9th February – Flying Boats off Skerries

by David Ryan


by David Ryan
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – February 2016)

Flying Boats off Skerries

Skerries Historical Society monthly presentations generally attract a good audience whatever the topic but just occasionally we get a speaker who attracts a crowd on personality alone. February’s contributor, David Ryan, is one such. With the fascinating, aeronautical subject of Flying Boats off Skerries, a topic close to David’s heart, there was standing room only for his talk.

Neville Chamberlain’s famous radio broadcast stating that Britain was at war with Germany was aired at 11.15am on Sunday 3rd September 1939. How did this momentous announcement affect the good folk of Skerries? Since Ireland had determined that the best course of action was to remain neutral, Skerries natives may not have realised what The Emergency would mean for them. But even if they had an inkling of the changes the next six years would bring, they can hardly have expected to find ‘enemy’ servicemen arriving on the doorstep any time soon. And yet…

Less than two and a half hours after Britain had declared war on Germany, a Royal Air Force flying boat – a Shorts Sunderland S25, designated L2158, made a forced landing off the South Strand having become lost in dense fog. The L2158 was part of a three strong squadron that had left Pembroke Docks in South Wales that morning and was en route to Stranraer in Scotland.

The squadron was having a bad day all round as they had already lost one seaplane, a Saunders Roe Lerwick, L7252, which had been forced down by the same bad weather in Dun Laoghaire harbour. So when Squadron Leader Commander M C Collins, pilot of the L2158, came ashore to find out where he was, he probably wasn’t in the best of humours anyway. But he must have felt a whole lot worse when he found out that his country was at war (it seems the squadron had left Wales before the radio announcement) and he had landed in a country which wasn’t his ally. Maybe that’s why his crew, who remained on board the seaplane the whole time it was in Skerries, were less than friendly towards the curious locals who rowed out to ask for a look-see.

But they needn’t have worried. After some head-scratching about what to do with these foreign belligerents, the order came to treat them as guests and help them on their way as shipwrecked mariners. The Lerwick flew up from Dun Laoghaire, arriving in Skerries at 3.40pm while the Sunderland was moved further out of the bay to ensure a safe take off before continuing to Stranraer. Look out for the photograph recording the event in the lounge of the Bus Bar!

Report by Oona Roycroft