Fallen airmen remembered

Dr William McCrea MP; Ernie Cromie and Ray Burrows from the Ulster Aviation Society; Mayor Thomas Hogg; local historian William Cobain and Deputy Mayor Pat McCudden at the unveiling of the interpretative panel at Ballyclare War Memorial Park. INNT 49-514CON

Dr William McCrea MP; Ernie Cromie and Ray Burrows from the Ulster Aviation Society; Mayor Thomas Hogg; local historian William Cobain and Deputy Mayor Pat McCudden at the unveiling of the interpretative panel at Ballyclare War Memorial Park. INNT 49-514CON

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An information panel telling the tragic story of how 11 RAF airmen lost their lives in crashes near Ballyclare during WWII has been unveiled in the town’s War Memorial Park.

The interpretative panel, co-funded by Ballymena and Newtownabbey Borough Councils, is in commemoration of the men who lost their lives in the two separate plane crashes at Big Collin Mountain, just outside Ballyclare. Both air crews were taking part in aviation training missions during the Second World War.

The first of the crashes occurred on October 31, 1941 when a crew of RAF Volunteer Reservists from No 5 Air Observers School, No 25 Group Training Command, were flying over Co Antrim when an engine fire caused the aircraft to crash on the southern slopes of Big Collin Mountain. All four crew members were killed.

February 16, 1945 saw the second of the crashes when crew from No 1674 Heavy Conversion Unit, No 17 Group Coastal Command, were on a practice night-time radar homing exercise when they crashed into the eastern slopes of Big Collin Mountain. Seven of the 10 crewmen died.

An additional information point has also been erected adjacent to one of the crash sites at the picnic area on Big Collin Mountain itself.

The lasting memorials to the airmen were erected following a campaign by Ballyclare historian William Cobain, who said that their sacrifice must be remembered.

Unveiling the interpretive panel in the War Memorial Park on Thursday, November 27, Mayor Thomas Hogg said: “We are all here today to unveil the interpretative panel and dedicate it to the memory of the 11 fallen airmen. These war fatalities are now commemorated by this panel and the information point on Big Collin Mountain, ensuring these events will be remembered for years to come.”