Spitfire that crash-landed in Co Monaghan put on display

The pilot, Lieut Proctor, ‘had a cup of tea and a bath’ before flying out again

A new exhibition at Monaghan County Museum focuses on the crashing of a WW2 RAF Spitfire plane in 1942 into a field in Emyvale, Co.Monaghan. Josie McCusker was a schoolgirl at the time and witnessed the crash first-hand. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The remains of a Spitfire fighter aircraft that crashed into a field in Co Monaghan during the second World War will go on public display for the first time today.

The pilot, British Flt Lieut Gordon Hayter Proctor, bailed out of the Spitfire due to “massive engine failure” during a flight across Northern Ireland on Sunday, September 20th, 1942, according to Liam Bradley, curator of the exhibition at Monaghan County Museum.

Flight Lt Gordon Hayter Proctor whose Spitfire crashed into a Co Monaghan field in 1942. He parachuted out and landed across the Border. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Flight Lt Gordon Hayter Proctor whose Spitfire crashed into a Co Monaghan field in 1942. He parachuted out and landed across the Border. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

People who were coming out of Mass at around noon “heard a terrific noise in the sky and saw a plane struggling,” Mr Bradley said.

The Spitfire landed at 400 miles per hour one field over from the house of eyewitness Josie McCusker, who was a young girl at the time, in Emyvale. Described by Mr Bradley as as “the superstar for the exhibition”, Ms McCusker – who is due to attend the opening – recalled hundreds of people arriving at the scene and grabbing souvenirs.

Lieut Proctor landed in neighbouring Co Tyrone, and “had a cup of tea and a bath” before flying again later that evening, Mr Bradley added.

The exhibition, The Monaghan Spitfire: Life on the Border with the world at war, seeks to show how the European conflict “exploded” into border areas. Due to run for “at least 12 months”, the exhibition also features a replica of a bomb dropped in southwest Monaghan by a German aircraft from which “miraculously, no one was killed”, and the original “Operation Green” documents - Germany’s plans for an invasion of Ireland drawn up in 1940.

Records of crash

Amateur aviation researcher Jonny McNee first contacted the museum in late 2016 with records of the crash, and the museum collaborated with Queen’s University Belfast and three secondary schools for the excavation in May 2017.

Although the Irish Army took away the bulk of the fuselage at the time, the excavation uncovered various parts of the Spitfire, including the door, canopy, parts of the fuselage and the engine.

Details from a new exhibition at Monaghan County Museum, ‘The Monaghan Spitfire: Life on the Border with a world at war. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Details from a new exhibition at Monaghan County Museum, ‘The Monaghan Spitfire: Life on the Border with a world at war. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys, dignitaries from the Royal Air Force and the Irish Air Corps and family members of Lieut Proctor will attend today’s launch.

Additionally, the Ulster Aviation Society will display a Spitfire outside the museum, the first time in its 50 years that the society has exhibited in the Republic.

The display is “very significant . . . something to be cherished”, and will encourage further cross-Border cultural exchanges, said society committee member and project lead, Jim Robinson.