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Old 04-22-2009, 12:32 PM   #1
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RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Time for a little history lesson!
Part 1
Some of you may follow Doc’s RAAF Warbird thread, during which he and I have shared a mutual love of the Short Sunderland. I live in Northern Ireland and we have a close bond with Sunderland’s in WW2. They flew out of RAF Castle Archdale during the war along with various other aircraft (Catalina’s/Lerwicks)
My other half and I were in that part of the country over the last two days and I managed to lure her to Castle Archdale Country Park under the premise of a “lovely walk.” Not long after arrival I was busted when this small plaque greeted us


She took it rather well actually!
RAF Castle Archdale commenced operations in 1941 and would have looked like this


On the northern side of the main building you can make out two watchtowers. Sadly these are gone and this is how it looks today

There are several structures still around from those days. The refuelling jetty is in great shape

The fuel pumping station is also still in place, but has seen better days

This is the slipway that many Sunderland’s and Catalina’s were returned to the Lough having undergone repairs

What was once the hangers, Nissan huts etc is now a Caravan (trailer for our cousins across the pond) site. The concrete slabs that were used to construct the base still used today as the caravan park.
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Old 04-22-2009, 12:36 PM   #2
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Part 2

The Allies were taking heavy losses in the North Atlantic at the hands of the U-boats. They needed a base close to the West of the UK. Castle Archdale on Lough Erne was chosen in the hope of secretly obtaining permission from the Republic of Ireland to fly over their neutral territory in the hope of adding an extra 100 miles of air coverage to the incoming convoys. It doesn’t sound much when you say it, but if you were a merchant seaman I suspect that that extra 100 miles of coverage would be very welcome.
An agreement was made with the following three conditions:-
1. It was to remain a secret
2. Flights over Eire (Republic of Ireland) were to be at a good height
3. The route over the Irish military camp Finner was to be avoided.
A further part of the agreement allowed the RAF to keep an air-sea rescue trawler in Donegal to recover down airmen.
There’s an old saying, “the Irish may hate the English, but we’re the first ones to help them in a fight.” From my trip to Castle Archdale I found this to be so true.
This picture shows two routes the RAF had open to them. The Northerly route kept them within British airspace but added more time onto the journey and allowed the aircraft to spend less time on patrol. The Westerly route is the Donegal Corridor that the Republic of Ireland allowed the RAF to use. You can see the difference it made.


The Irish also like to help in other ways. They kept observers on the mountains with marked beacons. Officially this was to monitor both the Germans and the British movements. However I think this photo shows what the real assets of these posts were.

A wartime photo of RAF Castle Archdale

A Catalina flying over (or through!) Enniskillen

This is a photo of the last flight through the Donegal Corridor. Belleek is a village in Northern Ireland
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Old 04-22-2009, 12:42 PM   #3
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Part 3

Castle Archdale has a rich history. It was a Catalina from 209 Squadron that detected the German Battleship Bismarck on the 25th May. The Royal Navy needed to remove this threat as the day before she had sunk the pride of the Royal Navy, HMS Hood. Of the 1418 men on board, three survived.
The Catalina, WQ-Z was piloted by Pilot Officer Dennis Briggs RAF. He was credited with having found the Bismarck. However post-war it emerged that Ensign Leonard Smith, United States Navy sighted the Bismarck. This is interesting as on 25th May 1941, the United States was not at war and wouldn’t be for almost another 7 months. The US had sent 17 pilots to provide on the job training to RAF personnel in flying the Cats. WQ-Z was fired upon by the Germans and Ensign Smith became the first American Serviceman to be involved in combat in World War 2. (Though not surprisingly this was not broadcast!!)

U625 was sunk by an RCAF Sunderland from 422 Squadron. The story is long but interesting and I would strongly advise reading. It can be found in depth here:-
http://www.airmuseum.ca/mag/exag0208.html
Of particular note is the signal flashed to the crew of the Sunderland from the U-boat after the bombing had finished and the boat had been forced to surface for the purposes of abandoning ship. It was short and simple but for me a very touching tribute that crossed the divide of war. It simply read:-
“Fine bombing.”
During WW2, 23 aircraft from RAF Castle Archdale crashed. 192 men lost their lives and 10 others on base died. These men came from all parts of the Empire, particularly the UK, Australia and Canada.
Sadly Lough Erne that once looked like this:-


Looks like this:-

The only flying done from Lough Erne in 2009 is by this guy:-


I apologise for the quality of some of the photos, but as you know, photographing photographs is not an easy job. I tried my best.

There was a photo that i couldn't manage to take involving the Irish Army. The Irish Army have no love of the British Armed forces. During the troubles many have taken delight in "capturing" British Army patrols that have wandered into Ireland and taking them to Dublin Caslte (though i hear more often than not they pointed the patrol in the right direction and sent them back to the UK!!).
Over the years the remains of RAF airmen have been found. They are treated with great dignity by the Irish Army and the Garda (Irish Police). They are escorted to the border, where they are handed over to the British Army in a quiet and dignified ceremoney. This was the photo i saw and it touched me deeply.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this, as much as I enjoyed learning about RAF Castle Archdale. I feel privileged to have been able to visit. To have walked where brave men stood was truly an honour for me.

