This was given to me a long time ago it was from the Moray Mountaineering Club Journal (1981)
This is the story of the search for a missing Lancaster aircraft on Beinn Eighe the article was written 30 years ago in my clubs Journal. This is the story of how 5 members of the Moray Mountaineering Club who tried and on their own to reach the wreckage after the initial failure of the RAF Team.
On March 14 1951 a Lancaster from Coastal Command from Kinloss failed to return after an Exercise over the North Atlantic. A large scales air search was mounted over the next few days without success. Finally, following some late local information the search was concentrated on the Torridon area and the wreckage was spotted on Beinn Eighe on the lip of Corrie Mhic Fhearchair at an altitude of 2800 feet.
The RAF Mountain Rescue arrived at the foot of the mountain on the 18 March 1951. At that time this men consisted of volunteers many of whom were doing their National Service. They were poorly equipped and largely in experienced. They had very little if any regular training nor did they have ice axes, nylon ropes or even proper climbing boots. The weather deteriorated during the next few days. After two attempts to reach the aircraft and an injury to one of their members they were recalled to Kinloss to await better weather.
MMC Journal – On March 21 I telephoned the OC at Kinloss and offered the assistance of 5 or 6 experienced climbers for the Moray Club. Our offer was refused as was the help from the SMC ( Scottish Mountaineering Club) I was informed that the RAF Team had been withdrawn.
Next day I phoned again and said we were going up on our own and asked for the exact location of the wreckage and for an up to date weather forecast. These two requests were immediately granted. The forecast was not encouraging but in spite of that we decided to set out next morning.
Our party consisted of 5 members of the Moray Mountaineering Club. My companions were David Banks , David Forrester, Charles Ross and Kenneth Maclennan. We all had considerable experience in rock and snow climbing and knew the Torridon Area well. We were equipped with proper boots,ice axes and a nylon rope.
We left Forres early in the morning and arrived in Glen Torridon around 1000 am. The weather was fair and no snow on the lower slopes. The ground was froze hard and the temperature below freezing.
We proceeded up the track which runs between Sail Mhor on the East and Liathach on the West. About a mile up the track we left to ascend the Sail Mhor Ridge. Our plan was to get on the Sail Mhor Ridge and then cross comparatively easy ground to the rim of the Corrie where the aircraft was lying. At about 1500 feet we came
to the snow line. We continued up the snow the ascent was getting steeper as we got nearer the crest of the ridge and the weather deteriorating rapidly. In spite of this we carried on and did eventually reach the ridge but got no further. The wind was gale force lashing us with heavy driven snow. In addition visibility was less than 15 yards. It was now
obvious that further progress was not possible. To go on in these conditions would not only be foolhardy but it would be impossible to see any wreckage in blizzard conditions. With great regret we therefore turned back and in due course reported our failure to RAF Kinloss.
Two days later the weather improved and the aircraft was reached by two Navy men who were in holiday in Kinlochewe ( Mike Banks a famous mountaineer at the time wrote about this in his book Commando Climber)
The RAF team was sent back with reinforcements and stayed their till their task was completed. Even with improving weather this proved to be a vert long and difficult job. Part of the fuselage was lodged in a steep gully running down from the rim of the Corrie. Eventually all 8 bodies were brought down it took a long time the last one in late August.
The entire incident led to the complete reorganisation of the RAF Mountain Rescue .For the first time an officer Flt Lt Danter was put in charge. Under his dynamic leadership and that of his successors the team were thoroughly trained and equipped so that now they are probably the finest rescue Team in the country.
Although our small expedition did not succeed, we had the satisfaction of having done all we could to help our many friends at Kinloss.
Of the five of us who took part, three are in business or retired. Sadly Charlie Ross was killed whilst climbing in Glencoe about 8 years ago. David Banks died about 3 years ago while on holiday.
A very full and detailed account of the entire Beinn Eighe incident has been compiled by Keith Bryers of Inverness and was published earlier this year by the British Aviation Archaeological Council in their Magazine.
I am indebted to that article for some technical details.
Doctor J.M. Brewster Moray Mountaineering Club from the 1981 Journal.
Note – One of the two Navy climbers on Beinn Eighe was Mike Banks
Banks then received an invitation from Hamish MacInnes to join him for an attempt on Rakaposhi (7,788m) in the Pakistan Karakoram. Though it falls a little below the 8,000m threshold. He summited with Tom Patey in 1958. Banks was a captain in the Royal Marines.
In 1962, Banks led the first attempt by an all-British party on Mt McKinley (6,194m). One member required rapid evacuation due to altitude sickness, two were snow blinded and one frost bitten. Banks continued with Lieutenant Hugh Wiltshire RM and Chief Technical John Hinde RAF. John Hinde was also of the Moray Mountaineering Club.
Note – I have lots of information on the Beinn Eighe Lancaster crash but there was none at RAF Kinloss when I took over as Team Leader. I suspect someone used the reports for research and it vanished. Over the years I spoke to a few on the incident like Joss Gosling snd others. He gave me an honest insight into the incident.
The famous Guide Gwen Moffat wrote about it in her book on The RAF Mountain Rescue Two Star Red.
Also Frank Card wrote about it in another history of the RAF MR “Whensover”
Doctor Brewster’s Account is an piece of what happened through different eyes.
Two Star Red Gwen Moffat
Commando Climber Mike Banks
Whensover Frank Card
http://www.heavywhalley.com Beinn Eighe
Heavy Whalley Aug 2021