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; the final twist of fate in their too-short lives resulted in their remains resting in a German war cemetery. Only in four cases do historical records provide any 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 on 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.
Six unknowns are buried here with headstones.
One of those headstones bears the inscription “A Master”. I believe the grave contains the remains of Gilbert Ratcliffe Watson, the Master of S.S. Nerissa. See S.S. Nerissa, p5, above.
Ballycastle New Cemetery
Edward George Lane, Private Devonshire Regiment, S.S. Arandora Star. Died 02 July 1940. Grave 1.
Also buried in Ballycastle in an unmarked grave is Sub-Lieutenant Barnett Harvey, SS Nerissa.
See S.S. Nerissa, p5, above.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred three remains from here in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
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.
Jubilee Jack Tweed (44), Petty Officer H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941.
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
A second unidentified body was washed ashore at Moyne on May 17 1944 and is also buried here without a headstone. The remains were found by Seamus McCartin, Moyne, and had the name Joe Melton written on a canvas lifebelt.
Emyr Prytherch (26), Private Pioneer Corps, S.S. Mohamed Ali El-Kebir. Died 07 August 1940.
DUGORT COI GRAVEYARD
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.
31.8.1940: Found on Keel Strand, an adult male believed to be a British soldier and a steward in charge of the ship’s stores. Blue uniform, tunic. Had both English and Argentine money. Probably from Arandora Star.
7.12.1940: The second body was found at Dugort Strand, and thought to be a British merchant seaman.
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.
Six unknown males were buried here without headstones.
30.7.1940: Probably German prisoner-of-war, Arandora Star.
10.8.1940: Arandora Star victim.
14.8.1940: German prisoner-of-war Arandora Star.
4.5.1941; 4.7.1941 and 6.7.1941: Unknown males and all almost certainly from either HMS Mashona or SS Nerissa.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred the remains of four of the unknowns in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
The location of the remaining two graves is unknown.
Robert Mackay Sutherland (27), Second Radio Officer, S.S. Serbino (Liverpool). Died 21 October 1941.
My research has discovered two other unmarked graves of unknowns here.
I have been able to identify one of the unknowns as Joan Lomas (4), the youngest victim of the Battle of the Atlantic washed ashore in Mayo. See S.S. Nerissa, p5, above.
A second unmarked grave here contains the remains of an unknown merchant seaman, who was the first victim of the Battle of the Atlantic washed ashore in Mayo at Doolough Strand on April 6, 1940. See First Body, p1, above.
Frederick George Wheeler (34), Electrical Artificer 1st Class, H.M.S. Mashona. Died 28 May 1941. Grave 1.
30.08.1940: One unknown male, aged 45, washed ashore on Achill Beg. Likely to have been from Arandora Star.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred these remains in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
Seven unknowns are buried here. There are no headstones and it is only possible to give an approximate location of where the graves are located.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred four remains from here in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62. (Also in conversation with Uinsíonn Mac Graith, a local historian. 23.05.2021.)
6.8.1940: Two unidentified bodies were towed ashore by fishermen to Rinroe. On one of the bodies was a letter that seems to indicate he was a German prisoner-of-war on Arandora Star.
22.8.1940: Unknown British seaman, probably Arandora Star.
24.5.1941: Three bodies, an adult male, female and child washed ashore at Kilgalligan. See S.S. Nerissa, p5, above.
1.7.1944: The body is likely to have been a German airman. At the time of burial, the grave was marked No. 4 in the plot for unknown bodies washed ashore during the war.
Also buried in Kilgalligan are 4 World War 1 sailors from SS Rochester who broke the German U-Boat blockade of France in 1917. The ship was torpedoed off the West coast of Ireland in November 1917. The exact locations of the graves are unknown, but it is planned to erect a memorial in the sailor’s honour.
SS Rochester victims buried in Kilgalligan are as follows:
Victor Pederson (21), Swede
Rex Wheeler (22), Akron, Ohio, USA
Verner L. Helms (27), Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
William Burch Hinman (22), Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
The remains of Ernest Henry Gragg (20), Corpus Christi, Texas, USA, were reinterred in Arlington Military Cemetery, Washington, in 1931 following a visit to Kilgalligan by his parents. 63
Two unknowns were buried here without headstones.
10.12.1940: The first body was washed ashore at Thallabaun, Louisburgh, and was found by Michael O’Malley. The remains were buried in Killeen cemetery on 11.12.1940 by Home Assistance Officer, Redmond Lyons, Furmoyloe, Louisburgh. 59b
25.6.1943: The body of a male was found floating in the sea by Michael O’Grady, Clare Island.59d
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred both of the unknowns in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
NEWPORT COI CHURCHYARD
Two unknowns in one grave with a headstone.
05.07.1941: Bodies of 2 adult males were found on the strand at Murrevagh, Mulranny. 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 The men were from either HMS Mashona or SS Nerissa, most likely the latter.
13.12.1941: The body of an adult male was found at Carrickbaun Point, Doughbeg, Mulranny, by Michael Gallagher, Bollinglanna, Curraun, a member of LOP Curraun. Remains buried in the Church of Ireland churchyard, Polranny, Achill Sound. 60
One unknown was buried here without a headstone.
08.08.1940: The body of an unknown adult male washed ashore at Inver, Barnatra. The remains were buried in Pullathomas RC cemetery the same day by Relieving Officer, Martin Gallagher. Probably Arandora Star victim. 61
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred the remains in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
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.
7.12.1940: Unknown male washed up at Kilcummin. A headstone marks his grave. 59d
10.08.1940: Francesco Rabauetti (46), an Italian internee, Arandora Star, of Gower St., Swansea. Remains disinterred in 1946 and returned to Italy.
