Viscount Air crash Ben More (Crianlarich) – January 1973 Part 2

After a hard day on the hill the Viscount aircraft and crew had been located and due to the wild weather they were left in situ until next day.

Day 2 –   Weather Sunday 21 Jan 1973 – weather fresh snow and cloud down to 2000 feet a steady wind and wind – chill.

It was a long night in the Village Hall with everyone busy planning next day’s recovery of the crew. As a very inexperienced young troop I was told I was on the body recovery next day, I hardly slept. RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars divided each team up into recovery and search parties. It was along haul up the hill with carrying ropes and Stretchers in deep snow to a height of 2800 feet. I was in a long line that left from Ben More Farm in the morning; it was heavy going with big sacks.  The weather was misty above 200 feet and still very cold. The rest of the teams and 23 regiment SAS carried out a search for aircraft wreckage further up the very steep West Face of Ben More. They searched at 15 yard intervals up and down the face not easy in the conditions.This was fairly serious ground to search and the teams worked hard.  The Black box Flight recorder was located by them about 150 yards north of the summit by the SAS. A rough map was drawn after the search, which I still have a copy.

When we located the casualties we had first to relocate them in the heavy snow that had fallen overnight and I remember helping digging them out, not easy for a young lad. In these days it was the young lads who were used to handle and dig out the casualties a hard and difficult job I remember it well.  It was a steep learning curb but these were real people, husbands, fathers, sons and we had difficult job to do.  It was very hard work digging and removing them from the deep snow we put them each on the Stretchers and they were taken off down the hill by us.

A sad job with one of  the casualties in the deep snow.

A sad job  getting the stretcher ready with one of the casualties in the deep snow.  A hard day for all concerned.

In the deep snow but we used the stretcher skids to good effect to help move the stretcher down the hill and a couple of ropes to ensure they moved swiftly but safely.  It was all a steep learning curb for me and my mate Tom MacDonald and the younger member’s of the teams. We were soon down in the Glen and the BEA helicopter lifted them out.  It was then back to the Village Hall, for some food no showers available kit now completely soaked and we were running out of dry gear. I can still remember how strange I felt but positive that I had done my best.

Day 3 Monday 22 Jan 1973

Weather – Freezing level 2000 feet, cloud base 2800 rising later Wind strong westerly decreasing later.

The next day after a briefing it was back up the hill to the main wreckage and digging around the cockpit area and other wreckage. Various sweep searches were carried out and parties were lifted in three’s by the BEA helicopter.   A Joint pair of parties from Kinloss and Leuchars climbed all the Gullies on the SE Face of Ben More locating no wreckage. More searching was carried out on the NE Ridge and SE Face of ben More to the summit. On the summit assistance was given to the Ministry Air Investigation Officer sweep searching in heavy snow.  The lowest wreckage was located a fuel tank and the rest was thrown Westward across the summit ridge and down the West Face. It was another long day and I was glad to be off the hill. The next day we traveled back to RAF Kinloss and I received a “bollocking” from my Boss in my workplace for being away so long, that upset me deeply. I was very lucky as George Bruce my Team Leader went and saw him and told him in a “few words” what we had experienced but I was a marked man after that by my Boss, such is life.

Crash map

Crash map

I had learned so much from this sad incident it was to teach me in future years as a RAF MR Team Leader. George Bruce, John Hinde and Taff Tunnah who are now sadly gone discussed this call – out with me a many years ago and the lessons learned. They were real characters, different people entirely but led strong teams and knew what they were doing.  One of the key points from this tragedy was getting the correct information as members of the public respond to the media who were asking for help or sightings of the aircraft. To get the right information to the searchers is very hard to do and I am sure that the local shepherd on the hill had notified the Police of seeing/ hearing something on Ben More at the time the aircraft went missing. The crew unfortunately died instantly but this information  amongst many pieces on the day from all over the area.   It is very hard to sort out the correct witness information. George, Taff and John Hinde taught me so much over the years especially about missing aircraft searches and recovery of crew and information about the crash.  I dedicate this article to them and the crew of the Viscount Aircraft that sadly lost their lives.

In the summer of 1973 when the snow had gone a few of the RAF Kinloss Team went up to the crash site and found a few personal bits and pieces of the crews belongings. They were returned to the family.

