I am just recovering from 3 days in Skye and tonight I head up to Assynt to visit the Anson Crash site near Ben More Assynt. I have written about the replacement memorial cairn on previous blogs so deleve in and you will find out the sad tale. I am meeting Scott from the War Graves Commission to check out the new memorial and we hope to walk in on Thursday.
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
- The Commission maintains the graves and memorials of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
- The Commission operates in over 23,000 locations in 153 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.
- 14-18: A series of high-profile worldwide events will take place to mark the centenary of the First World War, many of which will take place at Commission sites. The Commission will ensure that these sites are maintained at the highest standard and is installing information panels at over 500 sites to enhance the visitor experience. Smartphone users will also be able to access additional information, including the personal stories of some of those buried at the site.
- The Commission provides teachers and youth workers with a comprehensive range of educational resources and support materials so that future generations remain engaged in the work of the Commission and continue to remember those who died in the two world wars.
It takes about 2 hours from Inchnadampath to get to the hill and I will spend the night at Elphin in the Naismith SMC Hut with a view all being well of Suiliven and the wonderful Assynt.
This is one of the only places where the crew are buried below the memorial and it is a sad tale of the loss of 6 young men in the dark days of the war.
Avro Anson N9857 from 19 OTU RAF Kinloss Map reference NC 295224
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 4 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 Stornoway 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.
There was a memorial on the site where the crew are buried which was built by members Aberdeen & Ullapool Air Training Core and the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team lead by Sqn Ldr Eric Hughes MBE.
In 2012 the memorial was in a state an needed urgent repairs and as the crash site is very remote assistance was sought from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. After nearly two years and 6 visits to the site it is now in the process of being upgraded by the War Graves Commission. We visited the site in May 2012 with and then in March 2013 we had assistance form a Chinook from the RAF in full winter, they dropped off all the building materials for this summer. It was a 0300 start for me and a quick sleep in the car park awaiting the ground crew.
In May we were back again and the old memorial removed and the site made ready for the new Memorial to be flown in. This was completed in August weather and aircraft a Chinook was great. I was part of the party that assisted. All the long days and early starts will be worth it, we will have a memorial that should stand the test of time and need little maintenance long after we are gone. This has been completed and the new Memorial is now in place. I travelled over 4000 miles on 14 different occasions but at least we now have a wonderful memorial and it will be look after by the War Graves Commission in the future.
Update 0 May 2107 I am visiting the Memorial with Scott from the War Graves Commission to see how it has settled in after two winters, the forecast is great so it will be as always be a privileged to visit such a specail place.
We must never forget those who gave so much for us. “Lest we forget”
Please remember all aircraft crash sites are war graves and should be treated as such.
D Whalley May 2017