What’s your favourite quotes?

One of my favourite is : “Looking back on these wild free days in the open I realize my happiest memories are of the suntanned faces of my old companions”

Belmore Browne

1973 Masirah Persian Gulf

Another: “A man’s best moments seem to go by before he notices them and spends a large amount of life reaching back for them, like a runner for a baton that will not come.” David Roberts.

1973 Ben Dorian with my late mate Tom MacDonald.

Looking at the photo above I did many great hill days with Tom MacDonald when we both joined Mountain Rescue on 1972. Tom sadly passed away recently and look at our gear ? I am wearing “hairy breeks “ and Curlies . Tom has a state of the art Norwegian jumper we bought most of our own gear as soon as we had cash. Most of the RAF gear was to big for us !

Its funny when you look back when you were fit and strong. I have this ongoing cough that is really making things difficult to sleep or go on hill or climb. Still walking every day but how I miss the hills. Hopefully they will get to the bottom of it as I cough a lot and in these Covid Days I think folk think you have it.

Anyway I am still getting about and doing what I can just now. I just can’t wait to get back on the hills. We just have to make the best of what we have !

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Sept 1978 – Dutch Atlantic aircraft crashed in the sea off Colonsay . All crew recovered safely.


14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine.

Everyone was okay and they were all rescued by helicopter. The sea luckily was flat calm and there is a photo of the crew on the wing waiting for Rescue. I was a member of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at the time. Kinloss and Leuchars MRT we were asked to search the coast for “sensitive stuff”

It was one of these. Call outs I will never forget. I love the Islands so many have been fleeting visits so I am trying to spend a bit more time on them. We met many characters on the Island.

1978 Sept 17 – Isle of Colonsay and Oransay A / Dutch Military Atlantic aircraft crashed in the sea and stayed afloat for a while just off the Islands. Some of the wreckage washed ashore and all the crew survived. When we arrived by Wessex helicopter we had no communications and searched most of the day and I sure we lived in a Cave one night and much of the wreckage washed ashore vanished in true Island Fashion. It was very like the film “Whisky Galore” It was very difficult trying to get some of the sensitive items from the locals! They had a few dinghies, life jackets and other bits and pieces! A bit of barter and trading was called for was called for? The locals did well on dinghy, and life jackets spoils of the sea . Plus a few bottles of whisky for there trouble. We did locate some classified material that was handed over to the Military police.

One the second day after bout search we just made the pub it shut at 2200 but managed a few beers but no food? We had a good night with the locals. I wonder if anyone has any photos of this!

I know there is a photo of the crew waiting at sea on the wing for pick up. It’s in Moravia at Kinloss I will try and get a copy.

From my pal Nick Sharpe a Guide in Canada “RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team also deployed to the west coast of Jura and did the same thing. “Spent a night in a huge cave sleeping on a soft bed of goat droppings!“

Comment / Comment Don Shanks – “If I remember right we were shocked that we didn,t get a lock-in…however we managed to cadge a lift back to our billet in a cowshed on the back of a council lorry..happy days”

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Colonsay Day – 4 visit Dun Gallain an ancient Fort. Great last day wandering.Seeing the Waverley Steamer.

At last we had a day out Kalie as she had finished her bee course. We had the ferry late early evening so we had a wander from Colonsay Golf course to look for the old fort at Dun Gallain. We parked near the golf course near the airport. It was a great wander along the coast lots of rock to scramble on and a wander up to the hill fort well hidden.

Colonsay Golf Cpurse : If you would like to enjoy a golfing experience similar to that enjoyed by the very first golfers in Scotland (therefore, the world), then this course is for you. Colonsay Golf Course may not be the grandest in the world, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful.

