2018 May visit to Beinn Eighe the Lancaster crash site.

 

This is a piece I wrote about our trip in May to Torridon. I nearly never went as I was double booked as I was helping a group for charity the day before on Ben Nevis. It was a a long day on the Ben then a 0500 start for the 2 hour drive to Torridon.  I always stop  as you drop into Kinlochewe and always make time and this is some view! Loch Maree and Slioch dominate and the Glen was in moody mood.

The small village of Kinlochewe has a toilet open which is now a rare thing in the Highlands in the early morning. It was a quick stop and there were lots of van’s parking the night there. The Hotel at Kinlochewe was where the RAF Kinloss Team based itself in March 1951 in the Hotel car park in tents on the Lancaster Crash. It was a huge tragedy with all the crew sadly killed in the crash and due to the location of the crash it took several months to get all the casualties off the hill.

One of the Team in 1951 Joss Gosling was a very young man on the RAF Kinloss Team now in his 89th year he manged to come up and while he stayed in the Hotel with his wife Annie all his family Ian, Heather and Andy had  planned to come up to the Crash site a good 2 hour plus walk into the wild corrie. Also going up to the crash site was Geoff who was a relative of one of the crew, He annually makes a pilgrimage to visit the site. Geoff comes up for a few days and visits Joss and Annie and lives down South.

We also had a few pals Mark, Kalie and Susan plus two dogs Islay and Lexi so after all arriving by 1000 we set of too foreboding skies. Just before we left we were amazed to see a big hind watching us at the car park, it looked pregnant and must have had a hard winter this year.

To me this is one of the finest walks in Scotland it takes you through amazing mountain scenery. It is a “must visit” a great stalking path through stunning scenery. The weather was threatening but we were soon off and it’s a steady pull up to the beleach. It was then the wind and rain hit us and the start of on and off  wet weather gear for the day. It was get on the wet gear and a hat but we soon warmed up on but the path is great the river easy to cross and we only met a couple of folk!

It’s hard going I felt a bit tired due to lack of sleep but all were fine we stopped on the way up and I showed Heather, Ian and Andy where Joss their Dad and the Team  brought some of the casualties of the hill onto the Coire Dubh path. It is steep and loose and in winter formidable ground. I have always been amazed by what they achieved with such limited kit and equipment. I often took team members this way down in winter and they were in awe at what they did all those years ago.

 

That day there were few views of the neighbouring mountain Liathach just mist and rain no views of the three great Corries or the Northern Pinnacles, this is God’s country whatever the weather. I love it is never the same ever-changing in the varied light and the weather.

The pull round then up to the Loch is incredible the expanse of moors and the many lochans glinting at times make this such a wild place. The space blows your mind it incredible country, with the open moors, hills and views of the sea, Then as you pull up hill you hear the waterfall falling over the sandstone cliff . I have seen some days in the wind it blows the water up hill. This is a fierce place in winter or a windy day.

The view of the cliffs and the loch are incredible three huge buttresses run along the corrie, the dark cliffs are magnificent. They are special and few climb here. It has a fierce reputation and hard to believe a big aircraft crashed here in 1951 killing all the crew. What  Joss and his team mates thought as they arrived in here in winter of 1951. The snow was so deep and the loch frozen over. They must have been intimidated by the presence and the impact of where they were. None of the team had been here before I cannot imagine their thoughts?

We soon saw the first wreckage in the distance and I pointed out the landmarks to all. A lot of the aircraft wreckage is still there in the well-known Fuselage Gully. It still had snow in it and the rain was still on us but the wind had dropped in the Corrie. Ian Joss’s son  told us as a young lad he and his Dad had climbed the gully in the summer nearly 40 years ago and  that was great tale. The gully is loose if you go up it summer and a propeller is jammed in the gully and is a historical piece of the Corrie now. This is a place I would advise  for only experienced climbers to be especially higher up in the gully.

When you see the wreckage scattered about you must never forget that 8 people died here in 1951 and to me it is a sacred place to many. This is hallowed ground and everything was looking well after a wild winter as we wandered about looking at the huge engines and wreckage including wheels.

There is a small memorial plaque on one of battered propellers and great to see the whole Gosling Family together and getting an understanding of what Joss the team and the locals did at this sad time.  We all gathered here and had some quite time. It never seems to amaze me how special this Corrie is and how magnificent the cliffs are today shrouded in mist they were still impressive. These huge cliffs towering above you brought back memories I had off a few hard days climbing some of the routes here many years ago and camped by the loch.

We had a new slate plaque to put on, that would be able to withstand the weather but sadly we could not get the plaque. The troops had bolted it on in 2001 and it would take more tools and time to replace and remove it.  Sad;y that is for another day and will be done in 2019.

It was a hard walk out the weather was not kind to us but we had a few stops in the driving rain it was a wild afternoon and most were in their own world and its a long way out. I was in my own thoughts for  some of the epic rescues in this corrie I was involved in with the teams . Some of these huge call outs some lasting 12 hours when the helicopters could not fly due to weather, these call outs rarely make the media. I was young and strong then and felt invincible as did our mates in the teams and Search Dogs. Yet today, it was so different and was so moving and what a place to be with lovely folk.

