Warrant Officer Grondowski fatally crashed on the 11th September 1943. After losing orientation in bad weather conditions, he crashed near Plantation House, Lisburn.
Aviation archaeologist Jonny McNee from Derry has been searching for the crash site of F/S Stanislaw Grondowski’s Spitfire Vb (315 Squadron W 3427 PK-J) over the last 18 months. He is keen to see the exact spot found and has been speaking to local people in the area to gather their histories of the event and piece together any clues that might lead to the actual crash site. Tragically, F/S Grondowski was killed on his 34th birthday – his aircraft had been previously damaged in action with the Luftwaffe in July 1941 while flying with 610 Squadron.
In gathering eyewitness accounts, Jonny acknowledges it is often difficult to get one definitive recollection that places you on the actual spot. It is often by distilling and blending these memories from people now well into their late 80’s that the story emerges. It is not different for this investigation “I have two elderly eyewitnesses – both adamant they saw the aircraft crash. These memories are seared into their minds as stand-out childhood recollections” “Over the passage of time some aspects have been forgotten, others possibly confused with hearing other people’s memories – but at their core is the traumatic remembrance of seeing a fatal air crash witnessed through the eyes of two young children”.
Local resident Edna Todd, now 91 remembers seeing a single engined aircraft on fire and making a terrible noise as it plummeted into a specific field. It was coming from the Kircubbin direction, she recalled. She told Jonny she remembered the engine being buried in the field and local residents rushing to put sods of earth over the fuselage to prevent the fire spreading to the cockpit. She has a strong recollection of lots of glass being scattered across the nearby road.
George Scott now in his late 80’s remembers the aircraft trailing oil and coming very low over Plantation House near to where he lived. He remembers the oil smearing a newly whitewashed house. He told Jonny how he ran through a nearby apple orchard, across the top of a dam at a reservoir that served as the local water supply and arrived within minutes at some nearby farm buildings that were once the stables for Plantation House. There he recalls looking down into the fields and at a very large part of the burning aircraft. He didn’t go too close as he distinctly remembered the loud popping of the aircraft ammunition exploding in the intense heat.
The passage of time means their memories are admittedly hazy. George recalls the aircraft coming in the opposite direction to Edna. Edna remembers the aircraft on fire before it crashed. George only recalls it streaming oil. They both are adamant about their remembered crash site – each fields apart. However it is important to gather and document all these eye witness testimonies to ensure they are added to the search history and hopefully, by linking them all together with other anecdotal evidence, one day the actual crash site where F/S Grondowski was killed can be pinpointed.
If you are reading this and know of anyone who may have seen this crash or may have heard some stories about it passed down from other witnesses, please do get in touch with website and Jonny McNee firstname.lastname@example.org
He is buried at Ballycranbeg (Mount St. Joseph) Roman Catholic Graveyard.