The 18-hole course is situated on indigenous machair, shortish grass growing in sandy soil, typical of the finest Scottish links golf courses. When you arrive at the first tee, you will be struck by the beauty of the course’s setting. Two beautiful, sandy Hebridean bays form the western fringe of the course: the first is called Traigh an Tobair Fhuair (“Bay of the Cold Well”). The second is called Port Lobh (which, unfortunately, means “Malodorous Bay”). Two burns traverse the course from east to west. From many points on the course, you can glimpse the sands of Ardskenish peninsular to the southwest. The course is fringed to the northeast by the rugged, craggy Beinn nan Caorach (“Hill of the Sheep”). 20 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean (next stop, Canada), in most weathers, you can spot Dubh Hearteach lighthouse. The panorama is completed by Dun Ghallain, a cairned headland where a ancient fort once stood.

The golf course !

To help you to visualise the course, think about the Masters course at Augusta, where every blade of grass appears to be meticulously manicured; then, picture the polar opposite! Colonsay’s unique course is completely natural, having been designed by the Supreme Architect of Golf. The greens are mown and rolled during the season by local golfers, with some help from the sheep and some hindrance from the rabbits. In the winter, they are joined by the cattle of Kiloran Farm. As a consequence, you may have the unusual task of having to clear some livestock from your line of fire before playing your shot. Fear not, though: local rules allow preferred lies on all fairways and a free drop for balls disappearing into rabbit-holes or taken by the ravens. More good news: there are no bunkers! In keeping with the “primeval golf” theme, however, you will come across the occasional sheep-scrape in the sandy ground, which some believe to be the origin of the modern bunker. At all times, if irked by the ruggedness of the course, you can find comfort in remembering that you’ll not find a lower green-fee anywhere.

The ancient fort is on top of the hill Dun Gallain it took a bit of looking for as all there is left is the foundations but what a vantage point. We wandered back via the Golf course amongst the Machair great views and rabbit holes lots of rabbits everywhere even on the greens but what a situation.

Great views.

It was such a lovely walk and Kalie was at last free for a walk. We sat on the wee top admiring the view then headed back past the airfield. I must have landed here during a search for a Dutch Atlantic plane that crashed of the coast on a NATO exercise. 14 September 1978 – A Dutch surveillance Breguet crashed in the Iries sea west of Scotland after the explosion of the right RollsRoyce engine. All the crew were rescued safely.

Wandering amongst the Machar (A machair is a fertile low-lying grassy plain found on part of the northwest coastlines of Ireland and Scotland, in particular the Outer Hebrides.) is so pleasant

Fields in of Iris’s

There were also so many orchids and Iris’s abound it’s lovely there were flowers everywhere. Apart from a couple of canoeists on the sea and a few others on the beach yet we had most of the area to ourselves. There was a great peace in this place with its blue seas and goes. The oystercatchers were a constant companino with their high pitched call.

We had plenty of time a wee sleep on the hill in the sun out of the wind great views of Jura and the mainland. Then a tea break lunch before heading back. We had another brew on the Colonsay Hotel and a wander up to the monument by the pier.

Magic unmentioned

Kalie had booked a meal before we went and after a some last minute shopping we had a meal at the pier just making the ferry. Then it wax the two hour ferry back on a vey empty ferry. Sadly we had no bees with us ( that’s another tale) The Waverley steamer popped into the harbour before the ferry. What a sight and so many memories.

The Waverly steamer.

We got back on the mainland thr Waverley was berthed in Oban Harbour. Then it was a long drive home me at 0130 Kalie a bit later. A superb few days away from the madness of the media.

I have great memories of the visits to the Islands exploring more and Islands and areas. The weather was exceptional and a great companion Islay. Highlights include a swim in the sea the flowers birds coastline and sea. Of course good company of Kalie. Really tired today now home getting sorted out.

The Bee course !
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Day 3 Colonsay -The Strand

Today was another day with Islay the collie. Ksllie was away on her last day of bee keeping . Last nights night we watched A Sherlock Holmes film involving Bees! The weather again was superb so we were away for a walk before it gets to hot for Islay.

The Strand :The islands of Colonsay and Oronsay are separated by a stretch of water and sand about a mile wide. This area is known as The Strand. The northern end, nearest Colonsay, is normally a sandy beach, whereas the southern end, nearest Oronsay, is covered by shallow water when the tide is in. When the tide retreats, The Strand can be crossed on foot to reach Oronsay.

