethel Mary Williams, of Five Dock, New South Wales. Like many of the others, he had been sent to Canada for training, being posted to the UK in 1941. He served briefly with 11 OTU and 142 Squadron before transferring to the Middle East in September 1941 after which he was posted to 108 Squadron. he was 26 years of age at the time of his death and before the war had been a farmer.
Wilfred Bertrand Stephens, one of the pilot passengers on the aircraft came from Westminister, London. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry show that his remains were returned to Mill Hill Cemetery in the City. No next of kin is listed for him but the telegrams in Australian records indicate that his mother Mrs Stephens lived at 213 Watford Way, Hendon. His parents, Eleanor Larkman and Bertrand William Stephans married in 1921 and Wilfred was their only son the inscription on his grave relates. His father was a veteran of home service with the Tank Corps in the First World War. It is not clear but his father had remarried in 1936 so Wilfred's mother may have passed away or separated from B W Stephens.
Edward Pattison was a Durham born Wireless Operator/Air
Gunner flying as a passenger on AL577. Tom Pattison after his
recovery had the unenviable task of contacting some of his dead
comrades families to let them know a little more about their
loved ones and their demise. He wrote to the Morey family in
particular and in later life he was in correspondence with Steve
Challen in his research. Tom married after the war but did not
have children. He passed away in his native Leicester in 1997.
His sisters were kind enough to contact in 2013 and pass on his
Sydney Frederick Hayden was another of the Australians on board AL577 and like F/Lt Barrett, a member of the Royal Air Force, rather than the Royal Australian Air Force. Sgt Hayden was badly injured in the crash, ending up unconscious and with severe leg fractures. He was treated in Newry and Belfast for his injuries while his father in Australia received messages advising him first that his son was severely injured and interned in Eire. Further telegrams over the following weeks would pass on the welcome news that he was recovering. Sgt Hayden returned to Australia in July 1943. The address of his father, Sidney William Hayden, was given at the General Electric Company in Sydney, Australia. Sgt Hayden had been born in 1920 in England and one year later sailed with his mother Charlotte and older brother to Australia where the family lived. Steve Challen managed to make contact with Sydney Hayden in the 1980's or 90's but it appears that he did not wish to discuss his wartime experiences. Sidney only died in 2005 and his grand daughter was so very kind to supply a great number of photo's of Sidney both before and after the crash. As discovered by Steve Challen, Sidney certainly never spoke much of his wartime experience with family either. They themselves were only too aware of his injuries that resulted in him walking with the aid of leg calipers even up to the 1960's and with crutches after that.
In the photo above, Sidney Hayden appears second from the right with three unknown comrades.
Andrew Brownlie was a 29 year old aircraft fitter from Glasgow. His great nephew was kind enough to provide the photos included with this article. Among the photos was the one at left with him in a distinctly tropical setting. Andrew was the only passenger on the aircraft who was not aircrew, in that he would not have flown combat missions while in North Africa. War Graves records show that his trade was that of Fitter II (E). His sister was 100 years old in 2009. Their parents were Thomas and Marion Brownlie.
Walter P Brooks was just 20 years old and the son of Mabel and Walter Horace Harry Brooks. Walter was born in Wandsworth, London in 1921. His father passed away in 1944 in Leeds where he was living in 1942. Walters brother was kind enough to send the photo of him.
George Buchanan was the son of Helen and William Buchanan and was from Paisley in Scotland. His parents lived at 14 Howe St in the town. Like many of the dead from AL577 he was returned to his parents for burial. F/Sgt Buchanan was another of the pilots destined for the UK and the collection of new Liberators.
Carlton S Goodenough was a 28 year old navigator passenger on the aircraft. The son of Wright E. and Eva Stokes Goodenough from Bury, Quebec. Carlton was a teacher of seven years experience. He married his wife, Margaret Bagley in 1937 and a son, Thomas was born the following year. Carlton enlisted in July 1940, and had arrived in the UK in April 1941. F/Sgt Goodenough was interred in Belfast City Cemetary. His photo on this page was found on the McGill University memorial website on his individual page. His son Thomas passed away in 2005.
Leslie George Jordan was 20 years old and the son of John B. Jordan and Rose Jordan, of Portslade.
George Frederick King,
one of two Canadians on the aircraft came from Ontario. The 25
year old King, the son of Philip and Belinda King, had engaged
in some flying before enlistment in April 1940, leaving his job
in New Toronto with the Campbell Soup Co. He arrived in the
United Kingdom in November 1940 after training in Canada. His
first service posting was with 103 Squadron from March 1941 as
an Observer, or navigator. He was later again posted to the
Middle East and his service file indicates he joined 108
Squadron in August 1941. K F Vare the officer who had to take
over 108 Squadron from the deceased W/Cdr Wells wrote to
George's mother after his death: "Your son had been with the
Squadron since 6th August, 1942, and had made twenty-nine
raids against the enemy. His Flight Commander has always
spoken well of his work. His zeal for operations were
remarkable and we all, here, feel it very strongly that he has
gone." Sgt King was buried on 21st March at Belfast City
Cemetery, alongside his comrades.
The photo at left was provided by his niece and shows George
standing at the right with a colleague named George Kusiar.
Herbert W T Sloman came from New South Wales, the only
son of Mary Alice and George Sloman. He enlisted in September
1940 and embarked for Canada in January 1941 where he trained as
a pilot with 7 Service Flying Training School. From there he
shipped out to the United Kingdom arriving in June 1941. After
further crew training in the UK he was posted to the Middle East
in October 1941, joining 108 Squadron in November. He was buried
on March 21st in Belfast. Herbert had three sisters
In 1993, local people from Louth including Noel Roddy raised the memorial plaque near the spot. The site is a short walk off a road and not easy to access due to the condition of ground etc. From the heights above the crash site one can on a clear day see down the the east coast and see the peak of the Sugar Loaf Hill in Wicklow, south of Dublin city. The memorial plaque for AL577 with the crash location in the background, in the dip below the lumps on the hill.
The mountains in this area would claim the destruction of two more aircraft during the war. An RAF Hudson crashed in September 1941 killing 16 men while a P-51 Mustang fighter of the US Army Air Forces crashed in September 1944 killing its pilot.
Compiled from various sources by Dennis Burke, Dublin, 2014: Including the Morey, Tolson, Anderson, Pattison, Brownlie and Brooks families. The service records of all Australian and Canadian aircrew members; the Irish Army Archive files in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; the CWGC. And my friend, Heno, for the use of his photos.