Thursday, 16 August 2007

Bomber Crash at Giant's Causeway in WWII

Glenda Rodgers: "I was at a Bushmills British Legion meeting a few months ago. Colin Sinclair of Portballintrae, a former RAF airman, brought up the subject of two airmen killed at the Giant's Causeway and raised the possibility of placing a permanent memorial to them near the crash site. I came up with a very interesting story after researching documents about the tragedy.

A Wellington bomber took off from Aghanloo, near Limavady, on Monday, 20th July, 1942. It was one of the first airfields built for Bomber Command in WWII. The bomber was on a low flying training exercise and, while the pilot attempted to establish his position in low cloud and poor visibility, it flew into the ground and caught fire. The crash occurred just two hundred yards from the Causeway Hotel.

Pilot Officer Wilson Twentyman, NZAF, aged 26, was flight captain and the other pilot was Sergeant Vernon Pither, RAAF, aged 28. Both men died instantly and are buried at Drumachose (Christ Church) Church of Ireland Churchyard, Limavady.

I wrote to many newspapers in New Zealand and Australia and was able to make contact with Wilson's and Vernon's next of kin. They were delighted to find out that someone was still interested after all this time.

Relatives of both men will be here on holiday this September. They are looking forward to seeing the crash site and the graves.

Aghanloo airfield is still there but is now private property. You can still see the billets and the control tower.

We raffled a painting of the War Memorial at the Bushmills at War Exhibition and raised over £1000. I hope to have a sponsored walk from Portballintrae to the Giant's Causeway via the crash site early next year to raise more funds. Everyone is welcome to help!!"

Update 1: John W Dunbar gives an account of military activities on the Causeway headland in the BBC's Your Place and Mine website.

Update 2: Some memories of Cluntoe Airfield for Keith.

Update 3: Vernon is commemorated on the gates of Shepparton High School; Air Commodore A G Pither was his older brother.

Update 4: The relatives plan to be here at the beginning of September. Local newspapers, apparently, weren't permitted to report the crash.

Bomber Crash at Giants Causeway 2