Yesterday a group were present at RAF Lossiemouth for a re dedication of the memorial of the Lancaster Crash on Beinn Eighe in 1951 . It was great to have Joss Gosling who was on the call – out and his family there.
SAC Will Chatwin – the newest member of the RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team gave this speech to us yesterday at the Re Dedication of the Propeller memorial at RAF Lossiemouth. He did so well.
“Sirs Ma’ams, Honoured Guests and Troops
Welcome to this special occasion to mark the re-dedication of
the Lancaster TX264 memorial cairn.
As I’m sure we are all aware back in the late 1940s and early
1950s, the post war air craft of the Royal Air Force were not as
reliable as the modern aircraft we see today.
After the war, the RAF conducted vast numbers of air craft
movements and training sorties on which the challenges of
mechanical reliability and without the navigation aids we see
today, the crews of our aircraft worked hard.
Unfortunately, the very nature of flying in this manner resulted
in quite a number of aircraft crashes, many of which occurred in
the mountainous environment. The crews sometimes survived
the initial crash only to succumb to their injuries or exposure to
Dr (Flt Lt) George Graham, a medic at LLandrog Station in
North Wales, and a few likeminded individuals, took the
initiative to gather any available resources and attempt the
recovery of Aircrew that crashed in their Area. Soon after, many
other units informally organised groups, normally coordinated
by the medical centres, to rescue the downed air crew.
On the 14th March 1951 Lancaster TX264 of CXX (one-twenty)
Squadron crashed whilst on a routine training sortie from RAF
Kinloss. Coming to rest high on a remote mountainside in
Wester Ross, all eight lives on board were lost. The aircraft
crashed within a particularly hostile area of Beinn Eighe, which
at 3313ft is a rock Behemoth guarding the entrance to Glen
Torridon. The weather at the time was very poor with strong
winds, mist and deep snow opposing every effort to reach the
crash site. Conditions were in fact so bad that the members of
the RAF Kinloss MRT found themselves unable to reach the
bodies even though they knew where the crash site was.
Despite repeated efforts by the RAF Team, and in the face of
great criticism from many quarters of the mountaineering
fraternity, the last body remained on the mountain until 27th
Aug when it was finally recovered. It was this event, and the
surrounding negative publicity that highlighted the inadequacies
of the Kinloss MRT, both in a lack of general mountaineering
expertise and in equipment.
I’m pleased to say that we learned a great deal of lessons from
this call out, and radical change in the structure of the entire
RAF MRS resulted. The introduction of formalised training, the
inception of a Training Handbook, the secondment of
experienced mountaineers to the MRS and improvements in
both equipment and funding paved the way to create the
Service we know today.
These advances put RAF Mountain Rescue at the forefront of
Search and Rescue on the ground in the UK. With a significant
increase of outdoor enthusiasts entering the mountains for
pleasure, individuals ultimately became lost, or found
themselves in trouble. This rise provoked the requirement for
the civilian voluntary mountain rescue teams throughout
Scotland, England and Wales – many of whom looked to the
RAF teams for guidance and best practise.
And so to the Cairn…
This cairn has actually been built 3 times! The first time in the
1980s by Eric Hughes, outside the original wooden Kinloss
MRT rescue post. From a picture at the time, the foundations
were dug so deep that troops in the hole were beneath the
ground level – perhaps a bit deeper than the ones here today.
I’d like to welcome some of Eric’s family here with us this
The propeller and hub were recovered from the steep upper
areas of Fuselage Gully by cadets from Grantown-on-Spey,
which is some significant terrain, coordinated by Tom Jones,
whose family is also here with us.
When the purpose build rescue post was built at Kinloss nearly
20 years ago, someone with wit in the contracts department
included the movement and rebuild of the cairn.
Since moving to Lossiemouth in 2015, the current team have
enlisted the help of the Royal Engineers, and a few spare hours
from serving troops, to carefully dismantle, move and rebuild
her here today.
I’m sure you’ll agree, it looks great.”
It was a great few hours and wonderful to see old and new from the Mountain Rescue Community there. Wendy Hughes gave the wreath that was given to her late husband Squadron Leader Eric Hughes by the RAF Mountain Rescue Association and will be kept at RAF Lossiemouth MRT H.Q.
Thank you all for a great afternoon and for Shane the Team Leader and the team for looking after us all and putting so much work into getting the memorial at RAF Lossiemouth.