My research for this article has brought to light a number of interesting facts that might otherwise have remained hidden and will hopefully be helpful to historians researching these subjects in the future.
A document in the National Archives of Ireland provides possible evidence of an Internment/PoW camp in England in the summer of 1940.
The file relates to a body washed up at Surgeview, Blacksod, on August 14, 1940, at a time when many bodies from Arandora Star were coming ashore along the Mayo coast.
The body of the unfortunate man (aged about 55) was dressed in civilian clothes. In the inside pocket of his coat, a cardboard label was found on which was written:
“O.H.M.S. No.9 Prisoner of War Camp Great Britain.” On the reverse side of this label, the following figures appeared “466.N.”
The Guardian newspaper in its list of every POW camp in Great Britain during WW2 names three camps numbered 9 – at Warth Mills, Bury, Greater Manchester; Kempton Park Camp, Sunbury on Thames and Quorn Camp, Wood Lane, Quorn, (Quorndon), Leicestershire.
It is likely that the man washed ashore near Blacksod was an internee held in Warth Mills where hundreds of Italian, German and Austrian men were interned at the start of the Second World War. The question arises whether it would be possible from British Government records to identify the man after all these years from the information above.
His remains were buried in Faulmore graveyard within yards of where his body came ashore. However, after the War, the man’s remains were disinterred by the Volksbund, Germany’s war graves commission, and reinterred in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) disinterred the remains of 18 of the 90 bodies that were washed ashore and buried in Mayo during World War 2. 58b My research indicates that many of the disinterred were likely to have been British mariners. Only in one case do historical records provide clear evidence that the remains re-interred in Glencree were those of a German national.
References and Sources
My lifelong interest in the Battle of the Atlantic was piqued many years ago when I met one of the RAF seaplane pilots who flew out of Castle Archdale on Lough Erne during WW2 on missions protecting incoming convoys that took him over the North Mayo coast; its spectacular sea cliff scenery he fondly remembered decades later despite the dangers he faced. A perfect English gentleman, he was delighted to meet this Mayo man on a brief holiday in the English city of Bath. He told me how after the war he went back to university in Liverpool to qualify in Aeronautical Engineering, and later went to work in the United States for the famous magnate, Howard Hughes, in his aircraft company. Our conversation was all too brief, but sometimes on my walks around Erris Head or Benwee Head, I have thought of this brave RAF pilot, one of so many British and Irish airmen, sailors and soldiers who risked their lives so that we could all be free of the evils of totalitarianism.
Since writing this article the Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the sacrifice of the WW2 generation a new resonance as we see the bravery of the young Ukrainian men and women of today fighting and dying for their freedom against the tyranny of Putin.
My aim in writing this article is to remember the bravery of not just those who were directly involved in the war at sea, but also Mayo’s coastal communities, coastwatchers and gardai who as innocent bystanders had to deal with the terrible aftermath of battle.
This article also acknowledges the authoritative and groundbreaking work of others, most notably Michael Kennedy, Executive Editor, Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, Royal Irish Academy (RIA).
Michael Kennedy’s, Guarding Neutral Ireland: the Coast Watching Service and Military Intelligence, 1939-1945 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008), is a monumental body of research, the book should be the starting point for those interested in Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic.
The book details the work of the Coastwatching Service during WW2 and the role of the Look Out Posts around our coast that played such an important role in protecting Irish neutrality by providing daily tactical and strategic information to Irish military intelligence about the movements of belligerent ships, warplanes, and U-boats off our coast. The book also brought to light how the authorities and local communities coped with the scale of the human tragedy taking place in the Atlantic, evident in the bodies that were washed ashore along our western seaboard from 1940 to 1945.
Further Information – Contact Us
If you can provide additional information on Mayo and the Battle of the Atlantic, please contact me through the Contact Page.
War Graves in Mayo
Where the Battle of Atlantic casualties are buried in Co. Mayo.
|Achill Holy Trinity *COI Churchyard||John Murphy (26), Boatswain, S.S. The Sultan (Glasgow), Died 02 February 1941. Grave 8.|
George Ironside (44), Sapper Royal Engineers, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 3.
George James Walters (47), Able Seaman M.V. Upwey Grange (London). Died 08 August 1940. Grave 4.
