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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Kylebeg, World War Two, and a Perspective on Unfinished Business

On the night of 16th April, 1941, "...hour after hour of fire-bombs rained down on London." (Belfast had been bombed the previous night.) Next night a Handley Page Hampden S/N AD730 was detailed to bomb an aiming point at Berlin and was one of seven from No. 50 squadron which took off from its base at Lindholme in Yorkshire.

It was crewed by:
P/O J. K. Hill, Captain 83253
Sgt. J. T. Lamb, Navigator 744628
Sgt. S. Wright, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner 751744
Sgt. F. H. Erdwin, Air Gunner 553897

It would appear that this crew did not reach Berlin; the the pilot, J.K. Hill was not in a position to identify his target, due to haze over Germany and opted for a secondary one, as he was not in contact with the other planes. The bad weather encountered over the North Sea was already crossing over the Continent, with no improvement over Britain or to the West.

At 02.17 hours, Sgt. S. Wright (Wireless Operator) made contact and was given a second class fix and bearing from Bircham Common. This placed the aircraft approximately five miles SW of RAF Watton.

For some unknown reason the Hampton Bomber continued flying West --- possibly due to a compass malfunction. The bomber crossed the Welsh mountains, which would seem to indicate that it was flying at 4000 feet. Its first movements over Ireland were reported by the look-out posts on the East Coast at 04.05 hours while tracking inland between Dalkey and Bray. The plane was reported flying west towards Kildare. It then changed course, which brought it to an East-Northeast position.

At 04.24 hours, Gardai at Hollywood, County Wicklow, reported an aircraft in the area to Air Defence. According to the Department of Defence, local people reported hearing a plane also. (The crew of the Hampton SD730 who had survived that April night in the German sky were to die only hours later on a lonelly hillside in Kyleberg in neutral Ireland.) Investigators reached the conclusion that the plane crashed ten minutes later, killing the crew instantly.

The instrument panel clocks found in the wreckage recorded the time of the crash as 04.34 hours. The bodies of the victims lay in Blackhill (Kyleberg) until Saturday 19th, when they were found by turf-workers.

It must be remembered that the nearest telephone was in Blessington, nearly six miles away, so it was late in the evening when the Security Forces arrived on the scene. A military guard from the Curragh and an ambulance made their way up the "Hill Road." L.D.F. and Gardai stood on duty. Comdt. Harrington G (2) Branch Curragh Command was also present. Air Corps officers under Comdt. Murphy were standing by.

In his report to the Department of Defence (25/04/41) Comdt. Mackey was lavish in his praise of the work of Superintendent Quinn, Supt. Reynolds and Sgt. Bohan, Blessington. On Monday 21st April, 1941, the Coroner for West Wicklow instructed that no inquest would be held. His report to Comdt. Mackey stated: "The crew received frightful injuries and death was instanteous in each case."

The funerals took place on Tuesday 22nd at St. Mary's Church, Blessington. The coffins, wrapped in the British flag, were carried to the church by soldiers escorted by a guard of honor and preceded by the No. 3 Army Band. It was attended by the British Representative, Sir John Maffey, with Lady Maffey and their daughter, Mrs. Max Aitken. Also present was Mr. Leywood of the British Legation, who had arrived in Blessington on Sunday 20th and visited the scene of the crash.

Irish Army officers attending included Major P. Maher, representing the Minister of Defence, and Comdt. E. Rooney, representing the Chief of Staff.

The service was conducted by Rev. W.R. Crooks and the four bodies were buried in the one grave. The Irish Times of 23rd April, 1941, said, "During the funeral all shops in Blessington were closed and blinds drawn on windows."

In his report to the Chief of Staff, Department of Defence, (25/04/41) Comdt. D.J. Murphy, Air Corps Headquarters, wrote:

"Cause of crash: not known. The aircraft appeared to fly straight into the side of the hill. Parts were scattered over a wide area. The area where the Hampton crashed is about 1600 feet above O.D., rising sharply from around 620 feet."

Ironically, the motto of the 50th Squadron was "Sic fidem servamus" (Thus we keep Faith). For those young airmen there was no glory of D-Day. No honour of being shot down over enemy territory. Kyleberg was their Armageddon.

For them the war was lost -- and won -- on Blackhill.

* * *

"Finality is not the language of politics..." - Benjamin Disraeli.

We have this great respect for finality, yet we are in awe of the greatest (mortal) finality: Death.

Is our admiration for those who finish things misplaced?
Would someone of my simple musical tastes ever have heard of a finished symphony?

People rarely boast about or advertise that which is unfinished, with the exception of unfinished furniture, which is marketed as such to the unsuspecting and egotistical DIY man. But when you think that a Finishing School is a private institution that prepares young women for coffee mornings in Dublin Four, but not for any business or profession, you begin to question the positivity of finishing.

The term "finished musician" appears to be a double entendre to me. While one definition of finished is "brought to the highest degree of excellence," if you were a turkkey or a lamb it would mean immediate slaughter.

When Robert Southey referred to "... a fit and worthy finish to such a life" he was merly being hyperbolic about someone snuffing it.

If you were to quote Horace:
Ad unguem
Factus Homo

(A man finished to the last hair) about a bus driver, he mightn't be at all pleased.

To "finish with" a person is not a nice thing to do.

There is something called an American Finish (as in manners.) I don't know what it is. I'm just glad I don't have it.

Would Barcelona Cathedral have been such a tourist attraction if it had been finished on schedule?

While I'm on the subject of construction, there's somewhere in the world where rates are not payable on unfinished building, one ridge-tile left off and you're as Tax Free as the subject of a Tribunal.

In this age of marriage discord, have ever seen a spouse thrown out of an unfinished house?

You know I'm tempted to advise you all that, no matter what you start, don't fini......  

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Reader Comments

Name: Mary E. Adair Email:
Comment: You have given a fine tribute to those lost men, Mattie, and it serves as a reminder of all those brave ones lost in the various wars. Here in the USA, we celebrate their lives and mourn their deaths collectively and individually on Memorial Day, the 30th of May. And as for the rest of the column, I loved it and can only think of this to sa...



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