Lest We Forget – A few words on some of Scotland’s remoter Mountain RAF aircraft crashes.

At 1100 today we remember those who paided the ultimate sacrifice on Remembrance Day. I do not go to these big public parades like many veterans do but always every year try to visit at least one of the remote crash sites in Scotland where so many lost their lives in plane crashes during the war and afterwards whilst serving in the RAF. This year I have visited the Lancaster Crash site on Beinn Eighe in Torridon where I took a relative of one of the crew  over 60 years after the crash and to the Assynt Crash below Ben More Assynt. These sites are not easy to reach and few visit so I feel it is good to get away from the crowds and remember those who gave so much.

All these years later relatives still have these sad tales in their family history and I will continue to visit these wild places as long as I am fit enough.

Wreckage on Beinne Eighe

Wreckage on Beinn Eighe.

I also have a thought at this for those who recovered the casualties from these tragedy’s many were the local people and ghillies and of course the recently formed RAF Mountain Rescue Teams in these early days. What a task they had and those few who are still alive will never forget what they had to do in these dark days. So if you ever pass one of these sights please be respectful these are the places where many young men died on a wild hill side few who crashed in the mountains survived and many sadly died.

1951 the RAF Kinloss Team at the crash site - photo Joss Gosling.

1951 the RAF Kinloss Team at the crash site on Beinn Eighe – photo Joss Gosling.

These are incredible poignant places in the wild places of Scotland and I wonder what those who gave their lives for us would make of the World today?

memorial

Lest We Forget.

If you google on my website you will find some of the in depth tales of these remote crashes and the journeys to them by myself friends and relatives.

On a recent visit to the An Lurg Wellington Crash near Bynoack Mor in the Cairngorms on the 14 August 1944. This aircraft was a Vickers Wellington HF16/A of 20 OTU it took off from RAF Lossiemouth on a cross – country training Exercise and crashed on the plateau on An Lurg near Bynock Mor in the Cairngorms. All the crew of 6 were killed on the 70 th anniversary I visited the sitE and wrote a piece in this blog.

It was read by the grandson of the pilot who was killed in the crash and his father who is now 70 and was born 6 weeks after his  father died. He had just visited his fathers grave  P/O Philip Lionel Bennett Paterson (23), Pilot, RAFVR. (Buried Elgin New Cemetery, Morayshire.) He had never been to the crash site and a year later we visited this remote place and what a visit it was. One of the most emotional days on the mountains but so rewarding.

photo – A very rewarding day Dad and sons at the An Lurg crash site 71 years after the crash!

When people ask me why I visit these places these  are some of the reasons why!

 Photo below – at the Anson Crash site with a relative for a wonderful programme for Rememberance Sunday up near Ben More Assynt – poignant days . 

The Assynt crash is a huge story and worth looking through my Blog for the tale the aircraft was missing for over 6 weeks and was found by a local keeper. The crew were all buried were they crashed and this was fairly unique at the time. Over the years the grave was getting battered by the weather as it over 2000 feet in the mountains  and it took two years to get things sorted out. The war Graves Commission were a great help and in the end it was a great project to be involved in.

assynt-crash-heli and old cairn

assynt-crash-helicopter Chinook  and old cairn and cross getting removed a huge effort.

The new memorial on scene at the aptly named Aeroplane flats.

Avro Anson  N9857  from 19 OTU RAF Kinloss Map reference 

 NC 29463  23129. – The RAF Mountain Rescue Service was formed during the war to rescue downed aircrew in the mountains. As the Kinloss Team trains throughout Scotland at times we come across old crash sites from this period. Regularly the team was train near Ullapool and visited the crash site the story of this aircraft and its crew it is a reminder to those who gave so much. The crash site is a moving place at over 2000 feet high on Imir Fada near Ben More Assynt it is in a remote area about 5 miles from the nearest road.