Harry Kirkpatrick, Seaman Royal Naval Reserve, H.M.S. Patroclus. Died 03 November 1940. Grave 1.
|Seven unknowns are buried with headstones.|
|Ballycastle New Cemetery||Edward George Lane, Private Devonshire Regiment, S.S. Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 1.||My research has found that there are four other unknown bodies buried here without a headstone.|
|Belmullet COI Churchyard||William Frederick George Chick (19), Private Dorsetshire Regiment, S.S. Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 3.|
James Jaffray (27), Sapper Royal Engineers, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 6.
William Ewen Morrison, Sapper Royal Engineers, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 5.
Frank Sidney Carter (27), Trooper Royal Armoured Corps, SS Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 2.
Donald Ernest Vere Domican (21), Private Welch Regiment, SS Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 1.
Wallace Goodwin (22), Gunner 153rd (The Leicestershire Yeomanry) Field Regt., SS Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 4.
Clifford Major Mackrow (48), Chief Engineer Officer M.V. Upwey Grange. Died 08 August 1940. Grave 10.
John Halliwell Warham (25), Private Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 9.
Archibald Graham Weir (55), Wing Commander RAF, S.S. Nerissa. Died 30 April 1941. Grave 13.
Sydney George Betts (24), Driver Royal Engineers, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 8.
William Hulme(27), Private Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 7.
Jack Springett Johnson (37), Leading Seaman, H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941. Grave 12.
Thomas Elvin Mitchell (20), Lieutenant Carleton and York Regiment, R.C.I.C., S.S. Nerissa. Died 30 April 1941. Grave 11.
|Clare Island||Jubilee Jack Tweed (44), Petty Officer H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941.|
|Crosspatrick||Once described in a newspaper article as ‘the loneliest man in the world’, Claude Kirkwood was the last member of the Kirkwood family to live and own Bartra Island in Killala Bay where the River Moy meets the wild Atlantic.|
On January 17, 1941, Claude Kirkwood found a body washed up on the strand, another victim of the Battle of the Atlantic. The unidentified remains were interred in Crosspatrick cemetery, Killala. 59
|Two unknowns. No headstone.|
|Doohoma||Emyr Prytherch (26), Private Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940.|
|Dugort COI Churchyard||Jonas A. Hardingham (23) Private, Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 2.||Two unknowns are buried with headstones.|
|Faulmore||Stanley Alfred John Darnell (25), Private Royal Army Service Corps, S.S. Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 1.|
Peter Clifford McGlade (17), Boy 1st Class, H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941. Grave 2.
|6 Unknows without headstones.|
|Geesala||Robert Mackay Sutherland (27), Second Radio Officer, S.S. Serbino (Liverpool). Died 21 October 1941.||My research has discovered 2 other unmarked graves of unknowns here.|
|Kildownet, Achill||Frederick George Wheeler (34), Electrical Artificer 1st Class, H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941. Grave 1.||One unknown male, aged 45, washed ashore on Achill Beg on 30.08.1940. Grave with a headstone. Likely to have been from Arandora Star.|
|Kilgalligan||Seven unknowns are buried here without markers. |
* Separately, 6 German sailors’ disinterred in the 1960s and re-interred in the German war memorial in Wicklow.
* In conversation with Uinsíonn Mac Graith, a local historian. 23.05.2021.
|Killeen, Louisburgh||Body washed ashore at Thallabaun, Louisburgh on 10.12.1940 and found by Michael O’Malley. Remains buried in Killeen cemetery on 11.12.1940 by Home Assistance Officer, Redmond Lyons, Furmoyloe, Louisburgh. 59b||Two unknowns. No headstone.|
|Newport COI Churchyard||Bodies of 2 adult males were found on the strand at Murrevagh, Mulranny, on 05.07.1941. The first body was found by Patrick Gorman, Murrevagh, and the second body was found by Garda M.J. Gaffney, Mulranny. The remains of both men are buried in one grave in Newport Church of Ireland cemetery. 59c||Two unknowns are buried in the same grave with a headstone.|
|Polranny, Achill||Body of adult male found 13.12.1941 at Carrickbaun Point, Doughbeg, Mulranny, by Michael Gallagher, Bollinglanna, Curraun, a member of LOP Curraun. Remains buried in Church of Ireland churchyard, Polranny, Achill Sound. 60||One unknown. No headstone.|
|Pullathomas||Body of unknown adult male washed ashore at Inver, Barnatra, 08.08.1940. Buried in Pullathomas RC cemetery same day by Relieving Officer, Martin Gallagher. 61||One unknown. No headstone.|
|Rathfran||Geoffrey Charles Butcher, Apprentice, M.V. Upwey Grange. Died 08 August 1940. Grave 2.|
Arnold Walmsley, Private Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940. Grave 1.
