By Brian Gabriel
A large number of men from the Blarney area, for many different reasons, left to take part in the First World War between 1914 and 1918. Many returned but quite a number of them did not and they will never be forgotten. The Second World War, 1939/1945, also saw young men and women from the district leave to fight against Nazi Germany. Like-wise there were many casualties in this conflict. This month, May 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the ending of the war in Europe and the following article tells of just two men from a local family who became casualties. One returned alive but injured, one did not.
A dreaded war-time telegram, from the British Air Ministry, arrived to the Seigne household on a November day in 1942. The message began with “We regret to inform you …” announcing the death of a son, RAFVR Pilot Officer 126740 John Barter Seigne (Air Gunner), in an air crash near Mildenhall, Suffolk.
Pilot Officer John Barter Seigne whose Commonwealth War Grave headstone is situated in Inniscarra Church of Ireland Churchyard, was a son of Major Thomas Richard Barter Seigne, formerly of the Royal Field Artillery, and of Anna Eliza Seigne (nee Considine) of St. Ann’s Hill Hydro, Blarney. He had three younger siblings; two brothers, Talbot David and Derek St John and Penelope, sister. He was a Great-Grandson of Dr. Richard Berkley Barter, who built the famous Hydropathic Establishment near Blarney in 1843. He was aged 23 when he died on 10th November 1942 having been commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 1st August 1942.
During a training flight an aircraft of 149 Squadron (East India),had taken off from RAF Lakenheath airfield in Suffolk, which was used as a decoy airfield and an alternative for nearby RAF Mildenhall, and flew across the aerodrome at approximately 200 feet. As the aircraft crossed the boundary it commenced to climb to 1,000 feet, flying straight. Shortly after this smoke was seen to come from the outboard starboard engine followed by fire. One or two minutes later the aircraft commenced a turn to the right as if to return to Mildenhall Aerodrome. As the aircraft was on the turn, the fire appeared to spread into the mainplane, it banked steeply and out of control, did not recover and dived into the ground east of Kingsway Road, Mildenhall, hitting trees at 16:57 hrs. All seven members of the crew were killed. Investigations later revealed that con rods of the rear master assembly of the engine had broken, causing the fire. All crews had recently been instructed to abandon the aircraft immediately under similar circumstances but in this particular case it appears that the pilot was going to make an attempt to crash-land the aircraft at Mildenhall aerodrome but was not successful. Taking part in more than 350 operations, more than half mine-laying, No. 149 Squadron had one of the lowest percentage loss rates of all Stirling squadrons.
The entire crew perished in the inferno and were named as:
RAF Squadron Leader 43481 William Cyril Hutchins DFC (Captain/Pilot)
RAFVR Sergeant 937575 Cyril Hill (Flight Engineer)
RAFVR Sergeant 912925 Louis Victor Fossleitner BEM (Navigator)
RAAF Sergeant 401589 James Dwight Pickup (Bomb Aimer)
RAF Flight Sergeant 646433 James Algernon Clough (Wireless Op./Air Gunner)
RAFVR Sergeant 1080084 Frank Hughes (Air Gunner)
RAFVR Pilot Officer 126740 John Barter Seigne (Air Gunner)
Abbreviations: RAF=Royal Air Force, RAFVR=Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, RAAF=Royal Australian Air Force, BEM= British Empire Medal, DFC Distinguished Flying Cross.
The aeroplane was a Short Stirling Mk1 RAF Bomber, serial number W7582, Squadron code “OJ-S”, No. 3 Group of Bomber Command and built by Austin Motors Ltd.
The three medals awarded to Pilot Officer J.B. Seigne for his service in the RAF were:
The War Medal 1939-1945
As with most Armed Forces Serving Personnel during the conflict of World War Two, J B Seigne was entitled to the War Medal 1939-1945. This medal was awarded to all full-time service personnel who had completed 28 days between 3rd Sept 1939 and 2nd Sept 1945.service. Those eligible, yet who had their service cut short by death also qualified for this medal.
With the information in his record, he was awarded the 1939-45 Star for operational Service in the Second World War between 3rd September 1939, and 2nd September 1945. He would have been awarded this star if his service period was terminated by his death or disability due to service.
Air Crew Europe Star
This medal was awarded to J B Seigne and Commonwealth aircrew who participated in operational flights over Europe, from UK bases or for operational flying from the UK over Europe, between the period 3rd September 1939 to 5th June 1944. He would have been awarded this star if his service period was terminated by his death or disability due to service.
An RAF plaque erected at Mildenhall mentions the following:
IN REMEMBRANCE OF ALL WHO SERVED AT RAF MILDENHALL AND ASSOCIATED AERODROMES IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM 1939 – 1945
WE HONOUR THE SACRIFICES THAT WERE MADE
Talbot David Seigne MC
Born in 1923 and younger brother of JB Seigne, he graduated as a Lieutenant in the Royal Armoured Corps. As a Tank Commander, he was severely wounded in action by machine-gun fire on October 16th 1944 with nine bullets shattering his knees and damaging his back and hands. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery under fire during World War II. Exactly twelve months later he was discharged from the army and sent back to St. Ann’s to recuperate fully. Craufurd Mahony of Martin Mahony Bros., Woollen Mills in Blarney also served during the war and was a personal friend of his.
The three medals awarded to Lieutenant TD Seigne for his service in the Army were:
The War Medal 1939-1945 and the 1939-1945 Star (see above)
The Military Cross
The Military Cross (M.C.) is the third level military decoration awarded to Officers. This decoration was awarded to TD Seigne for an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy. TD Seigne, as an owner of the Military Cross, was entitled to use the letters M.C. after his name.
David studied medicine in 1948 at age 25 and qualified at age 32. He eventually went on to became a well-respected world-renowned Anaesthetist. He lived in Templebreedy, Crosshaven. He contracted Multiple Myelomatosis in 1983, from which he passed away in 1986.
His Autobiography, ‘Catharsis’ – The Personal Reasons Why was published in 2000 for his family.