71 years ago on the 14 August 1944 Wellington aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire Scotland crashed killing all the crew of six the remains of the aircraft are spread out on high moorland near Bynack More in the Cairngorms. The Vickers Wellington HF816/A of 20 OTU took off from RAF Lossiemouth for a cross-country training exercise (night Navex). However, at 22.30hrs, the aircraft crashed on moorland close to An Lurg Grid Ref NJ 048097 —a hill due N of Bynack Móre.
I have used these crash sites during my days with the RAF Mountain Rescue as an insight into the history of the service and as a place to visit and remember those who died for us. These mountain sites especially the more remote crash sites are rarely visited and I try to visit when I can and remember those who gave so much for us. They are also tricky places to find at times especially in the depths of winter and are a somber place to visit. This site high in the Cairngorms can be a tricky crash site to find in bad weather and make an interesting navigational exercise for hill walkers. From the ridge that connects to Bynack More it is best to keep to the right hand side as you head to the featureless plateau of An Lurg through some big peat hags. In the wet or snow it can be a hard place to be, not easy walking away from paths.
It is covered in peat hags but these when dry are not too difficult but after this weeks rain it will be pretty wet. It is about just over a kilometer to the crash site from the Bynack More path about 2 plus hours walking. In bad weather this is a really tricky area for navigation and can make a very interesting challenge to find the Wellington Wreckage. It can be a bleak place rarely visited and has that feel about it as you arrive at the wreckage. There is a fair amount of it about, Landing gear and oxygen bottles, engines and part of the aircraft geodetic framework. We must never forget that these are tragic places where young men died. RAF Lossiemouth lost nearly 150 aircraft during the war!
The crew who died were:
- P/O Philip Lionel Bennett Paterson (23), Pilot, RAFVR. (Buried Elgin New Cemetery, Morayshire.)
- P/O Denis Henderson Rankin (24), W/Op. / Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Carnmoney Cemetery East, Belfast.)
- Sgt James Michael Downey (21), Flt Engr., RAFVR. (Buried Leytonstone (St Patrick’s) Roman Catholic Cemetery.)
- Sgt Harold Tudhunter (22), Navigator, RAFVR. (Buried Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumbria.)
- Sgt Stephen Fraser (21), W/Op / Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Lossiemouth Burial Ground, Morayshire.)
- Sgt Robert Arthur George Bailey (19), Air Gnr., RAFVR. (Buried Bungay Cemetery, Suffolk.)
Last years trip – We had a short drive to Glenmore after a leisurely start and wandered in the lovely walk past the green loch along the track to the site of the old Bynock Stables a bothy now gone. As always I should have cycled it but Yeni my companion was happy to walk and see how my back did. It is a grand walk and though it is only a few weeks since I have been out everything was so green and the heather just smelt of honey. It was surprisingly cold with a biting wind at times and we only met a couple of bikers on this lovely walk. The green loch as usual is a lovely spot and only 20 minutes from Glenmore it was in the past an oasis of peace for some of my many meetings there in the past. I would sneak out at times and have a lovely walk and get my head right. It was also a place to introduce past girlfriends to the mountains as Bynock Mor is a great mountain to start on or finish a relationship!
We stopped as usual at the site of the old Bynock Stables a place I have been glad to see on many a rescue. Strath Nethy is a remote place in winter and many make the epic navigation mistake and end up in this wild place. It is one of these places and was looking great yesterday with the hills looking green and peaceful. The path from here can take you into the wilds of the Cairngorms and we followed the good path up on to the main ridge of Bynock Mor stopping to put the shorts away as it was getting cold in the wind.
From the ridge it is best to keep to the right hand side as you head to the featureless plateau of An Lurg. It is covered in peat hags but these were dry and it is about just over a kilometer to the crash site that we were heading to. In bad weather this is a really tricky area for navigation and can make a very interesting challenge to find the Wellington Wreckage. (Well worth a visit) This aircraft a Vickers Wellington HF16/A of 20 OTU took off from RAF Lossiemouth on a cross – country training Exercise and crashed on the plateau on An Lurg. It crashed on 14 August 1944 all on board were killed. The wreckage is widely scattered, parts that can be seen are the oxygen bottles, landing gear, engines and part of the aircraft geodetic framework. We must never forget that these are tragic places where young men died. RAF Lossiemouth lost nearly 150 aircraft during the war! How many lives?
The rough ground across the plateau was hard going and I took it slowly,in and out of the peat hags. Soon we were there and only at the last-minute saw the wreckage hidden by the ontours of the ground.. We spent about an hour at the site it is a moving place especially on this anniversary in this bleak high moor. I always take time and leave a wee cross at the site and think of the tragedy on the families and the lives that were lost and the effect on the families and those who recovered the crew.
It was soon time to head back here we are surrounded by the great peaks of the Cairngorms and our thoughts. We weaved in and out of the Peat hags each in our own thoughts and were soon back on the path and heading home. We met a few walkers heading for the Munro Bynock Moor oblivious to where or what we had been up to.
I wrote this last year when I was pretty ill it was a hard day on the hill and I got through it with help of my mates. I was pretty tired when I got home and got a great email from a relative whose father was on the aircraft and was tragically killed in the crash. He was born 6 weeks after the crash and never met his father. On this 70 th anniversary he visited his Dad’s grave and his sons saw my blog on the internet. He was very pleased we had visited the site a place he has never been and in the next few months has plans to pay his first visit to the site with me and his sons.
It will be a moving trip for us all. Lest We Forget.