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Old 04-22-2009, 02:59 PM   #4
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Very interesting,the last photo of the Sunderlands and Cats shows just how busy it was.Great thread.
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Old 04-22-2009, 06:03 PM   #5
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

indeed very interesting piece of history, thanks for your efforts to share with us!
Just recently I watched the story of the Bismarck on TV and they mentioned that the Bismarck was sighted by a Catalina on a patrol flight.
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Old 04-22-2009, 06:21 PM   #6
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

I'm speechless Chris. Marvelous thread and excellent job with the photos. I will need to re-read it when I finish work today. One can really get a feel for the conditions that these men lived and worked in. It was especially nice to get the Irish perspective.
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Old 04-22-2009, 06:33 PM   #7
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

I really enjoyed reading this thread. Great Job Furry!
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Old 04-23-2009, 03:11 AM   #8
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Wonderful stuff Chris and thanks for taking the extra time to bring the history and story to life. Would have been a very interesting 'walk' just to see the sights. Bless your other half for allowing you out even with supervision......
The pictures are great , just thinking how it would have been up there mid winter.....
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:39 AM   #9
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Thanks for the kind comments fellas. I just found out something quite special for me. Whilst in Florida earlier this year i got to check out the Sunderland at Fantasy Of Flight. What i didn't realise was that that aircraft flew with 423 Squadron RCAF from Castle Archdale during the war!

It's a small world
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Old 04-23-2009, 11:35 AM   #10
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Quote:
Originally Posted by furryforest View Post
Thanks for the kind comments fellas. I just found out something quite special for me. Whilst in Florida earlier this year i got to check out the Sunderland at Fantasy Of Flight. What i didn't realise was that that aircraft flew with 423 Sqaudron RCAF from Castle Archdale during the war!

It's a small world
ML814: 'Twas actually 422 Sqn RCAF, having served beforehand with 201 Sqn RAF and subsequently with 330 Sqn RAF (Norway) after conversion to Mk V (initially a Mk III).

From there she was refurbished by Shorts and became NZ4108 of 5Sqn RNZAF from 1953 to 1963, then on to Ansett where she was VH-BRF "Islander" until 1974. From there, she was with Antilles but could not get airworthiness certificate in USA. Sold in '79 to Edward Hulton and planned to go on display at Foynes but was damaged in hurricane in 1987 and was later sold to Kermit Weeks who has her on static display at Flights of Fantasy in Florida.

Now that would be a good series for Andrew Klein to do - much like the A300B4 Captain Cook!
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

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Originally Posted by flyingdoc View Post
ML814: 'Twas actually 422 Sqn RCAF, having served beforehand with 201 Sqn RAF and subsequently with 330 Sqn RAF (Norway) after conversion to Mk V (initially a Mk III).

From there she was refurbished by Shorts and became NZ4108 of 5Sqn RNZAF from 1953 to 1963, then on to Ansett where she was VH-BRF "Islander" until 1974. From there, she was with Antilles but could not get airworthiness certificate in USA. Sold in '79 to Edward Hulton and planned to go on display at Foynes but was damaged in hurricane in 1987 and was later sold to Kermit Weeks who has her on static display at Flights of Fantasy in Florida.

Now that would be a good series for Andrew Klein to do - much like the A300B4 Captain Cook!
You're quite correct Doc-i'm getting my 422's and my 423's mixed up
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Old 08-15-2009, 12:23 PM   #12
 
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

I enjoyed reading this thread very much.

My grandfather was a pilot with 423 squadron based at CA.

I also have a website dedicated to the wartime era of castle archdale.

For those interested, Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland Coastal Command
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:53 PM   #13
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

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Originally Posted by Sunderland1944 View Post
I enjoyed reading this thread very much.

My grandfather was a pilot with 423 squadron based at CA.

I also have a website dedicated to the wartime era of castle archdale.

For those interested, Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland Coastal Command
Welcome to Wings 900! It's nice to have another enthusiast of the flying boats aboard. I'm looking forward to visiting your site.
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Old 08-15-2009, 10:40 PM   #14
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

Hey Chris. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos. With these photos, you took us all back into the past and see what it was like. All this lead me going to Youtube and see what I can find of Castle Archdale. Don't mind much about the quality, this is history, we're talking about. They are fine as it is. I was excited to see the before and after shots. Even though I can't say I have been there, but nice to see there are still "signs" or remnants of "things" used by the RAF. One of the best threads on site. Thank you.

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Old 08-16-2009, 01:03 AM   #15
 
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Re: RAF Castle Archdale 1941-1957

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Originally Posted by flyingdoc View Post
Welcome to Wings 900! It's nice to have another enthusiast of the flying boats aboard. I'm looking forward to visiting your site.


Thanks for the welcome!

I have a very special interest in Castle Archdale, my grandfather attacked and heavily damaged U-672 ( April 24/44 ) while based there with 423 squadron. I have had the opportunity to speak with quite a few vets who served there during my research of WW2 Castle Archdale.

I hope that you enjoy your visit to my site.














24 Apr, 1944
The attack on 24 April, 1944 at 1339hrs southwest of Ireland, in position 50.36N, 18.36W, by depth charges from a Canadian Sunderland aircraft (Sqdn. 423/A, pilot F/lt F.G. Fellows) formerly credited with sinking U-311 was in fact against U-672 inflicting severe damages. The aircraft suffered near-fatal damages when a depth charge detonated prematurely but the pilot managed to bring it back to base. (Sources: 1986-04-01, FDS/NHB

Last edited by Sunderland1944; 08-16-2009 at 01:16 AM.
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