Normally if you get the tides right you can walk across to Oransay but not today. We played sticks on the huge beach saw 3 folk. We then wandered the coast seeing purple orchids and so many flowers. It was so quiet for a Bank Holiday and with a light breeze we stopped had lunch and tried to take it all in. There were lots of sheep and lambs about but Islay is so used to them she does not bother. There were also lots rabbits oystercatchers and gulls about. We had a good walk but it was getting hotter so I drove back to our Accommodation to give us both a rest.

Islay in her element.

I thought of poor Kalie in her beekeepers suit in the heat! Poor soul, Islay misses her and every car she sees she thinks it’s Kalie home.

The bee course photo Kalie

Later in the afternoon Kalie arrived back and it was into the wet suits and the sea nearby . Again busy about 6 folk at its peak. I put my wet suit on back to front ! Anyway Kalie was soon in the water the tide was out but it was great.

Even I went in and it was lovely Kalie had a sleep later . It had been a busy weekend for her and I wandered along the water listening to the footy . we had about an hour then a breeze came up and we wandered back.

Surfs up.

After dinner we relaxed and had an easy night. The weather still stunning and we leave today on the ferry. We collect the bees at the Ferry and then take them back to Arrina. That’s after a wander today before the weather breaks.

Kalie in her best place to be .

We have been so fortunate with the weather seen Colonsay at its best. Who needs to travel abroad ?

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Dog sitting in Colonsay !

Colonsay is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, located north of Islay and south of Mull. The ancestral home of Clan Macfie and the Colonsay branch of Clan MacNeil, it is in the council area of Argyll and Bute and has an area of 4,074 hectares.

On the Ferry to Colonsay

Over in Colonsay looking after Islay while Kalie does a bee keeping course. We stopped at Heathers house near Spean bridge to catch up with the late Joss Gosling daughter and her husband. We also met Annie Joss wife looking well all ready for a garden party. What a view they have of the Bens North Face .

View from Heathers house.

It was a quick catch up as we had a ferry to catch at Oban. Joss old boots are pride of place in the house. Joss was one of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team who as a young boy was involved in the Lancaster crash on Beinn Eighe. He was a dear friend and I miss him. He told me the tale many times how as a young man he was involved in the recovery of the crew . The weather was magnificent and we headed back on the A82 that was so busy through Fort William. It was slow going to Oban and even as busy here. It poured down as we waited for the ferry. Heavy rain while the rest of Uk was in sunshine.

Just as the weather cleared we saw Jura

It was sunny arriving in Colonsay and we have good accommodation not far from Kalies bee course which she starts today.

We got a great walk with a patient Islay to a nearby beach at Kiloran Bay. It was stunning a few folk a yacht mooring and lovely sand. As always the ever changing light made it special. We are so lucky to be here.

We walked along to the Whale bones it was impressive and with the dunes the rabbits and bird calls magnificent.There was no sunset this time but we sat and enjoyed the views and the peace.

End of a long day.

Kalie starts her course tomorrow and Islay and I will have some fun together.I hope everyone is as lucky as us with the weather?

Posted in Articles, Enviroment, Health, Islands, Local area and events to see, Mountaineering, People, Weather, Well being, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Denali ascent – “a closely run summit” by Jimmy Clethero RIP

Many expeditions have untold tales especially in the military this is one is told in my pals words about the late Jimmy Clethero. In these days there were lots of things that remain “untold” I hope you appreciate “ Stampys” account of our mate Jimmy who passed away recently from Cancer.

Denali is a wonderful mountain in Alaska where you have a unique environment. The weather is so severe I spent 3 days stuck in a tent in a blizzard with a sick mate. I feared for my life then it was and did take all my efforts to stay alive. It’s a big mountain no porters and extreme conditions that test the best of the best to summit. This is an account from one of our most underrated mountaineers Jimmy Clethero had he told me many years later. I put it on my wee book to write the tale but it could only be repeated after we left the service. It’s a measure of the msn Jimmy few know the tale another MRT legend tells the tale. It’s a great story of a man we lost to cancer recently. Thank you Stampy for your story I hope it gives you an insight into one of our finest mountaineers.

