No. 745103, 610 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed in an aircraft accident on Friday 12 July 1940 (aged 22)
Knockbreda Cemetery, Co. Down (Section E. Grave 78)
St. George’s RAF Memorial Chapel, Biggin Hill
Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI)
Baronscourt Parish Church of Ireland Church
Family grave headstone in Knockbreda Cemetery
Sydney Ireland was born on 28 May 1918 at 14 Sandhurst Drive, Belfast and he was a son of Robert and Sarah (Sadie) Ireland (nee Smyth, sometimes Smith) who later lived at 17 Prince Edward Park, Stranmillis, Belfast and then 2 Castle Hill, Ballywalter. Robert Ireland worked as a tailor’s cutter and he and Sarah (Sadie) Smyth were married on 12 July 1906 in St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Belfast. Robert Ireland (aged 26) from 23 Vernon Street, Belfast was a son of John Ireland, a tailor. Sadie Smyth (aged 21) from 353 Donegall Road, Belfast was a daughter of Thomas Smyth, a clerk.
Robert and Sarah (Sadie) Ireland (nee Smyth) had at least three children:
Dorothy (Doris, born 25 April 1907 at 135 Melrose Street, Belfast)
Henry (born 7 May 1911 at 117 Donegall Avenue, Belfast)
Sydney (born 28 May 1918 at 14 Sandhurst Drive, Belfast)
Sydney Ireland attended Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) from 1930 until 1936 and he was a member of the RBAI Scout Troop which camped regularly at Baronscourt in County Tyrone in the 1930s.
Sydney Ireland joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1938 and began his training in de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft at 24 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School, Sydenham. He was an accomplished guitar player and in November 1939 when he was going to England for further training, Sydney Ireland and 26 other trainees inscribed their names on a guitar that they purchased to take with them on the journey. In addition to Sydney Ireland, nine others who inscribed their names on the guitar died in the Second World War. These included Pilot Officer Thomas Andrew McCann, Sergeant Herbert Reginald Megarry and Sergeant Victor Hall Skillen.
Sergeant Sydney Ireland’s death was reported in the 20 July 1940 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle under the headline Ballywalter People Bereaved: ‘The parents of Pilot-Sergeant Sydney Ireland, RAF, of Castle Hill, Ballywalter have been officially notified that he has been killed in a flying accident. Pilot-Sergeant Ireland was an old Instonian who had played scrum half for the 1st XV. He had been successively on the staffs of the Belfast Steamship Company and Victor H. Robb and Company, Automobile and Electrical Engineers, before he joined the Royal Air Force a year ago. He was a noted athlete and swimmer and took a leading part in the Instonian Dramatic Society’.
Sergeant Sydney Ireland was based at RAF Biggin Hill and on the morning of 12 July 1940 he died while taking part in a dog fight practice when his Supermarine Spitfire aircraft (P9502) crashed at Titsey Park in Surrey. He was 22 when he was killed – on his parents’ 34th wedding anniversary. His remains were brought home for burial in Knockbreda Cemetery and he is commemorated in St. George’s RAF Memorial Chapel, Biggin Hill; in RBAI; in Baronscourt Parish Church of Ireland Church and on the family grave headstone in Knockbreda Cemetery:
In memory of our loved son Sydney
Pilot RAF Killed 12 July 1940
Also his dear father Robert Ireland died 19 November 1959
And his dear mother Sarah died 7 May 1960
His father Robert was 78 when he died, and his mother Sadie was 76.
On Sunday 2 September 2011 a commemorative church service was held in Baronscourt Parish Church to dedicate a plaque to the memory of the eighteen scouts from 74th Belfast (RBAI) Scout Group who lost their lives in the Second World War, many of whom had camped on the Baronscourt Estate in the years immediately prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The plaque commemorated the 70th anniversary of the first building of a memorial cairn by RBAI scouts on the nearby hill known as Bessy Bell. In addition to Sergeant Sydney Ireland, the plaque also bears the names of Warrant Officer Samuel Nicholl Beckett, Captain Samuel David Corry and Bombardier Francis Eric Sheals.