The mystery of the Wellington aircraft crash on the Island of Soay near St Kilda.

In 1978 the RAF Kinloss MRT were tasked to visit the Island of Soay to investigate wreckage that had been located. The location and logistics plus getting permission to land is extremely hard to achieve. Add to that the weather that destroyed some of the tents its an interesting story.

Soay from Hirta

The photo above was taken in 2014 on a perfect day which is rare for this area.

I was lucky enough to know the story of the Wellington on the Island of Soay:Soay 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 if disputed Rockall is excluded.

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. This was all done by Sea Kings helicopters and there are a few tales of these trips.

Mark Sinclair and others at crash site on Soay

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 may have to climb to get on the Island and permission which is not easy.

Sea King helicopter pick up from Soay

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 visited them when we manage to land this year (May 2020). Unfortunately Soay will not be on possible, I wonder if anyone has visited this place recently?

This is an original photo from RAF Kinloss MRT ( KMRT ARCHIVES)

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 on-board 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.

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?)

No names on the memorial to the Soay Wellington crash in the wee church at St Kilda.

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, Articles, Books, Islands, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Other hills Grahams & Donalds, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The mystery of the Wellington aircraft crash on the Island of Soay near St Kilda.

  1. Martin Briscoe says:

    There is a clearer image of the plaque on the IWM WMR

    Liked by 1 person

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