This is Stampy account:

“Yeah it was good old Rosco who got both Jimmy and I on the exped in May 88 with the PTI’s from Ballachulish (Kev Edwards, Shep Shepherd, Graham Carter and Graham Morrison). This would be the first high altitude experience for both of us.

I can remember the flight onto the Kahiltna glacier base camp via the spectacular ‘one shot pass’ courtesy of Doug Keeting Aviation, Doug himself was piloting the aircraft and on the approach for landing he gave Jimmy the surprise responsibility of pumping the hydraulics to get the undercarriage skids down for landing on the glacier. We both looked at each other as if to say “what the fuck, did he really ask you to do that” but as Jimmy was nearest the pump handle he grinned and shrugged his shoulders and got on with the pumping until Doug was satisfied skids were in the right position.

Jimmy and I were paired up for climbing and tent sharing and Kev Edwards was keen for both of us to take a look at the Cassin ridge but after a recce and seeing the state of the glacier and crevasses of the east Kahiltna fork and approach to the Japanese Couloir, the idea was quickly abandoned.

The West buttress was the focus along with the others. From the 14000 ft camp Kev Edwards decided to send us both and Graham Carter to the summit. After a really cold night at 17000 ft we were glad to be on our way but I was struggling with the altitude and never been so cold (lifa under wear, ron hills, buffallo jacket and goretex was a crap choice and just not enough insulation for some where this cold) We arrived at Denali pass at 18000 ft in poor visibility but were still able follow the wands marking the route. However the visibility was concerning and with the extreme cold, I new I was struggling and I’d had enough.

Jimmy though was going really well and was confident. The choice was hard for both of us to split up, it was decided that me and Graham Carter to return to the tent at 17000 ft and Jimmy to carry on to the summit. There was no conflict or arguing over over our decisions just mutual respect for each others wishes.

Graham Carter descended all the way down to the 14000 ft camp while I remained at 17000 to wait for Jimmy. It was a worrying time in the tent, the wind had got stronger, temperature dropped and visibility worse. I was cursing myself for not trying to talk Jimmy out of going to the summit and was hoping he would realise the conditions were not favourable, abandon his attempt and appear at the tent door any minute.

All the time I was waiting for him I was constantly updating Kev Edwards down at 14000 over the radios we had with us, I could tell how anxious Kev was. The following morning had arrived probably a good 16 hours after I last saw Jimmy and I was fearing the worst. Can’t remember who contacted who first but Kev told me over the radio that Jimmy had just wondered into the camp at 14000!

I got back to 14000 and reunited with Jimmy. He said he was 100% sure he’d reached the summit but had lost the marker wands and got disorientated on the way back, strayed onto steep ground and ended up down climbing what turned out to be rescue gulley average angle 50 degrees which exits a bit further up from the 14000 ft camp.

He wasn’t completely unscathed after his ordeal as his only head gear, the hood on his duvet jacket had been ripped off in the high winds thus sustaining cold injury frost nip to one of his ears. Typical Jimmy seemed to play down his epic and avoiding the fuss just took things in his stride. The doctor in the medical tent at 14000 examined the frost bitten ear and advised our team to get Jimmy off the mountain ASAP. Kev sent both of us back to the Kahiltna glacier airstrip to get the first available aircraft back to Talkeetna.

I remember we had to pack a tent and some gear just before we got to the airstrip. As you probably remember Heavy, having been there yourself, you have take everything off the mountain including those black poly bags that you crap in complete with contents.

Anyway as we were rummaging through the gear deciding who’s was who’s, Jimmy called across to me and said “I think this is yours Stampy”, I turned with open hands to receive the package Jimmy lobbed which thumped me in the chest then realised he had chucked a bag full of shit at me! The grin on his face was a picture. “Ya bastard Jimmy” was my response but couldn’t help laughing at his mischievousness.

