Avro Anson N4943 crash in Glenariff, Co. Antrim

31st January 2017

Avro Anson N4943 came down in a heavy snowstorm over Glenariff, Co. Antrim on 31st January 1940 and a treacherous recovery mission ensued on the mountain.

At around 0930hrs on 31st January 1940, Avro Anson N4943 crashed into high ground at Upper Glenariff Mountain, Co. Antrim. The Mark I plane was with No. 1 Air Observers Navigation School at the time of the incident.

At 0830hrs, the crew took off from RAF Prestwick, Scotland on a non-operational flight. In thick mist and a heavy snowstorm, the crew veered off course. Pilot Watson-Parker was an experienced pilot with over 400 hours of flying in the Royal Air Force. Around 140 of these were in Ansons. The listed navigators were both under training with the Air Observers Navigational School.

Crash in Co. Antrim

Approaching from the south of the mountain, the plane struck the summit about 1,100 feet above sea level. The impact tore up the ground for around 150 yards leading to the final crash site.

All 4 occupants of the British-built plane died in the crash and the Royal Air Force write the plane off as beyond repair. A pair of local shepherds out looking for their herd discovered the wreckage at 1130hrs. This was almost exactly 1 hour after the supposed time of the incident. A clock found in the wreckage had stopped at 1035hrs. Henry McAuley of Calisnagh, Co. Antrim and James McKendry of Dieskirt Farm described the scene to local reporters.

We began work when we noticed the smell of petrol coming towards us on the wind. At first, I thought the smell came from my clothing, as I am used to working with petrol when driving a lorry at the sawmill. There was mist at the time, but a few minutes later it began to clear, and we saw a black object lying on the ground about one hundred yards away. Hurrying to the spot, we found the bodies of three men lying in the snow close to a wrecked airplane. A fourth man was found held by the head in the machine. I saw they were all dead and beyond help, and I left my pal and hurried to report the matter.

Henry McAuley interviewed in The Northern Whig on 2nd February 1940.

McAuley descended the mountain in around 1.5hours in the thick snow. He arrived at the Glenariff Tea House at the foot of the glen and called the Cushendall Royal Ulster Constabulary. The shepherd then led Sergeant D Connell, Constable Watson, Constable McIvor, and Constable Harrison to the crash site. District Inspector JA Martin from Larne, Co. Antrim was present for the afternoon.

A party of around a dozen men left the tea house, joined by men from the nearby RAF Aldergrove, Crumlin, Co. Antrim.

Remembering the crew of N4943

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankRoleInformation
Watson-ParkerDerek PaulSergeantPilotRAFVR 741702. Killed.
WhittakerDennis WilliamLeading AircraftmanNavigatorRAFVR 751038. Killed. Aged 18 years old.
WilliamsHerbert ArthurLeading AircraftmanNavigatorRAFVR 751036. Killed. Aged 19 years old.
JacksonHTCivilianPassengerNot listed on CWGC database. Believed to be a technician.

One of the recovery party described the mission:

I can only describe it as a terrible nightmare. We had to carry the stretchers between five and six miles up the mountain to the scene of the crash. That was an exhausting job in itself. Then we collected the bodies with difficulty, and with darkness coming on, we began the journey back to Glenariff Tea House, at the foot of Glenariff Glen where the ambulance was waiting.

Member of the search party interviewed in The Northern Whig on 2nd February 1940.

The mission ended by torchlight as the recovery party made it back to the Glenariff Tea House. Wooden boards were fitted to stretchers to make them sturdier in the treacherous conditions. The Royal Ulster Constabulary carried out Post Mortems in Cushendall, Co. Antrim. No inquest was required as the men died on active service. Officials from RAF Aldergrove, Crumlin, Co. Antrim removed the bodies for burial. The Royal Air Force extended their thanks and paid tribute to all locals who helped with the recovery of the men.

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