Sailing boats passing a lighthouse in Sligo bay

Mystery disappearance of 3 Air Force officers

Last year when I was researching another post, I came across this headline in the newspaper archives which caught my eye. Mystery disappearance… ran the headline in the Northern Whig newspaper from the 18th September 1945. The words mystery and Sligo in the article were enough to hold my interest. I saved the article, hoping to come back to it when I had more time. The newspaper reported that three Royal Air Force officers who had visited Sligo in the north-west of Ireland had disappeared.  The officers were all based in Ulster RAF stations. Group-Captain George Ninian Warrington, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) had visited Sligo to purchase a Bermuda rigged ketch, which is a two-masted sailing craft.

Warrington and his wife Quenelda had arrived in Sligo on Wednesday 5th September. Two days later on Friday 7th September, the couple were joined by Warrington’s colleagues Flying Officer David Alexander McGregor, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) and Flight Officer Clarice Sybil Ellis, W.A.A.F. (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force).

Ninian Warrington
Group-Captain Ninian Warrington – RAF – photograph by kind permission of A. Warrington

The Australian newspaper The Argus reported that Quenelda Warrington, formerly Clegg was born in Melbourne and was the daughter of Lieut-Colonel Humphrey Clegg, of London, and Mrs Clegg, of South Yarra, Australia. Mrs Warrington visited England and remained there during the war years, where she worked as a Land girl in Shropshire, England. Group Captain Warrington joined the Royal Air Force in 1929 and by 1941 he was stationed at Shropshire, where he met and married Quenelda in St Edith’s Church, Pulverbatch, Shropshire. In 1942 he was posted overseas to the Far East for three years. In 1945 he was thirty-seven years old and stationed in the RAF headquarters at Aldergrove airfield which is now Belfast Airport.

Quenelda Clegg Warrington
Quenelda Warrington (nee Clegg), a Land girl during World War II – photograph by kind permission of A. Warrington

Warrington had purchased the Ketch called The Charm, from a Mr H. C. Gordon McCormack, a solicitor from Tanrego, Beltra, County Sligo. Before leaving Sligo the party told the Sligo Harbour pilot, who accompanied them as far as the Sligo lighthouse, that they intended to sail to Belfast and then possibly onwards to the Isle of Man.

Charm yacht
Charm yacht docked in Sligo. Photograph courtesy of A. Warrington

Sadly, on the 18th September, the Northern Whig newspaper reported that wreckage belonging to the Charm was found off an island on the Scottish Hebrides but no trace of the four occupants was found. The island mentioned in the Northern Whig newspaper report is misspelt, it was Tiree Island.

The Charm ketch wreckage found in Scottish Hebrides
Northern Whig 18th September 1945

On the Scottish historical website Aniodhlann, it mentions that the wreckage of the Charm yacht had washed up on Hynish bay on Tiree Island in September 1945. The website refers to the yacht encountering gale force winds and collided with a free-floating sea mine left over from World War II.

 

Sligo to Scottish Hebrides map
The Charm left Sligo bay and its wreckage was washed ashore at Hynish bay on Tiree Island and the remains of FO McGregor on Isle of Islay – map courtesy of Google Maps

 

Extensive searches were undertaken by the RAF at the time but no remains were reported as found.  On checking the Commonwealth war graves commission website, I found two listings on the RAF memorial Runnymede in Surrey, England. This memorial is for RAF officers whose bodies have never been recovered. Warrington and Ellis are both listed but I couldn’t find a record for McGregor on this memorial. On searching again, I found a record for David Alexander McGregor on the CWGC website, sadly his remains were washed ashore a month after the accident. McGregor is buried at Bowmore new parish churchyard on the Isle of Islay on the Scottish Hebrides.

Grave of FO McGregor on the Isle of Islay – by kind permission of A. Warrington

 

In the days before instant communication, when it could take several days or weeks to find out information, the initial reports of a missing boat, it may have appeared like a mystery. Then with the boat washing up a week later and no sign of anyone. In the end, it turned out to be a sad tragic accident. For all involved to survive the war and starting their new lives and to end up as casualties of the war.

Poignantly, Warrington and Quenelda were parents to a young boy named Alastair, who was three years old at the time of the tragedy, he was staying with friends of the family at the time.

 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

 

Note: I would like to learn more about Flight Officer Ellis and Flying Officer McGregor, if you knew them or are a relative, please do get in touch.

 

 

First Published on 29th December 2017 and last updated on 29th April 2018.

 

 

 

Sources: 

Photographs by kind permission of A. Warrington

Northern Whig Newspaper, 18th September 1945

The Argus Newspaper, 11th October 1945 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12146414

Quenelda Warrington nee Clegg Obituary: http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/warrington-quenelda-17150

Scottish Tiree’s Historical Centre: http://www.aniodhlann.org.uk/?s=warrington

RAF thread on Group-Captain Warrington:  http://www.rafcommands.com/archive/06276.php

RAF thread on Group-Captain Warrington: http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?12055-former-218-squadron-pilots

Quenelda Clegg marriage record: http://bit.ly/2Egd9NX

Commonwealth War Graves Commission records:

Runnymede Memorial, Warrington listed: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1809688/warrington,-george-ninian/

Runnymede Memorial, Ellis listed: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1269560/ellis,-clarice-sybil/

McGregor, Bowmore churchyard Isle of Islay: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2457452/mcgregor,-david-alexander/

http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/ww2/view.php?uid=230051

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