Council to recognise fallen airmen

Mr William Cobain with Collin Mountain, scene of two WWII aircraft crashes, in background. INNT 21-021-PSB
Mr William Cobain with Collin Mountain, scene of two WWII aircraft crashes, in background. INNT 21-021-PSB

A Ballyclare historian has welcomed a decision by Newtownabbey Borough Council to erect a plaque to commemorate the deaths of RAF service men who died in an air crash outside the town.

During the Second World War two aircraft crashed landed in two separate incidents on the Big Collin Mountain area killing 11 of their crews.

One, aircraft, a Bristol Blenheim bomber crashed in what is now part of the Newtownabbey Borough Council area side of the mountain, just four miles from Ballyclare.

It’s thought the plane was flying on a navigational exercise out of the Isle of Man in 1941 when it developed an engine fire and crashed near Tildarg, killing all four of its crew.

Another plane, a huge four-engined Liberator out of Aldergrove flew into high ground and crashed on what is now the Ballymena side of the moutain in February 1944. Three of its crew survived while another seven were killed.

Historian William Cobain has compiled a dossier and petitioned both Newtownabbey and Ballymena Councils to recognise the airmen’s deaths.

The 73-year-old told the Times he still had a vivid recollection of the Liberator’s crash. He said: “It was incredible, I was just a boy, but I remember them bringing pieces of the plane from the crash site through the town on big low-loading lorries.

“The Liberator was a huge plane and was part of the coastal command, patrolling the Atlantic in search of German U-Boats.

“I don’t think it is known exactly what happened it. At the time there was known problems with radar that had affected flights, but whether this was the case in this instance I don’t know.

“I have been researching the incidents and trying to get the names of all who died, but it is difficult to get to the facts.

“But the area where the plane crashed was so saturated with aviation fuel that the water board people only passed the water for safety very recenlty, because there was so much fuel had seeped through the ground.”

Both authorities have pledged to erect a memorial in a picnic area on the mountain to commemorate the deaths and hold receptions in Ballyclare Town Hall to mark the unveiling, expected in 2014.

WIlliam added: “I am just pleased that the council has decided to remember these men in this way - it is only fitting.”