Mount Brandon



1943 was an eventful year for the history of aviation accidents in the southern counties of Cork and Kerry when a total of 6 aircraft came to grief involving a total loss of life of 40 people but none more apparent that the three air crashes on Mount Brandon. The forerunner of British Airways was British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.) Sunderland Flying Boat G-AGES with 15 passengers and crew of 13 took off from Lisbon on the evening of the 27th of July, 1943, bound for Poole in Dorset via Foynes. On board that aircraft was Capt. Tom Allitt from Liverpool and some of the passengers included Bruno Noth from Switzerland and Flying Officer Díarmuid Hartigan R.A.F., from Bruff, County Limerick. Hartigan had been injured in a Spitfire crash in Senegal and was being sent home for rest and recuperation. The aircraft had a virtual tail wind from the time of its departure to the time it arrived over the Shannon Estuary where low cloud and fog covered Foynes. ATC at Rineanna (now Shannon) advised the pilot to orbit Loop Head in darkness until the fog cleared and then he could make his finals towards the easterly wind for landing at Foynes. Unfortunately while circling Loop Head and unknown to the crew the wind changed direction to the northwest and the aircraft began to stray off course. It will probably never be known what happened next but the pilot was given his landing instructions as the aircraft was running low on fuel and in the low cloud and fog, the pilot thought he was heading up the Shannon Estuary when in actual fact he was in Brandon Bay and heading due west in the early morning of the 28th of July, 1943. Capt. Allitt would have had only seconds to react when he would have seen grass below his aircraft at an altitude of approximately 2,000ft. before it impacted into large boulders just below the summit of Mount Brandon. Of the 28 on board, 10 died instantly including Allitt, Noth and Díarmuid Hartigan who was only 70 miles from his home. The crash site was a scene of utter devastation where fire engulfed almost all of the aircraft except the tail section, which bore the registration G-AGES. Amongst the cargo recovered was mail from British personnel in Japanese P.O.W. camps in Java. For several months afterwards mail was still be found several miles from the crash site and locals took it upon themselves to mail the letters to the marked addresses. Díarmuid Hartigan was buried with full military honours in the family plot in Bruff. Bruno Noth's remains were transported to South Africa for burial and Capt. Tom Allitt was buried in Liverpool. Several parts of the aircraft can be seen today at the same spot where it crashed. One of the engines is displayed in the courtyard of The Foynes Aviation Museum.

Ger. O'Regan

Note: This was probably the first civilian aircrash in Ireland that claimed the lives of some of those on board.

G. O'R.

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