|One unknown with a headstone.|
|Termoncarragh||Edgar Hugh Mayes (33), Third Officer M.V. Upwey Grange. Died 08 August 1940. Grave 10.|
Patrick Colbert (22), Able Seaman S.S. Macville (London). Died 20 August 1940. Grave 3.
John Connelly (21), Trooper Lovat Scouts, SS Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 2.
Frederick Richard Thomas (37), Second Officer, S.S. Dione II (Port Talbot). Died 04 February 1941. Grave 4.
|Remembered here are brothers, Brendan Aloysius MacHale (28) and Bertram Joseph MacHale (33), Belmullet.|
See Page 4 above under the sub-heading, “Mayo Refugees”
Also, 2 unknowns are buried with headstones.
* Separately, 9 German sailors disinterred in the 1960s and re-interred in the German war memorial in Wicklow.
* In conversation with a local man (25.04.2021) who wished to remain anonymous. As a schoolboy, he recalled helping local men to disinter remains of German war dead in the 1960s. “After we finished our work, a German man put the bones in the boot of his car and drove off. We were well paid for the work.”
|Ugool||Body of unknown male found on Ugool beach on 19.09.1940. Buried in the ancient burial ground at Ugool near where the body was found. 62||One unknown. No headstone.|
|* Church of Ireland||For References see below.||Graves of Unknowns in some cemeteries have headstones giving the date when the body was found. |
Many graves of unidentified bodies no longer have a marker and plot whereabouts have been forgotten.
Mayo Look Out Posts and Coastwatchers (1939-45)
|Look Out Post||Coastwatchers|
|KILCUMMIN HEAD EIRE 65||NCOs|
Joseph Collins, Frank Connor, Martin Langan, Anthony Lynn, Michael Lynn, George Munnelly, John Robinson.
|DOWNPATRICK HEAD EIRE 64||NCOs|
James Doherty, P. Doherty, P. Farrell, P. Langan, P. Monelly, M. Neaton, J. Ormsby, J. Tighe.
John P. Burns, Thomas Burns, T. Bournes, M.J. Connolly, Charles Doherty, Martin Doherty, J.E. Garvin, Redmond Garvin.
J. Barrett, Michael Carey, Peter Lavelle, John Lally, ? Lally, Anthony Moloney, P. McAndrew, M.P. Reilly.
|ANNAGH HEAD EIRE 61||NCOs|
T. Carey, M. Cawley, A. Gilboy, P. Kilker, J. Lavelle, M. Lavelle, S. MacAndrew, A.J. O’Malley, A. Reilly.
|BLACKSOD BAY EIRE 60||NCOs|
A. Cawley, J.J. Creane, P. Gaughan, T. Meeneghan, W. Meenaghan, P. Monaghan, M. Reilly.
|MOYTEOGUE HEAD EIRE 59||NCOs|
J. O’Malley, ? Reilly.
P. Cafferty, P. Callaghan, ? Callaghan, J. Farry, M. Gallagher, A. Lavelle, ? Moloney, T. O’Malley, T. English.
M.G (initials only, Gallagher?).
T. Campbell, M. Fallon, M. Gallagher, T. Gallagher, J. Madden, T. Madden, M. Moran.
D. Gibbons, M. Gill, A. McDonagh, M. McEvilly, D. O’Toole, P. O’Toole, R. O’Toole, T. Ryder, J. Sammon.
|Alongside the LOPs huge stone Éire signs were erected to warn bombers they were flying over a neutral country. You can still see the signs at Downpatrick Head, Benwee Head and Erris Head.||Look Out Posts (LOPs) of the Defence Forces’ (1939-1945) Marine and Coast Watching Service (M&CWS). The Coastwatchers were responsible for identifying and reporting on shipping and aircraft movements and on any communications between ship and shore.|
Coastwatchers were trained in signalling, first aid, identification of types of ship, submarines, aircraft as well as basic meteorology and hydrography.
The M&CWS was disbanded in October 1945.
