25 years on the Wessex Crash on Ben More Crainlarich.

Twenty five years ago on the 1st of February 1987 is a day that will stay with me forever, it was the night that the Wessex from RAF Leuchars crashed on the North side of Ben More, killing the Killin Mountain Rescue Team Leader Harry Lawrie, who was also the local Police Sergeant.  Two others were very badly injured in the crash both great friends Ian Ramsay the local policeman and the winch man Mick Anderson. (I have written about this on my blog on the 17 September 2010 and there is a fuller story there.)

I was a member of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue team, we were staying at the Tyndrum Village hall we had a magnificent winter weekend spent climbing on Ben Ullaidh in great winter weather. As we left to head back to Leuchars the Wessex flew over us on route to an incident on Ben More. A walker had fallen on the steep North side of the mountain, we were asked to assist the local Killin Team.  It was a wonderful winters night and we watched the helicopter as we drove down the road to Ben More, we saw a flash as the helicopter hit the mountain. It was surreal like a film set but it was real and we knew that a disaster had happened. The Wessex hit the hill and traveled about 1000 feet the steep slope, just missing the Killin Team who were searching. It was an awful night and in the end the Killin team carried their team leader of the hill a tragic event and a Sea King came in for the other casualties . Next day at first light we went out in a joint search both Killin and RAF Leuchars MRT together looking for the missing walker who had been unfortunately killed. We found her quickly and the sad task that is part of mountain rescue was done, with no fuss and very professionally. Many teams after losing their leader may have baulked at this but not the Killin Team, they all did their part. The word heroes is banded so easily by this society but that night there were many heroes and I can never forget the efforts of the Killin Team. Killin is a team typical of Mountain Rescue, all who love the hills made up of all types of people, the best there is. Even now 25 years after the crash the Killin team are a special bunch, they are incredible people, rarely in the news but what a team. This is what makes mountain rescue so special to me. I made many friends that night and the week ahead I was on the mountain with the Air Investigation Board, it was a really hard time. That what our job was and I think we did it well. The Wessex was a great aircraft and wonderful crew,it was from our station at Leuchars, we knew the crew so well, they were a huge part of our lives. It effected us deeply. The crew that day had completed many rescues and the Investigation stated that crew fatigue was a big part 0f the accident.

The Killin Team have a memorial to Harry on Ben Ledi a smashing wee hill near Callander. Several of the team will be there on the 1 st of February to remember him and those involved in the crash. I will not be there unfortunately but they will be in my thoughts as will Harry’s family. When I pass the imposing Ben More on my travels I spare a thought for that awful night when Mountain Rescue paid the ultimate price.

It is worth remembering that if you go out on the mountains it is not risk free and never will be. Yesterday a missing walker was found in the Glenshee hills safe and well after a big search, it all still goes on. The Mountain Rescue teams continue with the SAR Helicopters to risk their lives to help others.

The Late Harry Lawrie Killin Mountain Rescue Team who was killed on the crash on Ben More on 1st February 1987.

Unfortunately sometimes accidents happen and always will. It is amazing that in these days  selfish bankers, politicians and greed that great people are still risking their life’s to help others. Long may it continue, worth remembering?

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Family, Mountain rescue. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to 25 years on the Wessex Crash on Ben More Crainlarich.

  1. Al Coy says:

    Well written and well said Heavy. I remember my shock and anger when I heard the news at Brawdy. Although I’d been posted in the summer, to fly the Seaking in Wales, I still felt that Leuchars was ‘my’ flight.


    • heavywhalley says:

      Thanks for the comments Al. Yes it was a difficult time especially that first flight in the Wessex next day and looking for the fallen walker, how only Harry was killed was a miracle? The Killin boys will be up on the hill tomorrow to have a wee thoughts about Harry. I am so glad we are in touch , will tell Don Shanks that you are about. Harry’s daughter was in touch after my last piece in September and it was great to speak to her, many forget how selfish we were in these days and it was the families that suffered. Take care.


  2. Andy Luke says:

    Well written story of a tragedy. Sullying with political comment at the end detracts from the wonderful work of MRTs tho


    • heavywhalley says:

      Andy – Sully means “soil, stain, or tarnish” I feel I have the right to write what I feel as you have the right to comment.
      My experience of nearly 40 years in Mountain Rescue front line and all over Scotland gives me a unique insight and allows me to comment,from a depth of knowledge and experience. I certainly never meant to sully the work of my friends in mountain rescue, many who have replied to my Blog and have stated that it helped them on the anniversary of a tragedy.

      There are huge moves afoot just now to change Mountain Rescue, insurance and professionalism of teams. What I trying to say is that Mountain Rescue people in this world of self interest still give there all for the casualty and to help there fellow man.

      Long may it continue.

      I look forward to your reply.


