Belfast Telegraph

Memorial plea for victims of Binevenagh plane crash

Nine airmen died in 1944 tragedy on Binevenagh

Stephen McCracken
Stephen McCracken
A cross where the plane crash took place at Binevenagh
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A forgotten plane crash which claimed the lives of nine airmen in wartime Northern Ireland should be marked with a proper memorial, a historian has said.

It comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the devastating accident on Binevenagh Mountain in Co Londonderry during the Second World War.

The plane carrying the nine airmen crashed into the mountain on June 24, 1944.

In the 1960s a simple wooden cross with a metal plaque bearing the names of the dead was placed near the spot where the aircraft came down, but it is inaccessible to the public.

Although the crash has been largely forgotten, a chance appeal by a local historian has sparked interest from around the world.

Stephen McCracken, who is originally from Magilligan, said the nine who died may not have been local, but they should be properly recognised.

He said: "It is close to the anniversary of when this plane crashed and these nine men died so I put a post on our Limavady Area Ancestry Facebook page which was shared around the world soon after.

"There is clearly still an interest in finding out more about who these men were and where they came from, and I just think it would be fitting to have a cross or some kind of memorial remembering them."

The nine who died were the captain, Pilot Officer IB Jenkins; second pilot, Warrant Officer FG Logan (Royal Canadian Air Force); navigator Flight Sergeant JF Leonard; Warrant Officer RRJ Revell; flight engineer Sergeant WH Wilson; Sergeant HG Lewis; and wireless operators/air gunners Warrant Officer WC Wallace (RCAF); GW Geering (RCAF) and Flight Sergeant HG Coombe (Royal New Zealand Air Force).

It is believed their plane crashed in the early hours of the morning in bad weather as they returned from a mission.

The aircraft flew into Binevenagh at an altitude of about 900 feet when trying to land at Ballykelly, after having abandoned two previous attempted approaches. The plane exploded and all the crew were killed.

Mr McCracken added: "There is a simple wooden cross with the names of the men who died on it. However, that was put up around 50 years ago and I think it is showing signs of decay, but it is also in a place where it is almost impossible to see and it is impossible to reach.

"Growing up in Magilligan I used to see a helicopter hovering above the mountain and then the ladder would come down and two people would climb down.

"I think that was the RAF laying wreaths, but that hasn't happened in a long time."

War historian David McCallion, from Ballyclare, said Northern Ireland should have a dedicated war museum.

He added: "The story of the nine airmen who lost their lives on Binevenagh could be mirrored in so many different parts of Northern Ireland, there are crash sites all over. If you had a crash map of all the sites in Ireland and got communities in those areas to commemorate it on the date of the crash, but also in all the local graveyards, if work was done with schools to keep them tidy it would give a greater understanding of who those people were who lost their lives.

"People want to find out what their grandfather did and I think this would be a massive tourist draw too if we included all the overseas soldiers who perished here from Canada, New Zealand, America and Poland.

"The Belfast Blitz claimed the single biggest number of casualties outside of London, but nothing is done to commemorate that."

Mr McCallion called for a museum telling the stories of ordinary soldiers.

He added: "We need to collate all that we have, bring all the collections and stories together and I am confident there would be more interest in this from abroad than Game of Thrones or the Titanic."

Belfast Telegraph


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