HALIFAX EB134 MONUMENT
The Halifax EB134 Monument is a memorial that stands in the townland of Lavally near Tuam in County Galway. It commemorates the lives of seven Royal Air Force (RAF) crew members who died when their Handley Page Halifax bomber crashed in a nearby field on the night of November 7th, 1943.
The Halifax bomber was one of the most widely used aircrafts by the RAF during World War II. It was capable of carrying heavy loads of bombs and performing long-range missions. On that fateful night, the Halifax EB134 was on a night training exercise from RAF Rufforth in Yorkshire, England. The crew consisted of:
– Sgt. Robert M. Clark RAF (Nav), (21).
– Sgt. Edgar W. Camp (Fl/Eng), (21).
– Sgt. Leslie H. Wildman RAF (Air/Gunn), (23).
– W/O. Norman W. Gardner RCAF (Air/Gunn), (22).
– Pilot Officer. Allan Johnston RAAF, (22).
– Fl/Sgt. Anthony J. Gallagher RAAF, (20).
– Fl/Sgt. George H. Sansome RAAF, (22).
The exact cause of the crash is still unknown, but it is believed that the aircraft encountered bad weather and poor visibility over Ireland. The plane was flying low and hit a ring fort, an ancient circular earthwork, in the townland of Ryehill. The impact caused a massive explosion and fire that destroyed the plane and killed all seven crew members instantly.
The locals of Lavally were awoken by the loud noise and rushed to the scene. They tried to help, but there was nothing they could do. The next day, the Irish Army and Gardaí arrived to secure the site and recover the bodies. The remains of the crew were buried with full military honours. The three members of the RAF were returned to their families in England. W/O. Norman W. Gardner RCAF, Fl/Sgt. George H. Sansome RAAF and Pilot Officer. Allan Johnston RAAF are buried in Irvinestown Church of Ireland Churchyard, Fermanagh and Fl/Sgt. Anthony J. Gallagher RAAF is buried in Irvinestown (Sacred Heart), Roman Catholic Churchyard, Fermanagh
The crash site was left untouched for many years, until the incident was researched by Tuam historian and Old Tuam Society president Anne Tierney, who first published it in JOTS 3 (Journal of the Old Tuam Society), an annual local history journal. The memorial plaque and garden of remembrance were erected in Ryehill by Anne, local teacher Tony McHugh, the Old Tuam Society, and the residents of Lavally.
The memorial was unveiled on November 7th, 2008, exactly 65 years after the crash. It was attended by sisters, brothers, relatives, of the crew, who travelled from England, America and Australia, local dignitaries, RAF, RAAF, RAC and Irish Air Corps representatives, and members of the public. The ceremony included a fly-past and a formation display over the crash site by five Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-9 aircraft, and a wreath-laying by the British Ambassador to Ireland.
The Halifax EB134 Monument is a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the young men who gave their lives for freedom and peace during World War II. It is also a symbol of friendship and cooperation between Ireland and Britain. The monument reminds us of the tragic consequences of war and the importance of remembering those who died for our sake.
Further photos of the crash site and memorial can be found here: Halifax EB134, Lavally, Co. Galway, 1943 (ww2irishaviation.com)
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