2005  January 19 – David Whittick, engineer Bob Elrick and Wally‘s son Mike organised a Memorial service for all the crew of the Viscount, and held, a service at, Crianlarich Church on January 19th 2005 to dedicate an inscribed cairn, which has been installed in the churchyard in memory of the crew. The service was attended by more than seventy ex-colleagues and family members, who subsequently retired to the local village hall to exchange some memories and to enjoy some Scottish hospitality .There is a memorial to the crew in the churchyard at Crainlarich which I went in the anniversary of the crash.. Meeting the family and locals friends who lost their lives is a humbling experience for all and how they appreciate what all the teams did to try to find their loved ones. All these years later it still has a huge effect on many.

The memorial at Crainlarich in the Church yard to the Viscount crew.

The memorial at Crainlarich in the Church yard to the Viscount crew.

 

It is worth noting that in another very hard winter of 1987 I was heavily involved in a RAF Wessex helicopter crash on Ben More. Sadly a good friend Harry the Team Leader of Killin Mountain Rescue Team was killed and two good friends very badly injured. After the rescue as a Qualified Team Leader I led the Air Investigation Branch( AIB) for a week on the search on the Steep NE face of the mountain. This was a difficult task as it was full winter conditions and a big AIB Team to look after on winter climbing terrain. We were on the mountain for 5 days with the team. None of the AIB were mountaineers and we had a huge task looking after them safely and helping locate the first impact point on a steep winter cliff. It is never easy as these teams of experts are just wanting to get on with their  job but in a hostile environment this can be not easy to try to keep them safe to do their job! The RAF teams have many aircraft engineers and their aircraft knowledge is invaluable locating and identifying wreckage for the ongoing inquiry.  This was a where many lessons from the past from my early days in 1973 were well used on this  tragic accident in the mountains.  Many forget that this was the primary task of the RAF MRT the search and recovery of missing aircraft in remote and mountainous regions. Every few years an aircraft goes missing and the lessons of the past are worth remembering, you can learn  much from past incidents and even with today’s technology it  still needs boots on the ground in bad weather and the correct skills both of an on the hill to get the job done. It is always worth remembering this.

Heavy Whalley is available for lectures on Search Planning/Mountain Rescue, Mountaineering, etc see the website. You will not be disappointed!

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Gear, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Viscount Air crash Ben More (Crianlarich) – January 1973 Part 2

  1. Sadie Smart (nee Moore) says:

    Thank you for posting this. My father was Jimmy Moore.

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    • heavywhalley says:

      No problem a terrible tragedy my thoughts are with you.

      Like

      • Sadie Smart (nee Moore) says:

        Thank you – I am so grateful to see the photographs some of which I did not know existed. I was at the memorial stone in Crianlarich today then found your articles. My mother was full of praise for the Mountain Rescue team at the time of the accident. I attended the memorial service in 2005.

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      • heavywhalley says:

        Thank you Sadie

        I, am glad that your mother appreciated what the teams tried to do it was wild weather even after all these years it was one of my hardest call -outs. I was a very young man at the time and learned so much. I was also at the service in 2005. God bless you and yours. It makes my wee blog worthwhile when I get comments like yours.

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      • Sadie Smart says:

        Yes – you were all very brave young men and we shall always remember what you did and the conditions you went out in. I am sorry I did not get to speak with you at the memorial service. I would like to have climbed Ben More and I believe there is still an engine up there. Perhaps I shall go up some day as I do a bit of hill climbing.

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      • heavywhalley says:

        If you wanted once I get fir again I would accompany you if you feel that would help in the summer?

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  2. Sadie Smart (nee Moore) says:

    Thanks – I would have to get a lot fitter myself (not done anything higher than a Munro). Will get back to you in the summer.

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  3. Pingback: Viscount Crash on Ben More – Crianlarich – Calum's Road

  4. Sadie Smart says:

    Hope so – thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadie Smart says:

    It’s summer!
    My walking group (Inverclyde Ramblers) are climbing Ben More on Saturday 28th (this Sat!). I am going to attempt it and I know it is short notice but it would be great if you would like to join us. I may only only manage part of the hill but will give it my best shot.
    Hope you are well and look forward to hearing from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly I am filming in Glencoe on the weekend ! I hope you have a great day. Take it slowly it’s a steep hill what time are you off on Saturday ?

