A map of history
Simon’s comment on the East-West Map of the Dublin Mountains notes that space is also given there to “historic detail that you won’t find elsewhere”. In fact, the little mapping segment of Djouce that accompanies Simon’s comment provides a good illustration of that.
In the bottom right-hand corner of the map there is a reference to an air crash in 1946, and I’m sure that few casual weekend walkers on this popular mountain are aware today of the drama that took place here on 12th August of that year, above all since no vestige of it remains. The map reference is to the crash of a French Army Junkers JU-52, with a crew of four and 23 passengers – Girl Guides on their way to Ireland for a welcome camping holiday after the war. The plane ran into stormy weather conditions, with torrential rain and gale-force winds, as it initiated its descent towards Dublin and the captain was soon no longer sure of his exact position. He decided to climb again to a safe altitude, but it was too late. Djouce came to meet him first. It was around 1.30pm. Luckily for all, the aircraft’s angle of ascent was almost parallel to the rising slope of the mountain, so it landed like a glider on the boggy surface. Along with the wheels, the three piston engines were torn away on impact and this too was fortunate, since it prevented a fire from starting. Inside the fuselage, which did not break up (see photo), everyone was shaken and some were hurt, but all were alive and reasonably protected from the elements. The pilot and one of the girls set off in one direction to look for help, while another girl, Chantal de Vitay, headed off alone in another and eventually managed to raise the alarm at a hotel, some five miles from Enniskerry. No mean feat after a crash-landing! Then began a difficult rescue operation involving the local Garda and fire brigade. A recent book, “When Our Plane Hit the Mountain”, published by Suzanne Barnes in 2005, recounts this whole adventure some sixty years after the event.
It’s nice when the map we use in the hills has the added advantage of opening up a page of history with a simple, unobtrusive reference.