HF208 (2S) 20th December 1943
While returning from U-Boat patrol over the Bay of Biscay, the aircraft is thought to have been struck by lightning and went down in flames near Mount Brandon in the Irish Republic. The crew transmitted a request to end their patrol and return home due to their inability to get a proper navigational fix because of a malfunction in their radio location equipment.
The whole crew were killed and their bodies were given an honour guard by the Irish Army and handed over to the British authorities at the Ulster border, specifically at Middletown on the Monaghan and Armagh border. This occurred at 18.30 hours on 23rd December 1943.
Sergeant Naftali Pawel Kuflik was buried in the Carnmoney Jewish Cemetery in Belfast. The remainder of the crew were interred in the Milltown Cemetery, they were: Sgt Stanislaw Czerniewski, Sgt Kowalewicz, Flight Sergeant Klemens Adamowicz, Sgt Kazimierz Lugowski and Sgt Wincenty Pietrzak. The following extract is a direct quote from the website of the Warplane Research Group of Ireland:
R.A.F. 304 Squadron, based at Predannack, Lizard, Cornwall, flew Wellington Bombers. The members of this Squadron were Polish. Like many others, they too were involved in hunting U-Boats. On the 20th of December, 1943, their aircraft was seen by several Look Out Posts (L.O.P.’s) skirting along the coastlines of Kerry, Cork and Waterford. Indeed records show that their last reported position was over Lismore in County Waterford heading east-southeast presumably to Predannack. I cannot offer any reason why their aircraft should end up on the slopes of Mount Brandon a few hours later with the loss of all six crewmen on board but I can relate that all the crew were shot by the exploding ammunition in the fire that engulfed the aircraft. All the bodies were recovered outside the aircraft. None suffered burns.
The impact point was on the slopes above Slieveglass, near Cloghane, above Brandon village on the Dingle Peninsula.
Unfortunately, the last two sentences of this report are completely wrong! I have contacted the Irish Army authorities and they have allowed me access to documents which revealed a totally different story. The crash took place at 23.22hrs, probably due to losing its bearings in very bad weather. There were reports of snowstorms but I have seen no reference to any lightning.
Sergeant M. Duffy and other Gardai (Police) attended and took charge of the scene at 12.25 on 21st December 1943 and handed over to the military at 3 pm on the same day. Two of the airmen had suffered some burns, and one was badly charred but none had gunshot wounds (in accordance with the official report). They were identified by identity discs found in their pockets. The Coroner, Mr Sheehan, decided that an inquest was not necessary and the bodies were removed at 9 pm.
Captain Pringle of the Irish Army visited the scene and found four aerial depth charges, three of which were damaged and the other had burnt out (they were not primed). He also found two damaged incendiary bombs and a quantity of burned out, or otherwise unserviceable flare floats. The whole lot were destroyed at the scene by a charge placed on the depth charges and detonated. A large quantity of ammunition, both ball and tracer, was found with the six machine guns and presumably taken away as it would be too dangerous to dispose of at the scene – it had most certainly not “cooked off” and none of the bodies were reported to have gunshot wounds.
Reporting on the wreckage, Major W. P. Delamere of the Irish Air Corps wrote that the visiting British Engineering Officer had disclaimed any interest in the wreckage as it would be too expensive to remove due to its remote and difficult location.
He described it thus: “The Wellington lies on a steep rocky slope 2500 feet above sea level and 3 and a half miles from base of Mountain over Marsh and Ravine, 2 streams and boggy land.” I think the photograph shows the difficulty in recovering the aircraft
He also said that the scrap value of the Duralumin would be £10 - £20 and not worth melting down as it was of little use. In England, where aircraft were being mass produced, it would have been a very different story.
It must be said that the Irish authorities were very thorough in the way they dealt with the situation and they were very respectful to the dead airmen.
Wreckage of HF208 still lying where it fell in 1943. Photograph taken in 2008 © Dennis Burke.
What follows is a selection of Irish official documents, with thanks to the Irish Army, relating to this crash: