Ballykelly Beaufort goes on display

The remains of a crashed WW2 Beaufort Bomber, which were excavated earlier this year by a team of experienced aviation archaeologists and pupils from Foyle College Aviation Team, have gone on display in public for the first time.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:35 am

The parishioners of Tamlaghtfinlagan Parish Church in Ballykelly, close to where the Coastal Command Bristol Beaufort crashed, were the first to see the cleaned up fragments of the plane last weekend.

The excavation in April for the remains of the rare WW2 bomber made history, as it was the first licensed dig for an aircraft in the North.

The twin-engined aircraft, serial number AW 271, crashed on April 30, 1942 while undertaking parachute tests.

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Sadly, the three crew members on board - 22-year-old F/L Archibald Duncan Livingstone RAF, 31-year-old F/L Richard William Gilbert Holdsworth RAF VR and 22-year-old F/S Stanley Frederick Chadwick - were killed in the crash.

During the excavation, their family members were constantly kept updated by the pupils from FCAT and the group hopes to meet them in the near future, once Covid restrictions allow an appropriate commemoration event to take place.

The dig unearthed two large pits full of the post-crash debris tidy up that was undertaken in 1942 and the items recovered have since been preserved.

Among the items recovered were a propellor blade, the fuselage ballast weights, and much piping and cabling.

A number of bullets were also found by the team, and while they had all exploded during the fire the markings on them remained clear.

Jonny McNee, dig organiser, Foyle College geology teacher Nicole Sloan and pupils from FCAT, addressed the parishioners about what was found during the dig last weekend.

The parishioners then had the opportunity, in a Covid safe way, to see the items on display in the nearby church hall.

The group also present Canon Harold Given with a piece of cleaned up metal from the plane, to thank him for all of his assistance with the dig.

Jonny said the service was broadcast on social media and the crew members families were able to watch, with one of them describing it as a very emotional event.

“The pupils, who spoke so brilliantly, gave an overview of the project, what was found on the day and our plans for the future. It meant so much to the family members.

“The pieces that we found were very evocative and really spoke to the parishioners about what happened on that day in 1942 close to their church. The remains show evidence of the intense fire that broke out after the crash and how futile and difficult it would have been to try and save these men due to the ferociousness of the fire.”

Jonny added that the display also reminded those present that war ‘is not glamorous and sometimes these men who took off on flights, never came back’.

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The group are now planning to plant a tree in the field where the plane crashed and are working with the crew members family on an appropriate memorial.

They also hope to do outreach work in other schools.