Consolidated Catalina JX242 crash at Lough an Laban, Co. Fermanagh

On 20th November 1944, RAF 202 Squadron's Consolidated Catalina JX242 came down on a rugged Co. Fermanagh hilltop on its return to RAF Castle Archdale.

At 0715hrs on Monday 20th November 1944, Consolidated Catalina JX242 crashed on a rocky ridge in Lough Navar Forest near Lough an Laban, Church Hill Road, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.

Consolidated Catalina JX242 had come to RAF 202 Squadron at RAF Killadeas from Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, Helensburgh, Scotland. There it had undergone de-icing trials, a vital procedure on flying boats. he Mark IV Catalina used the engine exhaust to de-ice its wings.

After leaving on a nighttime Atlantic patrol on 19th November 1944, the RAF Killadeas based crew were returning early on 20th November 1944. The RAF 202 Squadron outfit almost made it to the flying boat base at RAF Castle Archdale in poor weather and bad visibility. Had the plane been 20 feet higher, they would have cleared the rocky ridge and made it home. Of the 10 man crew, 8 died in the crash.

They were a very good crew and I mourn them yet. My young and exceptionally competent Australian navigator, Flight Sergeant Bill Sharp(e), is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard at Irvinestown. He was the best.

Squadron Leader Owen Bishop.

Remembering the crew of Catalina JX242

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankRoleInformation
BowaterCharles WilfredFlight Sergeant RAFVR. Survived.
DeemFred JamesSergeantWireless OperatorRAFVR 1320050. Killed.
Forbes-LloydGeorge VincentFlight LieutenantPilotRAFVR 115835. Killed.
GeldertJohn WilliamFlight SergeantFlight EngineerRAFVR 967135. Killed.
MarshallPeter BryanFlight SergeantWireless OperatorRAFVR. Killed.
MooreClifford HenryWarrant OfficerRAFVR. Survived.
NaterDouglas WilliamSergeantWireless OperatorRAFVR 1339183. Killed.
SharpWilliam JohnPilot OfficerNavigatorRAAF 418883. Killed.
SlackErnestWarrant OfficerAir BomberRAFVR 1109089. Killed.
TribbleGordon FrancisFlight Sergeant2nd PilotRAFVR 1802210. Killed.

Warrant Officer Clifford Henry Moore and Flight Sergeant Charles Wilfred Bowater survived. Bowater made his way over the Barr of Wealt, in what is now the forest park, scrambling over rugged Co. Fermanagh hilltops for 2 miles until he reached the lake shore road. Local families helped him, lending him a bicycle. He cycled 7 miles to the nearest telephone and raised the alarm. Bowater achieved this incredible feat, suffering injuries, shock, and wearing only one boot.

A rescue party arrived around 1200hrs and local man Benny Campbell guided them to the crash site. The rescuers brought the survivors to Castle Archdale. The crash site is off the beaten track and involves a long trek through the forest to the edge of Lough an Laban. One piece of the plane lies by the water’s edge.

Lough Navar Forest Memorial

A memorial to the crew stands at Lough Navar Forest Viewpoint, Co. Fermanagh. Next to it is another memorial stone dedicated to the crew of Short Sunderland W4036. Local historians Joe O’Loughlin and Briege McCusker oversaw the erection of both stones.

They held a memorial service on 17th August 2003 at the unveiling of the memorials. Ernest Slack’s brother, son, grandson Antony from Hong Kong, and other family members attended. Charles Bowater’s 2 daughter and their husbands also attended. In total, over 300 people were present including Group Captain Tim Owen of the Royal Australian Air Force. Group Captain Martin Sharp represented the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland.

The memorial to the crew of Catalina JX242 reads:

Catalina JX242 if 202 Sqn. Killadeas. Crashed at Lough an Laban on November 20th 1944. Eight crew members died. Flt/Lt. George Forbes-Lloyd RAF (Skipper), P/O William Sharpe RAAF, W/O Ernest Slack RAF, Sgt. Fred Deam RAF, Sgt. John Geldert RAF, Sgt. Peter Marshall RAF, Sgt. Douglas Nater RAF, Sgt. Gordon Tribble RAF.