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USAAF B-24J Liberator 42-51232 ‘The Jigs Up.’
The photo above was taken from the former fog warning station and shows the rock of North Stack. Visible at the left edge of the photo is South Stack Lighthouse.
22 December 1944
Returning to base at RAF Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, having taken off from RAF Manston, the B-24J crashed into the Irish Sea with the loss of eight of ten of the crew on board.
Photo below from 36th Bomb Squadron
‘The Jigs Up’ along with 6 other B-24s, had been on an operation over occupied Europe, jamming enemy communications. Upon returning to base, poor weather had caused the flight to divert as part of a contingency plan to RAF Atcham in Shropshire, where four Liberators managed to land. However, with the weather deteriorating further, the remaining three were diverted again to RAF Valley, Anglesey.
Two landed safely but 42-51232 had to go round again. Shortly after 5.30pm, by which time the aircraft was running out of fuel, a report was made to RAF Valley to the effect that engines 2 and 4 had failed and the crew were baling out. However, the B-24J was in dense low cloud and pilot 1st Lt Boehm did not know they were not over land, but over sea. Eight men baled out and were never seen again.
First Lt Boehm and Second Lt Burch – unaware of the fate of their comrades who had bailed out minutes earlier – finally abandoned their aircraft and safely parachuted down, the former being found in a field near Holyhead while 2nd Lt Burch came down at Trearddur Bay, which is south of Holyhead. One report states that upon being found, the pilot and co-pilot said that the other crew members had not been wearing lifejackets and had baled out before the order was given. Other reports say that 1st Lt Boehm had ordered the crew to bale out while he and 2nd Lt Burch held the aircraft for as long as possible.
A large scale search for the crew was initiated after the Coastguard reported an aircraft crashing into the sea off Holyhead Mountain but without success; tragically, the eight remaining crew were lost at sea.
The abandoned Liberator crashed into sea off North Stack, Anglesey. Coflein (see references) has it that the aircraft crashed about 1km north west of North Stack. Other reports suggest the aircraft hit the water and crashed into the rocks. One photo from 36th Bomb Squadron Radar Counter Measures (see link below) shows debris on rocks which one presumes is North Stack.
Photo 36th Bomb Squadron. Taken 23 December 1944
Those listed here as presumed dead were reported as missing, their bodies having never been recovered. There is a lot of variation of the spelling of the crew names, so I have gone with what is recorded on the memorial stone at Breakwater Park, see photo below.
Pilot, First Lieutenant Harold Boehm (survived)
Co-pilot, Second Lieutenant Donald Burch (survived)
Navigator, Second Lieutenant William H Lehner (presumed dead)
Assistant Engineer, Staff Sergeant Arthur R Clemens (presumed dead)
Radio Operator, Staff Sergeant Harvey N Nystrom (presumed dead)
Radio Operator, Staff Sergeant Francis J Lynch (presumed dead)
Air Gunner, Sergeant Andrew Zapotocky (presumed dead)
Air Gunner, Sergeant Roger F Gagne (presumed dead)
Air Gunner, Sergeant Jaime Fonseca (presumed dead)
Air Gunner, Sergeant Charles H Dautel (presumed dead)
There is a well maintained memorial to the crew of ‘The Jigs Up’ at The Holyhead Breakwater Country Park. The memorial has a propeller blade from the aircraft. It was recovered in 1992 by diver Brendan Maguire. Another prop blade recovered at the same time was given to the US National Military Museum, Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Other memorials have been added at the park over the years since. These next 5 photos were taken March 2023.
Visiting North Stack
There is a pay & display car park at Breakwater Park, it’s not expensive and the machine accepts card payments. Charges only apply from 8am. Postcode is LL65 1YG
The walk from there to North Stack is not difficult. I took the quarry path and returned via the coast path. The latter is probably easier and prettier. The track marked on the map may once have been suitable for vehicles, but not now.
Below: Another view of North Stack showing the now disused fog signal station
The whitewashed house with its walls and outbuildings was formerly the fog signal station. It was later the home of artist Philippa Jacobs. A BBC news item from 2009 about her has a photo of her blue Land Rover. I spoke briefly with the current occupier while taking these photos. I gestured to the blue Land Rover parked outside and asked how you get a vehicle down that track? “You don’t,” came the reply.
Below: Philippa Jacobs’ Land Rover. Photo BBC
Below: South Stack lighthouse, this view looking across Gogarth Bay, where the B-24J crashed. This photo was taken during a previous visit. North Stack is just out of sight at the right edge of the photo.
References and credits Note some of the old photos copied above are widely available online so the original source is unknown.