I’m still in Derry for this week’s Thursday Doors and this was as high as I could go in the Tower Museum. The view from the rooftop is wonderful, with the River Foyle cutting through the city in the background.
The exhibits inside are pretty good to look at, too. One of them was of a WW2 American fighter pilot’s flying helmet and medical kit bag.
In 1941, twenty-three year old Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe, from Nebraska, bailed out of his Spitfire when its Rolls Royce Merlin engine overheated. He survived both the crash and the second World War to fly in Korea and Vietnam. Wolfe died in Florida in 1994 at the age of 76. The plane, however, plunged into a peat bog in Derry’s neighbouring county, Donegal, where it lay twenty feet underground for seventy years. Following a number of failed attempts by others, the wreckage was discovered in 2011 by aviation historian, Jonny McNee, and his daughter, Grace.
This particular Spitfire was the first of 20 aircraft commissioned with a £100,000 donation from Canadian millionaire Willard Garfield Weston, during the Battle of Britain. Here’s what Mr. McNee had to say about his find; “This is the Holy Grail of Spitfires because of the tremendous history involved in it and the fact that it was the first Garfield Weston presentation plane. It has ‘Garfield Weston No 1’ written in 4-inch yellow letters down the side of the cockpit.” (All you aviation enthusiasts will understand the significance of this).
Another interesting exhibit at the museum is this cannon, from one of the ships of the Spanish Armada.
This large bronze cannon from the ship, La Trinidad Valencera, is dated 1556 and bears King Philip of Spain’s coat of arms. It sits on a beautifully crafted replica gun carriage. An original wheel in the images below was found covered in solidified sand and silt. These siege cannons, with such enormous carriages and wheels, give evidence that the main intent of the Spanish Armada was for a land invasion rather than a naval conflict.
King Philip gave the restoration of England to Catholicism as his reason for the invasion in 1588, but commercial and political objectives played a large part in it. Spain’s interests in the New World were increasingly under attack by the English and needed protection.
Although it was one of the most ambitious military undertakings in history, the Spanish Armada was also one of the greatest failures. The ships were not only driven away by the English navy but were blown off course and scattered by strong gales. Many were wrecked off the coasts of Ireland and Scotland with a loss of one third of the vessels and two thirds of the men. With 42 guns, La Trinidad Valencera was the fourth largest ship in the Armada. She eventually reached Kinnegoe Bay, County Donegal, where she remained afloat for two days before breaking up and sinking, in September 1588. On 20th February 1971, she was discovered 150 metres offshore and 10 metres underwater by divers Archie Jack and Paddy Stewart, members of the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club.
Most of La Trinidad Valenceria’s crew and soldiers got safely to shore. When they tried to negotiate an honourable surrender to the local militia, which was under English command, 300 of the 450 shipwrecked men were massacred. Sadly, only half of the 150 who escaped finally reached Spain.
Thought I should end a Thursday Doors post with an image of a door – a red one, of course. 🙂 For some more doors of various shapes and colours, have a look at Norm’s blog and thanks so much for stopping by.