Rhosneigr Tragedy

25 Aug

On the morning of 28th August 1941 a fierce, unseasonal storm lashed the Isle of Anglesey.  A deep Atlantic low brought gale force winds to the island and, usually, aircraft would not have flown in such conditions.  However reports were received at nearby RAF Valley that an allied merchant shipping convoy was under attack from a German U-boat of the Kreigsmarine.

An RAF Blackburn Botha with three crew members was sent from Valley to reconnoitre the area but crashed into the Irish Sea minutes after taking off close to Traeth Crigyll, Rhosneigr.  A rescue attempt was initiated by local villagers, RAF Valley personnel and Royal Artillery soldiers stationed at the nearby Ty Croes camp.  From the beach the 3 RAF crew, Kazimierz Rosiewicz, Thomas Dixon and Frederick Glockler could be seen clinging to the debris of their plane in the choppy waters offshore.   The rescuers launched three boats but all were swamped by the large waves and strong swell caused by the gale force, south westerly winds.  Meanwhile the exhausted crew were unable to cling on to their ditched aircraft any longer and were washed out to sea.

Eleven gallant rescuers lost their lives in the tragedy that morning; three RAF personnel, five Royal Artillery soldiers and three local men.  The local victims included a coastguard, a merchant seaman on leave and Rhosneigr’s village bobby, P.C. George Arthur.  One of the other would be rescuers was Leading Aircraftsman Leslie Ford who tried to swim out to the stricken plane.  He was the driver of the Commanding Officer’s staff car who had arrived from RAF Valley to co-ordinate the rescue operation.

From their vantage point on the beach, and having watched the drama unfold, two 17 year old lads fearlessly put to sea in a sailing dinghy in an effort to reach the stricken plane.  They too were unable to make it to the aircraft and capsized in the towering waves.  The boys were rescued by holidaymakers who roped themselves together and waded out to them.  For their bravery the two boys were awarded the George Medal by King George VI; silver gallantry awards from the RNLI and cigarette cases from General Sikorski, Commander of Polish forces as the pilot of the Blackburn Botha was a Polish national.

In 1991 a memorial stone was erected on the lawn of Rhosneigr Fire Station to honour the 11 men – locals, Royal Artillery and RAF Valley personnel – who, together with the 3 aircraft crew perished on that August morning.

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