Heather and Andy went ahead to collect Joss and Annie from the Hotel they were staying at and we had planned a meal at the Kinlochewe Hotel with all of us. My feet were sore from the Ben and we all got down safely even Islay the dog having a wee sleep on my knee on a break and Lexi the other dog emptying my bag for food.  The stops were short and we soon got down about 1730. It was a quick change of with wet gear into the Kinlochewe Hotel. Joss arrived with Annie and it was an emotional time and such a privileged to see and speak to Joss .

When I met Joss we were both emotional he is such a gentle man and despite his memory failing we were soon chatting about his epic days on Beinn Eighe all those years ago. His memory came flooding back there was no ego he was so humble and as he said “we were just doing our job with our mates”.

This was a different generation and one that had survived a war in 1951. There was little said about the tragedy apart from a few criticism about the teams but these were days of limited kit and little training. It took months to get all the casualties of the hill, in extreme conditions. Hard dangerous work yet little is said of how they coped with what they saw and what they did.

2018 The family and Geoff at the wheel in the Coire

I have always said “We follow in the footsteps of these heroes”.  It was great that  Joss and the family were treated royally by the Hotel Staff who knew his story it was wonderful and heart – warming to see.

To me Joss is a wonderful man, such a kind man and one of my heroes he has such an insight into Mountain Rescue in the 1950’s, that he shared. He is a special man to me and so many along with his family!

Sadly I told Joss we could not get the old memorial off the propeller as the weather has badly rusted the bolts so it will be another visit soon to get the new memorial up. Joss was happy with our efforts and got to see it again and we had a laugh about our attempts too get it off. The new plaque was designed by Heather his daughter  and paid for both her and Geoff.  I promise with help we will sort it out and the RAF Lossiemouth MRT team have promised at the end of winter 2019 we will replace it at the crash site.

2018 May Joss and Heavy with the new plaque

It was now getting on I said goodbye to all, some  were staying the night  and I headed home getting back  just after 2200. I was so tired and the body in bits it had been a long weekend.  I was so well looked after all day and all weekend and the company was superb so many kind friends and for Geoff to revisit the site again was great. To me to see Joss and the family especially that they  the family went  up to Beinn Eighe . Often the families have little idea what there Dad’s did in such a tragic period in their lives. To be with Heather, Ian and Andy was a humbling  day and it was great for them to see what their Dad and those hardy souls did all those years ago.

It was all so worthwhile. It is also great to  try to be able to explain how hard a time Joss and the troops would have had in winter of 1951 with their gear and such a tragedy to deal with to his family on his return. I thing few think about.In these days few spoke about such things and I know only too well how this can affect you.

Later that summer Joss managed to get to RAF Lossiemouth with his family to see the old memorial now in replace at the Mountain Rescue Headquarters. He was very frail but loved the day and the effort of the team looking after him. Thank you all for making this possible.

Sadly we lost Joss this week after a long illness, he was surrounded by the love of  his lovely wife Annie and family in Fort William at the Belford Hospital. They family played his favourite opera music to him when he was ill and I would imagine Joss was in his mind high on Beinn Eighe with his mates for a last time.

Joss would be proud that the Torridon and Kinlochewe Team are going from strength to strength and are in the process of the completion of there new Base in Torridon.  Things have moved on since these dark winter days in 1951.

Joss I will be visiting your mountain Beinn Eighe hopefully with Ryan a good friend of yours a member of the Torridon Team this winter to pay my respects. We will take time to  look at that impressive Coire you will always be in my thoughts. Thank you for telling me your story and sharing your photos that gives us an insight into a past world.

At the end of the winter God willing we will place the new plaque on the propeller below the Triple Buttress with your family.

Thinking of you all and there is huge love for you all.

Beinn Eighe poem

Unseen from the road, the majestic cliffs are hidden.

The long walk, views expanding as we climb.

Liathach brooding in the mist, is watching?

As usual we meet a family of deer

They have been there for many years

What have they seen?

Great cliffs sculptured by time and nature.

Wreckage, glinting in the sun.

This is a wonderful poignant place.

Only too those who look and see.

How mighty is this corrie?

This Torridon giant Beinn Eighe.

Fly past by SAR Helicopter on Beinn Eighe for a BBC Radio program.

Dedicated to the crew of  LANCASTER GR3 TX264  and my special pal Joss Gosling who was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team who recovered the casualties from the crash high on Beinn Eighe in winter of 1951.

 

Heavv Whalley Nov 2018.

THE CREW:- of the Lancaster

 

PILOT

 

 

Flt Lt H S Reid

SECOND PILOT Sgt R Clucas
NAVIGATOR Fg Off R Strong
SIGNALLER Flt Lt P Tennison
FLIGHT ENGINEER Flt Sgt G Farquhar
SIGNALLERS Flt Sgt J Naismith
  Sgt W D Beck
  Sgt J W Bell

Heavy November 2018.

 

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, History, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, PTSD, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 2018 May visit to Beinn Eighe the Lancaster crash site.

  1. Simon Willatts says:

    Heavy, is that Joss Gosling’s son Ian behind you in the photo with the plaque? I think I knew him as “Gonzo” on NLS. Lovely guy, but I hadn’t matched him with the Joss you talked of before. I’m sorry another of the old and bold has gone.

    Liked by 1 person

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