We both got back to the Elmandorf USAF base just outside Anchorage where we waited for the others to return, 3 of them summited. The Yank medical staff at the air base were brilliant treating Jimmy’s frost bite, he received daily whirlpool treatment on the ear which got the blood supply back to affected area and prevented further tissue loss. The next few days waiting for the others were spent mooching around the city and drinking in bars. We then learned that 2 Brits we had both met and got quite friendly with whilst on the mountain had been killed in a fall climbing the West Rib. The news brought it home to us both the seriousness of where we had just been especially in Jimmy’s case. Graham Stamp

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All the Corbetts in a day a great effort by Carnethy Hill running Club.

I have always been in awe of hill runners and met many over the years . They are a unique group of unsung heroes on the hills. Last weekend the Carnethy Club completed all the Corbetts in a day. What an effort of planning and effort by all. It’s great to hear of such efforts with little publicity. These runners are true hill men and women enjoying the mountains and travelling light and fast over the hills. Well done all. Thanks to the club for allowing me to use their words and photos. Well done all.

After about 6 months of planning, on Saturday 28th May 2022 over 200 Carnethies completed all of the Corbetts in a Day.  222  Scottish hills between 2500-3000 ft, or 762-913m in height were split into around 140 missions of varying length, difficulty and commitment to suit the novice through to the expert runner/walker.

The first hill was complete at 01:28 by Ross Christie who had to get back for his family and his work, and the last was ticked at 19:46, quite aptly, by Steve Fallon whose website and guidance was invaluable to the planning.  Ages of participants ranged from 6 Months baby Busby through to 80 Yr old (roughly)  past President Kieth Burns.  One team’s age exceeded 200yrs. Everyone experienced how rough and challenging the less trodden Corbetts are with rarely a path to follow and plenty of wet bog to delight in.

There are many stories to tell which will come out soon enough and we ask all participants to write a summary of the stories from the day.  The Jura Corbetts were done as part of the Jura Fell Race with Jasmin Paris being first female and Andy Fallas as 4th Male.  Hopefully they took a photo on their summits as proof!!!

There are many people to thank for making this happen. Nicki Innes and Ken Fordyce in particular, but also the planning team, regional leads and the control team in Tyndrum. The participants of course and also Mr Weather played a fair hand, at least in Ardgour.

In the interim, here are some random photos from the many.

Another great Carnethy day out.  Well done all.

Mark Hartree

President, Carnethy HRC

Well done all
Posted in Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Hill running and huge days!, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being | Leave a comment

Jimmy Clethero RIP

Sadly I missed my friends Jimmy Clethero’s funeral. I have been told it was a great tribute to the man that so many attended. Jimmy was a great mountaineer very cool in any emergency and never sought the limelight. He was also a great member, party leader and Team Leader of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. He was greatly thought of by all. As always our thoughts are with Chrissie and family.

Jimmy on Diran Expedition.


Mention the name Jimmy in the RAFMR world and everyone’s mind skips to the tall, skinny, quietly confident young Graham Clethero who arrived on the Stafford team in the early 80s.  Recognising his potential early on, Jimmy was made up to PL at the tender age of 19, a lot of responsibility for a young guy.  One can say it was fortunate that Jimmy found MR so early in his career.  I’d actually say it was MR who were the lucky ones as for 22 of the next 25 years he became the backbone and one of the driving forces of the 3 teams he served with, Stafford, Kinloss and Leeming as well as being a regular instructor on the numerous annual MR courses where troops from all the teams benefitted from his experience and mentoring.

A talented climber, both Summer and Winter, Jimmy always pushed his grades, teaming up with the other top climbers around the system where and whenever possible.  Quickly becoming an accomplished and competent mountaineer, he was as fit as the proverbial butchers dog, invoking many extremely painful memories of trying and failing to keep pace with the scruffy guy in the Ron Hills, Helly Hanson and red Troll rucksack.  Never one to showcase his achievements, with one exception, he was proud to hold the course record for the infamous Snowdon Bike Race, a fact he dropped into polite conversation on a number of occasions.  Jimmy was universally popular, his unassuming manner, laid back approach and unflappable nature endearing him to all and his calm, composed leadership ensured he became a role model and inspiration for many, myself included. Jimmy was always there for the troops offering support, advice, instruction, whatever was required and wherever necessary.  Never a chore.  