7.7.1942: Unknown male washed up at Dooagh and was found by John Mac Feidin, Dooagh.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred the remains in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
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. See Attacked Off Blackrock, p3, above.
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 Mayo Refugees, p4, above.
The records show that the remains of 14 unidentified bodies (12 male and one female) were buried in Termoncarragh.
30.7.1940: Unknown male washed ashore near Erris Head. Possessions included a crucifix. Probably Italian from Arandora Star.
4.8.1940: Unknown male washed ashore at Annagh.
6.8.1940: Unknown male washed up at Cross, Binghamstown.
8.8.1940: Luigi Tapparo, an Italian internee, washed ashore at Drumrea, Binghamstown. Buried in Termoncarragh; his remains were later repatriated to Wales by his family. See Burial Cost, p2, above.
9.8.1940: Unknown male washed ashore at Annagh.
31.8.1940: Unknown seaman washed up at Annagh.
20.9.1940: Unknown seaman found at Cartron Gilbert, likely a British sailor from Arandora Star.
6.12.1940: Unknown male found at Elly, Blacksod.
15.4.1941: Three bodies found on a raft at Tirrane, Blacksod. Only one identified as F.R. Thomas, S.S. Dione II.
23.5.1941: Unknown female found at Grangehill, Barnatra.
I believe that the woman was SS Nerissa victim, Joy Stuart-French (35). She was the wife of Major Robert Stuart-French (11th Hussars), a native of Cobh, Co. Cork, who survived the sinking.
See SS Nerissa, p5, above.
9.7.1941: Unknown male washed ashore at Annagh. Web waist belt with G. Spruce printed on it. Lifebelt inscribed F. Cole.
2.4.1943: Unknown male found at Leam, Blacksod, by Patrick Walker and Anthony Geraghty.
7.7.1944: Unknown male found at Inishkea North by John Lavelle, Surgeview.
Germany’s war graves commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) reinterred two remains from Termoncarragh in the Glencree German War Cemetery in Co. Wicklow. 62
Also in conversation with a local man (25.04.2021) who wished to remain anonymous said six graves were exhumed, but this number does not tally with the German or Irish records. As a schoolboy, he recalled helping local men to disinter the 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, Killadoon, Louisburgh
19.9.1940: Unknown male found on Ugool strand and buried in Ugool Burial Ground, situated about 20 yards from the North bank of Killary Harbour. Graveyard in commonage unused even in 1940 and dates back to Famine times. The body was that of a male, aged 50 and 6’ tall. He appeared to be a seafaring man, wearing a jacket with brass buttons and a black poplin tie. The inner lining of the jacket was marked ‘Greves Ltd’ and under that name P.J. Thomson, No. 32.59e
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.
33 World War II Plane Crash Site in Kerry.
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 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.
52 Irish Seamen’s Relatives Association.
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
62 Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge
63 Jenkins S.D. Captain Kokeritz- An American Hero
11 replies on “The Tides of War”
A great collection of history on a period that has been very much neglected like several others re our past. Great Work, Anthony.
Thanks for the positive feedback, Tom. It’s much appreciated.
It was fantastic to read the above..
My father was a light keeper at Blacksod, Eagle Island and Blackrock during the war. He told of being on Blackrock when a U boat crew landed looking for supplies and the altercation that ensued.
As my father told it, it was the winter of 1943 and he was stationed on Blackrock as trainee lightkeeper with one other keeper; sorry I don’t have a name for this chap, though it may have been Sweeney. Blackrock lighthouse is over 10 miles west of Blacksod light and Ireland’s most westerly lighthouse. He was stationed there and had as a companion a black dog called “Bess”.
A U-boat crew landed on Blackrock during the night and basically they were looking for supplies of water and food. When they were discovered by the lightkeepers it was obvious that they were armed. And the keepers were under strict orders not to be confrontational.
It got kinda ‘heavy’ when ‘Bess’ decided to protect the island and attacked one of the U-boat crew. The dog was kicked by the U-boat crewman prompting my dad to attack the crewman. A scuffle ensued and my dad found himself locked in a stores cupboard (that was now empty) in the lighthouse with ‘Bess’.”
“The senior lightkeeper was informed not to let my dad out until the U-boat had left.
“And that’s that, not a story about heroics or bravery, but an interesting story that has never been told, to the best of my knowledge.
Mark, thanks for taking the time to comment.
I have been unable to find any documentary evidence of this raid in the historical records. If anyone has further knowledge or information regarding Mark’s story I would be delighted to hear from them.
This was a very interesting article, Anthony. I read it in detail and found it very interesting being originally from the area. That would have taken considerable effort to research and compile. Thank you for investing the time and effort to write what is a valuable record of events that not many people will be aware ever happened.
Niall, thanks for taking the time to read my article. I will be updating the Tides of War during 2022 with further information regarding Mayo and the Battle of the Atlantic that I discovered during my research.
I found “The Tides of War” when researching one of those lost in HMS Mashona, Frederick George Wheeler, originally from my home town, Northampton. I found myself pleasantly diverted from my research by other parts of your site, as well as finding very useful information on the matter at hand. Thank you very much Anthony Hickey.
Dave, thanks for your positive feedback. It’s gratifying when research such as “The Tides of War” is helpful to others.
My mother told me about the little girl on Dooyork beach, she had described her as dressed in a red suit which was obviously the pyjamas. The story always stuck with me, I never knew she was buried in Geesala. My mother was from Dooyork and our field ran down to the shore. Mom was in the Red Cross and attended at some crash landings also during the War
Anne, thank you so much for sharing this important anecdotal evidence.
Over the past year, I have spoken to several people in Geesala but, not surprisingly, over 80 years later, no one could recall hearing this story.
So your recollection of what your mother told you is significant and adds greatly to the documentary evidence that I have been able to find in the National Archives.