      • Andy says:

        That’s fair enough, your experience is amazing and I didn’t mean that you were sullying MRTs per se, just the political hot potato at the end detracted from the true story. I just don’t like to see apolitical topics bring in politics when there’s no need to do so. The work of MRTs stands alone.


      • heavywhalley says:

        We can agree to disagree, that is life unfortunately, this could go on for ever but no need it is the day to remember Harry and his family and those who gave so much.

        Take care I hope you keep reading the Blog, I do talk about various topics, its only only my view though.

        Regards Heavy


  3. Graham Berry says:

    The Lomond Team were also called out on that night and I remember it well. We were not required to go on the hill that night but one or two of Harry’s closest friends went up. There is a fitting memorial to Harry near the summit of Ben Ledi. I used to live in Callander and passing it on every ascent reminded me of Harry and the sacrifice he made.


  4. Gordon Lawrie says:

    Heavy, On behalf of Harry’s family, I have to say we’re constantly touched and amazed at how many people remember the events of Feb 1st 1987. Dad always appreciated the risks all the guys in MR and the RAF took whenever they were called out on a shout and the fact that you all still remember him after all these years would have left him both touched and, no doubt, slightly baffled!

    My brother and I are having a wee stroll up Ben Ledi tomorrow with Bill and some of the other ‘old’ boys from KMRT tomorrow and we’ll have a wee dram to celebrate my Dad and all the other guys and girls who regularly and selflessly put themselves on the line so that the tradition of open access to the hills and voluntary aid to those in distress continues into the future.


    • heavywhalley says:

      Gordon my thoughts are with you all, your father was a good man and I will be thinking about you all, give the each other a big hug wee Scots do not do that enough. I will be thinking of you all it will be a hard day for all.

      Kind Regards to all



  5. graeme ramsay says:

    Well writen Heavy, I was 10 yr old at the time and watching the rescue from the police house, I never knew dad was in the chopper until a wee while later. Thanks for posting this up on your blog. Cheers Graeme.


  6. "Jimbo" Rintoul says:

    Great article Heavy, my thoughts go out to the Killin Team on this sombre anniversary. I remember it well, I was in the Leuchars radio truck with Don Shanks, we were talking to the crew as it happened. Very sad.


  7. Ken Nairn says:

    Very well written Heavy. My friend and I walked up Ben More the week before the accident. From memory it was incredibly cold the day we did it and visibility was not great at the top. That day we ran out of time to do Stobinian and made plans to go up again in a fortnight. The walk up Ben More was very different the second time as we remembered Harry and the rescue team involved.

    I will be in the Trossachs with my family in a fortnights time and will take them up Ben Ledi to visit Harrys memorial. The mountain rescue guys that I have met over the years have had my utmost respect for their character, attitude and determination.


  8. Colin Lamont says:

    Great tribute Heavy (including the political comments!).
    I won’t forget the incident: was with Leuchars team that night, took part in Harry’s carry off, spent the night at the Wessex crash site and helped recover its wreckage the next weekend.
    The way you dealt with a misled Engineering Wing intervention, in Killin village hall, the morning after the accident, was also memorable.


    • heavywhalley says:

      Colin – great to hear from you where are you now? You want to get to a re union Kinloss / Leuchars first Sat every Nov great crack.

      Thanks for the comments, I was a bit hard on them but you needed to be!

      stay in touch Heavy


      • Colin Lamont says:

        Hello Heavy,

        I’m in France, near Toulouse. Where are you?

        I’d like to attend a reunion, but never have enough holidays left to justify the travel in November. I’ll be in Scotland (at Dunkeld & maybe Irvine) from 14 to 24 February.



  9. Tracy Ormesher (Nee Smith) says:

    Gordon, Gary and Pauline,
    Our thought’s are with you, Uncle Harry was an amazing,decent, selfless man, big hug’s to you all.
    From Darren and Tracy
    x x


  10. Gerry says:

    Hi there, came across this blog when doing a little search for Sgt Harry Laurie, I was with my friend on Beinn Tulaichean on that day 25 years ago and alerted the rescue team after finding the chap who had sadly died on the slopes. We met Sgt Laurie and gave him our statements, my friend going in the helicopter to show the team the location of the walker. It was only when we returned home with our own mini adventure story that we discovered the tragic incident which had followed, on the late news. I’ve often thought of that night, I was just 17 at the time and was wondering if there was any record of what went on, I didn’t even realise it was the 25th anniversary. Clearly it’s an incident which is still felt keenly by those involved, it was only later that I found out what a great man Sgt Laurie was, his passing obviously a great loss to all who knew him and to the many walkers and climbers he had helped.


    • heavywhalley says:

      I have been working with Killin Mrt on the story and think that one of their team is putting something together. Harry was a fine man and will not be forgotten.
      Many thanks for your comments..


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