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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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Coastal Command Crest
30.12.1942 131 Operational Training Unit Catalina FP239 Sgt. Orr

Operation: Training

Date: 30th December 1942 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 131 Operational Training Unit (Coastal Command)

Type: Catalina IB

Serial: FP239

Code: Not known

Base: RAF Killadeas, Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Location: Reaghan Hill, Omagh

Pilot: Sgt. John Samuel Orr 978191 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Pilot: Sgt. Frederick Herbert Hilling 1222870 RAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. George Wilson Lowther AUS/6240 Age 25. Killed

Nav: F/O. Robert Mercer Adams J/11950 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Flight Mech/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Edward Slade 1233795 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Nichol 1026077 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur Horton Perkins 1132720 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Bernard Ridge 1198310 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: F/O. Matthew James Hall Newman 49003 RAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Daniel Ward Yates 1058083 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: LAC Leslie Greenhalgh 1137149 RAFVR Age 22. Killed


Details submitted by Allan Lowther Porter:

'George Wilson Lowther was quick to join-up when War in Europe was declared in September 1939. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force thinking that his education, work and experience would make the RAAF a good choice. His sister, Betty, my mother, recalled –

"On the day War in Europe was declared I was outside on the verandah of our Ashgrove (Brisbane, Australia) home and someone was shouting out what sounded like, ‘the water’s off, the water’s off’, which was not unusual to hear when the water was frequently turned off in the street to allow work to be carried out. But it wasn’t. What they were saying was, ‘the war’s on, the war’s on. Soon after that he came home and told us his plans. He was 22 years old".

George was sent to Richmond in New South Wales and to Point Cook in Victoria to do his initial training. And then, shortly afterwards, shipped off to England to the War in Europe. It would be another two years before Australia would be under direct threat of the War in the Pacific.

He had only very little time to come home and make his farewells. When he did, he brought his service rifle and taught his sister how to shoot a row of targets set up in the back garden of the family home. "My shoulder was sore for a week", she recalled, "from the recoil of the rifle". But she hit the targets!

Like many others, George felt a sense of family duty and adventure in the camaraderie of joining up and going to faraway places. He’d heard a lot about them from his father, a ship’s engineer from Yorkshire, who’d travelled the world, and from his mother from Manchester.

In England he was eventually posted to a Royal Air Force Operational Training Unit (OTU 131), part of Group Coastal Command based at RAF Killadeas on Lough Erne, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland which was equipped with PBY Catalina aircraft.

The unit flew the Donegal Corridor that linked Lough Erne with the Atlantic Ocean.

George’s letters back home said he was hoping to get a transfer to the new theatre of war that had started in the Pacific. But this was not to happen. George’s war was to end as with many other airmen who served in aircraft based on Lough Erne – in a crash, in bad weather after a training flight in the Atlantic.

The record of the incident says -

'Catalina FP239 took off from RAF Killadeas on the 30th December 1942, during a non-operational training flight. It became lost in bad weather, and crashed 17 miles north west of Omagh Northern Ireland. All on board the aircraft were killed.

The weather conditions had deteriorated earlier and more severely than was forecast.

However as the cloud base at ETA was forecast at 600 feet, with visibility 5/6 miles a diversion was not ordered. The aircraft obtained homing bearings from the local H/F D/F station and continued on course. It flew into a hillside 25 miles north-east of base while in cloud and greatly reduced visibility'.

(Source: AWM 237 (65) NAA: A795, 166/25/2 Commonwealth War Graves records ).

Burial details:

Sgt. John Samuel Orr. Irvinestown Church Of Ireland Churchyard. Plot 1. Grave 17. Son of Samuel and Evelyn May Orr (née Copping), of Armagh, Northern Ireland. Grave inscription reads: "Those Who Loved Him Will Never Forget".

Sgt. Frederick Herbert Hilling. Coltishall Churchyard (St. John the Baptist). Son of Herbert Harry and Florence Ellen Hilling (née Herwin), of Coltishall, Norfolk, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Is Living Yet In The Hearts Of Those That Never Forget".

Sgt. George Wilson Lowther. Irvinestown Church Of Ireland Churchyard. Plot 1. Grave 18. Son of George and Elizabeth Lowther, of Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "He Was One Of Nature's Gentlemen".

F/O. Robert Mercer Adams. Irvinestown Church Of Ireland Churchyard. Plot 1. Grave 19. Son of Robert Medd Adams and Seaborn Christine Adams, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "A Loving Son And Brother. "Until The Day Break And The Shadows Flee Away".

Sgt. John Edward Slade. Streatham Park Cemetery. Square 27A. Grave 43350. Son of George W. Slade and Bessie Slade (née Stone), of Walsall, Staffordshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Our Dear Brother Always In Our Thoughts Forever In Our Hearts".

Sgt. William Nichol. Longbenton Cemetery (Benton). Sec. D. Row 11. Grave 34. Son of Henry and Isabella Nichol (née Jameson), of Forest Hall, Tyneside, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Proud And Loving Memory Of Billy. "Greater Love Hath No Man".

Sgt. Arthur Horton Perkins. Liverpool Cemetery (West Derby). Sec. B. C. of E. Grave 20. Son of Arthur and Margaret Tyrice-Tullis Perkins (née Wattling), of West Derby and husband of Phyllis Perkins (née Baker), of West Derby, Liverpool, England. Grave inscription reads: "They Walk The Golden Shores In Peace Supreme".

Sgt. Charles Bernard Ridge. Solihull, Cemetery. Sec. B.2. North. Grave 381. Understood to be from Solihull, West Midlands, England. No further details - are you able to assist?

F/O. Matthew James Hall Newman. Irvinestown Church Of Ireland Churchyard. Plot 1. Grave 20. Son of Albert Hall Newman, and of Margaret Newman (née Waddell), of Wokingham, Berkshire, England. Grew up in Uxbridge, Middlesex - one of nine children. Grave inscription reads: "Ever Remembered By His Mother, Brothers And Sisters". Pictured left.

Sgt. Daniel Ward Yates. York Cemetery. Section D. Grave 26.9292. Son of Daniel Oscar and Minnie Yates (née Hobson), of York, England. Grave inscription reads: "Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten. Dad And Mam, Sisters And Brother".

LAC Leslie Greenhalgh. Leigh Cemetery. Sec 27. Grave F.11. Son of George and Janet Greenhalgh (née Bibby), of Leigh, Lancashire, England.

Researched by Allan Lowther Porter, relative of flight engineer, Sgt. George Wilson Lowther who contacted us in December 2017. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to David Newman who contacted us in April 2018 with photograph of his Uncle, F/O. Matthew Newman.

KTY - 15.12.2017

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