1 Kennedy, Michael. Guarding Neutral Ireland: the Coast Watching Service and Military Intelligence, 1939-1945 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008), p105.
02 Western People (hereafter WP). 17.08.1940, p5.
03 Irish maritime events during World War II, Wikipedia.
04 WP. 05.04.1940, p5.
05 O’Raghallaigh Tomás Bán. Amongst Our Own, The Inishkeas, p288; WP, 05.04.1940.
06 WP. 13.05.1940, p5.
07 WP. 27.04.1940, p5.
08 WP. 13.5.1940. P5. * “I hadn’t a ‘gaill” – I hadn’t a puff….
09 WP, 27.04.1940, p5.
10 Irish Press (hereafter IP). 30.5.1942, p1.
11 WP. 27.04.1940, p5.
12 WP. 03.08-1940, pP5.
13 National Archives Ireland (hereafter NIA) DFA 241.184 1940.
14 WP. 15.02. 1941.
15 16 WP. 17.8.1940, p5.
17 NIA 90.94.14 1940.
18 WP. 17.8.1940, p5.
18b In conversation with Gerry Ginty, Monumental Sculptors, Ballina, 28.04.2021.
19 WP. 24.8.1940, p2.
20 21 22 WP. 31.8.1940, p5.
23 IP. 16.05.1952, p6.
24 IP. 23.08.1940, p1.
25 Irish Independent (hereafter Ind.). 23.08.1940, p5.
26 IP. 24.08.1940, p1.
27 Mayo News. 31.08.1940, p3.
28 Ind. 26.08.1940, p5.
29 Kennedy, Michael. Guarding Neutral Ireland, p110.
30 31 32 WP. 24.08.1940, p5.
34 Tinniswood, Adrian. A small act of remembrance, (See Comments).
35 WP. 17.08.1940, p5.
36 WP. 07.09.1940.
37 IP. 04.06.1940.
38 IP. 18.06.1942
39 WP. 19.10.1940, p5.
40 41 IP. 29.09.1940, p3.
42 WP. 07.09.1940.
43 44 McLoughlin, Michael. The Time Of The Canton: A Sea Story (pp. 59-60). Kindle Edition.
44 WP. 17.09.1940 p. 5.
45 McLoughlin, Michael. The Time Of The Canton: A Sea Story (pp. 85-86). Kindle Edition.
45b NFA DFA 4 206 79
46 47 Woodman, Richard. The Real Cruel Sea: The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939–1943. Pen & Sword Books. Kindle Edition.
47b Dziadyk, William. S.S. Nerissa, the Final Crossing: The Amazing True Story of the Loss of a Canadian Troopship in the North Atlantic (p. 84). BD Pro Inc. Kindle Edition.
48 Christ Church, Oxford website. Flying Officer Archibald Nigel Charles Weir.
49 Dziadyk, William. S.S. Nerissa, the Final Crossing: The Amazing True Story of the Loss of a Canadian Troopship in the North Atlantic (p. 72). BD Pro Inc. Kindle Edition.
49b NIA DFA 241.184a
50 DFA 4 206 79; NIA Jus 90.94.4; D/T Davanger. Warsailors.com.
50b Otto Kretschmer: The Life of the Third Reich’s Highest Scoring U-Boat Commander. p172, 173
50c NIA Jus 90.94.4
51 Kearney, Joe & Kelly, Ronan. Clouds in Harry’s Coffee. Doc on One, RTE Radio One. Hitler’s Irish slaves, Harry Callan.
53 Callan, Michèle. Forgotten Hero of Bunker Valentin (p. 149). Gill Books. Kindle Edition.
54 WP. 13.10.1945, p.2.
54b Fisk, Robert. In Time of War, Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality 1939-45. p136.
55 WP. 16.06.1945, p.3.
56 Woodman, Richard. The Real Cruel Sea: The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939–1943. Pen & Sword Books. Kindle Edition.
57 Mariner.ie Ireland’s WWII Sea Losses. Captain Frank Forde.
58 Dimbleby, Jonathan. The Battle of the Atlantic (p. 451). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
58b Volksbund records.
59 NAI DFA 241.184a.
59b NAI DFA 241.184a.
59c NAI DFA 241.184a
60 NIA Jus. 90.94.16 1941-42.
61 NIA JUS 90/94/14 1940