 

On the 13th April 1941 an Anson aircraft from RAF Kinloss on a cross country training flight crashed near Ben More in the North West Highlands at Inchnadampth above Ullapool. The aircraft had taken off from Kinloss in less than ideal weather to follow a route via Oban, Stornaway and Cape Wrath before returning to Kinloss. The aircraft had completed the first two legs of its flight and reported passing Stornaway in icing conditions around this time the aircrafts port engine lost power and failed. Sometime after this having either flown onto Cape Wrath or turning for base near Stornaway the aircraft flew into high ground in near white out conditions to the North East of Inchnadamph.  The aircraft was reported overdue at Kinloss and an air search was initiated but this failed to locate the missing aircraft, it wasn’t until the 25th May that the aircraft was located by a shepherd. All six of the crew were killed. The crash site is the only site in Scotland where the crew are buried at the crash site. This crash happened in the days before a proper mountain rescue service existed. It became policy thereafter to recover bodies no matter how difficult or unpleasant this might be. It should be noted that at the time of the crash it is said that 3 local shepherds’ died in the wild weather. When the wreck was discovered it was thought that the crew may have survived the crash but died shortly after of exposure and their injuries. One crew member had attempted to walk for help but was walking east away from civilisation and had died of hypothermia.  The aircraft was found by a local shepherd on the 25 Th May 1941, nearly 6 weeks after the aircraft went missing! The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has placed a memorial to the crew beside the gateway to the local church at Inchnadamph. The inscription reads;

 

“Here are commemorated the crew of an aircraft crash on Ben More Assynt on the 13 Th. of April 1941, whose bodies rest where they fell”

 

Flying Officer JH Steyn DFC.  Pilot

Pilot Officer WE Drew.             Observer/ Instructor

Sergeant J Emery.                      Wireless operator gunner

Flight Sergeant T R Kenny.       Wireless Operator

Sergeant CM Mitchell.              Observer Pupil

Sergeant HA Tompsett. .           Wireless operator gunner.

assynt-mmeorial

The new memorial at the ceremony on the hill a huge effort by all thanks.

 

Cairngorm wrecks

Cairngorm wrecks,

On January 10th 1945 at 1045 hrs, Oxford PH404 took off from RAF Tain on the North East coast of Scotland bound for RAF Hornchurch near London. The weather in Tain at that time was reported to have been good with blue sky, no clouds and no wind. However, the met forecast was apparently for adverse weather. Onboard the aircraft were five airmen from 311 (Czech) Squadron which was based at Tain, four Pilots and a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

Squadron Leader Karel Kvapil – Pilot
Flying Officer Leo Linhart – Pilot
Flying Officer Jan Vella – Pilot
Flying Officer Valter Kauders – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Warrant Officer Rudolph Jelen – Pilot

The flight was not an operational one. It is believed that F/O Jan Vella was travelling to London to receive his DFC award, F/O Linhart, S/Ldr Kvapil and F/O Kauders are believed to have been taking some leave, and W/O Jelen was detailed to return the aircraft from RAF Hornchurch to RAF Tain.

The aircraft failed to arrive at RAF Hornchurch, and no record could be found of it having landed at any other airbase. It was believed that Oxford PH404 must have crashed in the sea since no trace of any wreckage had been reported.

It was not until August 19th 1945, that the fate of Oxford PH404 and her crew was finally known when the wreckage was discovered by two hill walkers.

The hill walkers that discovered the wreckage
Dr James Bain F/L Archie Pennie
memorial-ben-a-bhuird

memorial-Ben-a-Bhuird

There are several crashes in the Cairngorms and if you look about you will see them, this is overlooking the Larig Gru.

Looking towards the Larig Gru

Looking towards the Larig Gru

I have written on this blog about many of the mountain crashes in the hills have a look and think of the secrets these hills share ?

 

Ben MacDui crash Anson

Ben MacDui crash Anson

Few notice just of the summit of Ben MacDui is a memorial to an Anson that crashed

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, PTSD, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lest We Forget – A few words on some of Scotland’s remoter Mountain RAF aircraft crashes.

  1. liathfear says:

    That’s really good and inspiring . I met a lady last weekend at help for heroes who was travelling up from caterick to meet you, I hope it went well?

    Regards,

    Neil

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