Short Sunderland W6028 took off from RAF St. Angelo, Co. Fermanagh on 20th February 1944. It was to take part in a training exercise simulating a battle with a Bristol Beaufighter from RAF 235 Squadron.
The Short Sunderland was with 422 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Bristol Beaufighter with RAF 235 Squadron. RAF 235 Squadron was at RAF St. Angelo to help convoy cover in the Atlantic. At the time, Luftwaffe Junkers JU-290 and Dornier DO-217s often attacked Allied shipping.
As the two planes “battled”, both flew low and fast. They followed the trajectory of the road towards the airfield from the north-east. Near the village of Trory, a small hill caused the Sunderland to take avoidance action. Short Sunderland W6028 was at such a low height that its trailing wing took down nearby telephone lines as it manoeuvred.
At 1250hrs, the flying boat came down in fields close to where the Devenish ferry operates. It left a trail of destruction across the road and field. Wreckage burned as the plane disintegrated in impact.
A Fermanagh local, James Lunny, was one of the first to arrive at the scene. He rushed to help the injured airmen as the debris of the plane caught fire. He would later win a medal for his bravery on the day.
Remembering the Airmen
Eight crew members suffered injuries including Sergeant S Ford, Sergeant SB Irving, Flying Officer A Tomlinson, Flying Officer IF Dotwiller, Flight Sergeant BF Jones, Sergeant TH Chappel, Sergeant JS Eadie, and Sergeant GS Fleming. The men were from both the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force.
Leslie Arthur Hebenton’s grave is in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh. Reginald William Bodsworth’s grave is in his home county of Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. A stone plaque memorial at the crash site pays tribute to both men who lost their lives.