Soay St Kilda The Mystery of the aircraft crash

I got a email from an piece I wrote about Soay and an aircraft that crashed during the War, was there any update on my article. I have been so lucky to visit such places and St Kilda is a place so unique and its history is incredible. Yet it was the scene of lots of aircraft during the War Years who used it as a navigational point on training missions. There are several aircraft crashes on the main island. Many more were lost on route. For some years there was thought to be an aircraft crash site on the St Kilda archipelago of small Islands.

Soay (Scottish Gaelic: Soaigh) is an uninhabited islet in the St Kilda archipelago, Scotland. The name is from Old Norse Seyðoy, meaning “Island of Sheep”. The island is part of the St Kilda World Heritage Site and home to a primitive breed of sheep. It is the westernmost point in the United Kingdom, excluding Rockall

Soay lies some 40 miles (64 km) west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic It is about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north-west of Hirta, from which it is separated by the narrow Sound of Soay, which is only about 500 metres wide. Two sea stacks, Stac Shoaigh (Soay Stac), 61 metres (200 ft), and Stac Biorach, 73 metres (240 ft), lie between. The island covers about 96.8 hectares (239 acres) and reaches a height of 378 metres (1,240 ft), the cliffs rising sheer from the sea

SOAY 2016
SOAY 1978

Soay is a 0.97 km ² large, uninhabited island in the Scottish St Kilda archipelago, the most isolated group of islands in the UK. This archipelago is located in the Atlantic  Ocean and the Outer Hebrides are adjacent.

1978 – AT THE CRASH SITE

This was the scene of an attempt by RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in 1978 to try to locate a crash site that was reputed to be on the small inaccessible Island. The team had a few epics including and overnight stay in wild weather, where tents were smashed by the winds in the exposed cliffs. The Team were tasked by the AHS (Air Historical Society) that some yachtsmen had located an aircraft crash on the Island. Some RAF EOD, the procurator Fiscal and a CID Sgt from Stornaway went along with the RAF Kinloss Team dropped of by the Sea King Helicopter. Over two years including a tented night stop when the tents were smashed wreckage was investigated but the aircraft could not be confirmned. The aircraft remains a mystery according to the RAF.

EARLY DAYS OF THE SEAKING ON SOAY

This was all done by Sea Kings helicopter and there are a few tales of these trips. You can never take the weather for granted in this area and I pray for good weather this year for me.

The islands hill on Soay is a prize Marliyn for you secret hill bashers! You will have to climb to get on the Island from the sea.

St Kilda and Rockall were all part of navigational training sorties in these days of very primitive navigational aids and many aircraft were lost in this area. St Kilda has a few aircraft wrecks on the Island and I have been so lucky to visit them on several occasions. Unfortunately Soay will not be on possible, I wonder if anyone has visited this place recently.

Keith Bryers.

Hi Heavy –” the aircraft was almost certainly Wellington Mk.VIII LA995 from 303 Ferry Training Unit, Stornoway, which was lost on 23 February 1943 with a crew of 6 whilst on a navex/fuel consumption test. The rear gunner was washed up at Europie on 2 March 1943 and is buried in Essex, the others (I have all the names) lie on the site in an unmarked grave. The wreck was known about in 1944 but wartime priorities seem to have prevented a visit to search for remains until the RAF’s visit in 1980; certainly, the wreck was reported by Morton Boyd of the Nature Conservancy Council as long ago as 1952. I visited the site in 1979. A rather foreboding location, truly ‘on the edge of the world’.” 

Keith Bryers

More info  from the blog

The aircraft could also be Wellington HX448, Lost Sep 28 1942, which also had Canadians onboard and was also in the area. The magazine After The Battle No30 has the story of the investigation conducted to find out the identity of the crashed plane on Soay, However no definitive proof (i.e id tags engine numbers etc) was found either way hence most websites giving both aircraft numbers.It would seem unlikely that further searches would be possible due to the remoteness and difficulty of access, changeable weather etc.

 Also as the wreckage or what is left is most likely to have been covered by scree falls and or rolling or being blown down the cliff The book, Aircraft Wrecks, the walkers guide is a good source of info regarding the two planes on the main island of Hirta. I have just been to the island again and hoped to have a look at the crash site on Connachair (Beaufighter) but low cloud stymied this.

From the site RAF Kinloss Archives.


The Church building on Hirta(St Kilda) has a small plaque commemorating the losses and carries the names of the casualties for the two planes on the main island, but for the Soay crash this section has been left blank of names. (until the mystery is solved?) It would be great to see another trip with the modern investigation techniques to prove which aircraft it was finally I have asked before but got no joy. It would be a wonderful tribute to those who died.

The Memorail in St Kilda The Soay crash names not there.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Soay St Kilda The Mystery of the aircraft crash

  1. Ray Sefton says:

    Having led the RAF Kinloss MRT to investigate the crash site, in 1978/79 three times I believe the aircraft is Wellington HX448, which also had Canadian crew members. With the position of the crash site I believe it would be impossible for any crew member to be blown into the sea. The aircraft had hit the island, broke up, turned upside down and burnt furiously.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Earl says:

    This one has bugged me for years, and that`s why I included both crews in Lost to the Isles – volume 2 . It always struck me as very odd that not a single identity disc was found, and I wondered if someone had been at the site prior to the yachtsman Richard Fresson. I`m sure if bone tissue was recovered then DNA could now put this one to rest.

    Liked by 1 person

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