Short Sunderland W3995 crash at Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh

Short Sunderland W3995 of R.A.F. 228 Squadron ran aground on Gay Island Shoal on Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh while departing Castle Archdale on 10th January 1943.

At around 0620hrs on 10th January 1943, Short Sunderland W3995 ran aground at Gay Island Shoal on Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. That is the name used by locals in the area. The Royal Air Force more aptly referred to it as "Troublesome Rocks". Reports suggest the plane's captain manoeuvred too far downwind without checking bearings. This led to the Sunderland straying into a prohibited area.

R.A.F. 228 Squadron spent a short time at R.A.F. Castle Archdale, Co. Fermanagh between December 1942 and May 1943. This came between stints at R.A.F. Oban, Scotland and R.A.F. Pembroke Dock, Wales. During their time at the Co. Fermanagh base, Short Sunderland W3995 was the squadron’s only loss.

Recovering the Wreck

With the hose up and tail down after running aground on the rocks, the Sunderland’s fuselage tore open. With the plane damaged, the R.A.F. took a decision to salvage the wreck. They removed fuel, munitions, engines, and anything they could save. They then removed the hull of the flying boat from the rocks.

Details of the salvage came from Edward Bowell, a member of R.A.F. 228 Squadron’s ground crew. The salvage crew traveled out to the wreck on pinnaces and barges, and bad weather on the lough made for a rough trip. The operation required several journeys to and fro carrying machinery and equipment back on the small boats. Torrential weather coming in from the Atlantic ensured it was too dangerous to dismantle the plane on the exposed rocks.

Bowell suggests the remaining parts of Short Sunderland W3995 sank into Lough Erne after 4 or 5 days. Parts of the flying boat’s wreckage remain in the waters and in recent years, divers have explored the site.

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