Today we remember the 14 RAF airmen who were killed or injured during the Second World War in two tragic accidents on The Collin Mountain and take time to again thank local historian William Cobain for his tireless campaign to have a memorial erected at The Collin Mountain and in War Memorial Park, Ballyclare to recognise the ultimate sacrifice of these brave men.
Ballyclare historian William Cobain at the site of one of the crashes on The Collin Mountain
On 31 October 1941 a crew of RAF Volunteer Reservists from No 5 Air Observers School, No 25 Group Training Command, stationed at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man were on a cross-country navigational training exercise in a twin-engined RAF Bristol Blenheim light bomber, serial number Z6273.
At 12.30pm the plane developed engine trouble and crashed on the lower slopes of The Collin at Tildarg, killing all four men on board.
Sergeant William Amos Scott Doig RAFVR, Pilot
Leading Aircraftman Peter Ernest Coles RAFVR, Observer, under training
Leading Aircraftman Robert Desmond Connell RAFVR, Observer, under training
Leading Aircraftman Ivor John Unwin RAFVR, Observer, under training
On 16 February 1945, a crew from No 1674 Heavy Conversion Unit, No 17 Group Coastal Command, stationed at RAF Aldergrove was on a practice night-time radar homing exercise in a Consolidated Liberator bomber, serial number EV954. They were requested to circle the airfield but the aircraft flew out of the circuit while on automatic pilot and crashed into the eastern slopes of The Collin at 4.30am, killing seven of the ten-man crew.
The fatalities were:
Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Douglas Faulkner RAFVR, DFC, Navigator
Flying Officer Ernest Reginald Matthews RAFVR, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Flying Officer Peter Gordon Sim RAFVR, MID, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Flying Officer Allan Floyd Whitney Royal Canadian Air Force, Navigator
Sergeant Henry Edward Benwell RAFVR, Air Gunner
Sergeant Albert Bladon RAFVR, Air Gunner
Sergeant John Edward Morgan RAFVR, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
The survivors were:
Flying Officer Peter Eustace Cox RAF, Pilot
Pilot Officer Garrett James Fenwick Royal Australian Air Force, Co-Pilot
Sergeant William Howden RAF Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
A memorial to the airmen was officially unveiled at a ceremony in War Memorial Park, Ballyclare on Thursday 27 November 2014, attended by Dr William McCrea MP; Ernie Cromie and Ray Burrows from the Ulster Aviation Society; Mayor Thomas Hogg; local historian William Cobain and Deputy Mayor Pat McCudden.
The following poem recalls the February 1945 tragedy:
THE COLLIN CRASH
It was early here one morning
Before the break of day
A Yankee liberator crashed
Upon the Collin Brae.
It’s a heathered part of Ireland
Where you smell the heather bloom
A place we never want to see
Another bomber coming ‘doon’.
The people in the district
Got up, some ran half clad
To give first aid as Britons would
To these dying airforce lads.
We mourn the loss of these great men
That flew through thick and thin
To blast and bomb to pieces
That big city of Berlin.
With a ring of steel around them now
Every German town they’ll smash
They are getting soup made from cabbage
Hitler grew from human ash.
When this war is over
It’s up to our ‘Big Three’
To plant in the heart of Germany
A true Democracy.