Pilot Officer Leslie Arthur Hebenton served in 422 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. He was twenty years old when his Sunderland Flying Boat tragically crashed in Co. Fermanagh on 20th February 1944.
He was the son of Arthur and Margaret Hebenton of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Sunderland W6028 Crash
The crew took off on 20th February 1944. The Short Sunderland Flying Boat W6028 was to engage with a Beaufighter in a fighter affiliation training exercise. The Beaufighter from 235 Squadron had been sent to St Angelo to cover convoys. Shipping in the Atlantic was coming under increasing attack from Luftwaffe Junkers JU-290 and Dornier DO-217s.
During the simulation, both planes flew low and fast approaching St Angelo from the north-east. Following the line of the road towards the airfield, they couldn’t avoid the small hill at Trory.
The Flying Boat lost a wing while carrying out evasive action near St Angelo airfield, Fermanagh at 1250hrs. It came down across the road leading towards the shore and the Devenish ferry. The plane was at such a low height, the damaged wing took down telephone lines. Today, a memorial stands in almost the exact spot.
James Lunny, a local man, was one of the first on the scene. He received a bravery medal for his actions in helping the injured to safety. The plane was broken up, debris scattered across the field and on fire.
Air gunner Hebenton killed
Eight of the ten-man crew were injured 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.
Air-gunner Leslie Arthur Hebenton died at the scene. Sergeant Reginald William Bodsworth died the following day as a result of his injuries. Pilot Officer Hebenton’s grave is in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh.