The Donegal Spitfire
In 2010 Jonny McNee, an aviation historian from Northern Ireland, began a search in the hills of Inishowen for a WWII Spitfire which culminated two years later in the unearthing of one of the famous WWII aircraft, so instrumental in the success of the Allies during the war. Jonny began his search with the most basic information:
30th November 1941 – Spitfire P8074 – 133 Squadron. Crashed 3.5 miles North at Glenshinny, in the town land of Moneydarragh, Co.. Donegal.
Making his way to Inishowen in early 2011, McNee had the good fortune to meet with a local man, Martin Kearney who knew the location of the crash site. Two weeks later, on a fresh February day, Jonny McNee was taken to a rushy brown bog and told that the remains of the aircraft lay beneath his feet.
The Spitfire, one of twenty commissioned by the Canadian millionaire Willard Garfield Weston to help the war effort, was piloted by 23 year old Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe, an RAF Officer in a unit made up completely of American personnel. Three minutes flying time away from his base at Eglington airport Bud had to bale out of his aircraft, allowing his plane to crash into the bog half a mile away into the Donegal landscape.
70 years later, Jonny McNee, alongside locals, Aviation archaeologists, digger drivers, a film crew, local Gardai, the Irish Defence Ordnance team, Media and assorted other interested parties, converged on a bog in North West Donegal and began the task of raising Bud Wolfe’s Spitfire out of its peat bed. After a day of intense work the Spitfire was recovered alongside artefacts from the plane including the pilot’s flying helmet, seat frame, several machine guns, and an almost perfectly intact Merlin engine which powered the Spitfire in many sorties throughout the war. Essentially an entire Spitfire, apart from the wings and the main landing wheels, had been recovered from the Donegal bog.
Bud Wolfe went back to Nebraska at the end of the war and went on to fly for his country again in the Korean and Vietnam wars. But the connection with the Wolfe family and Donegal was not over. Throughout this project McNee had been in touch with Bud’s family, specifically his daughters, Barbara and Betty, and the sisters, with other members of their family made an emotional journey to Derry in November 2011, 70 years after their father parachuted into the Donegal hillside. They were warmly received by Derry City Council at a civic reception and on the 70th anniversary, the 30th November they visited the crash site at Moneydarragh in Inishowen where they paid their respects with prayers for Bud and all his war time colleagues.
In recognition of this amazing story, the Gleneely Development Association is hoping to create a viewing area and erect a plaque to commemorate the site and is currently working hard on this project.
Jonny Mc Nee has written a book which charts his fascinating journey of the discovery and excavation of the Donegal Spitfire and his subsequent meeting with the pilot Bud Wolfe’s two daughters. To purchase a copy contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
To see a video clip of the excavations, clip on the link below: