Mahaffy, William Matchett (No. 969454)

Mahaffy, William Matchett (Billy)

Sergeant (Air Gunner)

No. 969454, 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in action on Monday 13 April 1942 (aged 34)

Buried:

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany                  (Grave 29. E. 6)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bangor and District War Memorial

Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s)

Bangor Grammar School

Family grave headstone in Bangor Cemetery

BIOGRAPHY

William Matchett (Billy) Mahaffy was born on 3 March 1908 in Bangor and he was the younger son of William Irwin Mahaffy (born in County Armagh) and Jeannie Mahaffy (nee Matchett, born in Victoria, Australia).

The Mahaffy family lived in Augustaville, Princetown Road, Bangor and Ward Villa, Clifton Road, Bangor.

William Irwin Mahaffy was a solicitor and he and Jeannie had at least six children:

Henry Irwin (Harry, born 7 September 1894 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Gladys Maureen (born 11 February 1896 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Eileen Violet (born 14 April 1898 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Beryl Alexandra (born 15 June 1902 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Lorna May (born 28 May 1904 in Ward Villa, Bangor; died 4 November 1986 aged 82)

William Matchett (Billy, born 3 March 1908 in Bangor; killed in action 13 April 1942)

Henry Irwin, Gladys Maureen, and Eileen Violet were baptised in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Comgall’s).  His sisters, Gladys Maureen, and Lorna May were married in the same church – Gladys Maureen to Cyril Hugh Mack on 29 April 1925 and Lorna May to Richard Albert Deane on 29 June 1927.  Eileen Violet Mahaffy married Balfour Smith and they lived in Calcutta.  Beryl Mahaffy married George Cowan and they lived in Liverpool.

William Irwin Mahaffy was a solicitor and his offices were at 25 Callender Street in Belfast.  He was Town Solicitor in Bangor for 32 years, from 1901 until 1933, and he was solicitor for the Council during the period when Bangor became a Borough.  He died on 1 June 1940 (aged 72) and his wife Jeannie died on 30 December 1951 (aged 84).  Billy’s elder brother Lance Corporal Harry Mahaffy was killed while serving in the First World War.

Billy Mahaffy attended Bangor Grammar School from 1917 until 1920 and he subsequently attended St. Columba’s College in Dublin.  During the Second World William Matchett Mahaffy served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in Bomber Command and he died on 13 April 1942.  He was one of a six-man crew (he was the rear gunner) aboard a Vickers Wellington Mark II aircraft (W5525) that took off at 10.08 pm from RAF Driffield in Yorkshire on a mission to bomb Essen in Germany.  All six crew members died when their aircraft crashed near Budberg in Germany and they were buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.  The other five crew members who died that night were:

  • Squadron Leader Wilfred Morgan Protheroe
  • Pilot Officer Graham Peter Elliott
  • Sergeant Colin Raymond Harper aged 25 (Royal Australian Air Force)
  • Sergeant Frank Swinburn (aged 23) from Sheffield
  • Sergeant Ralph Harry Crews from Leicester

There is an inscription on Sergeant Gunner William Matchett Mahaffy’s CWGC headstone:

I KNOW

TRANSPLANTED HUMAN WORTH

WILL BLOOM

TO PROFIT OTHERWHERE

Sergeant Gunner William Matchett Mahaffy was 34 when he died on 13 April 1942 and he is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church(St. Comgall’s); in Bangor Grammar School and on the family grave headstone in Bangor Cemetery.  His mother Jeannie experienced the loss of both her sons in war, Harry in the First World War and Billy in the Second World War.