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      • Sadie Smart says:

        Here are the details of our walk on Sat. Sorry you cannot join us but hope to meet up with you sometime just for a chat about your involvement just after the crash. I have so many questions! Sat 28th July Grade A
        £10 Michael McEwan
        07753 654 572 Ben More and Stob Binnein. Two Munros; leaving from a layby on the A85 next to Loch Lubhair, close to Crianlarich. Very steep ascent and descent for most of the route. Boggy ground in places with some scrambling on Ben More. Walk is approx 7.5 miles with 1335m of ascent. 8:00
        Brymner
        Street, Greenock

        Liked by 1 person

      • What time will you start and finish?

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      • Sadie please contact me as I am trying to get out with you now on Sat please contact me

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  6. Sadie Smart says:

    tried phoning on the number Joan gave me. Will keep trynig

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  7. Sadie Smart says:

    Thank you so much Heavy for coming along with us yesterday. Your help was invaluable in that crazy weather of hail and wind at the top. Finally climbed it after 45 years!

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  8. Bill Michie says:

    Morning Heavy, think I may be able to fill in some spaces in this search, this is the first time I have visited the website. I had been on Ben Nevis on the day of the crash and was summoned to Crainlarich with my Mountain Rescue, Police Dog ‘Jude’ Buchaille-Etive-Mor where I met the MR Team. As you say the conditions were terrible and I had returned off Ben Nevis early due to the worsening conditions. Together with one member of the SAS and my dog I began a search of the hill on the Crianlarich side initially following the path. After about half an hour the dog indicated at the first gully and I climbed that with my dog and the SAS gentleman. As we progressed up the hill the dog was initially soaked with the sleet, as we got higher up the hill the sleet began to freeze on the dog and eventually I could only see his eyes as the rest of his coat was covered in snow. Near the summit of the gully he pawed the ground and indicated a human part ( I’m not going into this in depth for obvious reasons) and the bodies were recovered together with the main cockpit part of the aircraft on the summit. By this time the weather had worsened and visibility was about 20/30 yards with heavy driving snow. After checking for any signs of life we came off the hill to base as there was no sign of the weather relenting. I later received a Letter of Commendation from Perth and Kinross Police dated 30th January ’73 and gave evidence at the Inquest at Perth and Kinross Sherriff Court.
    Bill Michie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bill
      We recently recovered two bodies lower down I have photos of the recovery thank you for that insight. I was always told that the SAS had been involved ! I was in the Trossachs on that day incredible snow. Great to hear from you and SARDA another part of a sad tale. Take care
      Kind regards
      Heavy.

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  9. Sandy Kane. says:

    Good to see your comments regarding the location of the Crash sight many years ago. Your dog did an excellent job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true excellent find but a sad time. I took the daughter Sadie of the engineer up last year it was a powerful visit in bad weather all these years later.
      She was so thankful for what the Teams SARDA and the Police did. I try to ensure they understand the situation the weather conditions etc.
      Sadie has become a good friend.

      Like

      • Bill Michie says:

        I received a personal letter of thanks from one of the relatives at the time. Very difficult to find any words to say in reply to this type of letter but I felt totally humbled

        Liked by 1 person

      • These are so important thanks Bill so important to update these stories before there lost. That is the power of the internet when used in the right well. Stay healthy thank you.
        Heavy

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  10. Sadie Smart says:

    Thank you so much Bill for these additional comments. I was so grateful to Heavy for guiding me up Ben More last year. My father was Jimmy Moore and my mother was very grateful to all of those involved in the rescue and wrote to Mountain Rescue at the time. Believe it or not I really do wish to know all the details of the injuries of the crew no matter how painful. Not knowing involves much speculation wondering if the bodies were broken or burned. Sadie Smart (nee Moore)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chris Kemp says:

    Hi all of you. I’ve just read your website after all these years, my father was Stanley Kemp and I can only thank you all for your courage and kindness throughout the entire search and rescue. I was 13 at the time but remember it well. I knew the conditions were harsh but not as bad as they were. Like my father I joined the RAF and then the airlines and have been flying for 38 years now, it still brings a tear to my eye but you guys were exemplary. I’ve been doing a course into crash investigations and decided to google my dads, and there you were.

    Chris Kemp, Pilot now in New Zealand

    Liked by 1 person

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