Joss’s Diary continued.
20 April 1951 The RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team left Kinloss for Kinlochewe to find the weather dull.
Saturday 21 April – The weather was really fine it improved, not a cloud in the sky . Five of us were dropped off at Bridge of Grudie and climbed to Corrie Mhic Fhearchair . The snow was well below the shoulder and it being 2 feet deep in places.
We crossed the loch and climbed the slope to the gully .Rig and Cas continued to climb and see if they could find the tail plane and rear turret. All the time sheltering from falling snow and ice from above due to a thaw. We retreated to the stream and sunbathed and soaked our feet before returning to to the road to await transport.
Sunday 22 April – The team climbed from the Torridon road to Coire an Laoigh and followed the ridge for about a mile and a half to the wreck where two attempted to dig about the wreckage.
We found small bits of instruments, engines and crew. The weather was hazy but the the views magnificent from the top. We abandoned digging as the wind speed increased and the the sky was clouding rapidly. Traversing the ridge once more we glissaded approximately 2000 feet to the end of the snow line and from there to the road. Then the same day returned to Kinloss.
Wednesday 4 July – We returned to the Bridge of Grudie and six of us climbed into the Corrie where most of the snow had cleared exposing more parts of the aircraft. Another engine was located which had left an oil trail on the scree slope and further pieces were scattered for 200 feet. More places of the mainplane were right at the foot of the scree slope. I also located the ammunition feeding unit into the guns from the rear turret where we think the other body may be. I searched around but found nothing a large snowdrift may reveal something when it melts. We returned to Kinloss that day.
Monday 27 July – We arrived from Kinloss for Kinlochewe and camped behind the Hotel.
Tuesday 28 July – Six of us left Base at 0700 and climbed onto the ridge from the Torridon end. The rest of us climbed from Bridge of Grudie. We scrabbled among the bits and pieces. The last body was located and brought down. We then dislodged all the large pieces which were mainly fuselage and sent them down the gully to the screes below.
We returned to Kinloss to Base packed the gear and drove back to RAF Kinloss.
Joss Gosling 1951
The tragic crash took 137 days to recover the last fatality. One can only imagine the effort going back to Beinn Eighe so often much in poor winter weather. Much was learned from this incident and the RAF teams got better training and equipment from the lessons learned. One must remember that most of the Team were National Servicemen who were only with the team for an average of 18 months.
In these days of mobile phones, great gear , Gps, good communications, helicopters etc one can only admire those involved. The would also have to deal with the grim task of locating casualties and lowering them on single ropes on steep ground. Also in these days Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) was unheard off. We must never forget those who lost there lives.
THE CREW:- 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
We do follow in the footsteps of giants
Over the years Joss told me this tale and others of another era with huge humility of what he and his mates did all these years ago. His diaries and unique photos documented the simple gear with such a degree of accuracy it was eye opening.
In his later years Joss could not manage the hills but my annual pilgrimage to Beinn Eighe with his family and one of the crews relatives was often brightened by Joss arriving at Kinlochewe to greet us after the hill.
He loved this mountain and despite the awful memories of recovering the crew he saw in its wild beauty especially in winter in the big Corrie a place of majesty.
As he put it when he first saw the wonderful Coire Mhic Fhearachair he said “ it was the wildest Corrie he had ever seen”. Many years later he would tell me to him this place was “Cathedral like” how true he was.
Thanks you for giving us an insight into this piece of Mountain Rescue History. Huge changes occurred in the RAF Teams after this incident and better training and equipment ensured huge lessons were learned.