Mountain Rescue allowed Jimmy the opportunity to indulge in his lifelong passion for the mountains and crags.  He took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him, taking part in numerous successful overseas expeditions – many to the Alps, the Karakorum mountains in Pakistan, Denali in Alaska to name but a few and I would hazard a guess there are very few hills and crags within the UK which Jimmy hasn’t bagged or completed quality routes. However, he very rarely spoke about his many achievements preferring to look forward to his next list of challenges.  Others, like me, do talk of what he has accomplished, partly through envy, not having the skill or ability to copy the man, and partly sheer admiration.  I don’t believe there are any troops present today who can’t recall exceptional adventures with Jimmy and marvel at his ability to make it look so annoyingly easy!!  I always smile at the memory of Jimmy perched comfortably on his belay stance at the top of Great North Road, a quality climb at Millstone in the Peaks, it was sunny, rope in one hand, ciggy in the other, looking very much at one with the world.  That was Jimmy in his office.  In the 3 year period outside of MR, in Cyprus, Jimmy took it on himself to write a Cyprus climbing guide for the benefit of others to use – one of routes had the most interesting of approaches  If done mid-afternoon in summer it takes you straight down a popular tourist beach complete with many sunbathing half naked ladies That was a tough day.  

On the rescue front, Jimmy attended over 400 callouts, wide ranging from urban searches to some of the biggest aircraft tragedies this country has known – Lockerbie, East Midlands Airport, the 2 x American F15 jets on Ben Macdui and many others.  He also played a major part in the successful locating and rescue of Army personnel in an unexplored gully on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, his practical, no-nonsence approach proving invaluable for its successful conclusion.  Once again he very rarely talked of these events, choosing to process them privately, despite having seen things nobody should really have to.

I’ve probably built up a bit of a ‘St Jimmy’ image so far but there is another side to him.  He loved a social and the odd beer or 3 with the troops or his family or both and he possessed a dry, thought out sense of humour which coupled with a mischievous side it was perfect for instigating misdemeanours.  If there was skulduggery going on, Jimmy was not far from it, normally orchestrating from the rear.  A damning drag race video using MR landrovers at an aircraft crash site appeared in the section – I knew who’s idea it was for the drag race – the voice behind the hidden camcorder confirmed the operator as being one of the same!  The instigation of troop swimmings, Clethero was always there; the kidnapping OC Regt’s wayward dog, which began to go awry when the station postman forgot to deliver Jimmy’s ransom demand, Jimmy the criminal – arrested for scaling a public building in Stafford after a few beers, antics with a retro carriage wheel, space hopper and a lack of clothing in a pub in N Yorkshire, comical sheep rescue from half way down a crag in the Peaks including the best rugby tackle one is likely to see.  There are plenty of stories shattering the ‘not so innocent’ image of Mr Clethero.  However, looking at the rogues gallery of troops present today, there are some far more qualified than I to elaborate later today.

I spoke with Jimmy a few days before the Stafford Reunion when he let me know that he wasn’t going to be present this year due to a hospital appointment.  Whether he knew the extent of his condition at this time I don’t know.  What I do know is that in the days and weeks that followed and as his condition worsened, Jimmy was surrounded by the people he loved, Chrissie, of who he was such a devoted partner, Kirsty and Maddison, who made him a proud father and whom he loved so much, his extended family and his friends of old.  The response to the initial facebook message was fantastic and only served to reaffirm everything I knew about Jimmy Clethero, he was one of, if not the most, loved, respected and inspirational of TLs, and always a great troop. The heartfelt, sincere messages which were all read out to Jimmy gave him the reassurance that the MRS family he was such a big part of, will be there for his family.

Thank you Jimmy for allowing me and many others to be part of your life. It has been a privilege to have served with you and an absolute honour to be your friend.  From the whole of the RAF MRS past and present, to Chrissie, Kirsty and Maddison please accept are profound condolences.  And Jimmy “you were and always will be the best”

Rest in Peace Mate.

It’s a privilege to read this dedication today and it was of particular resonance to Jimmy – It was written by ‘Anon’ – RAF Kinloss – February 1995 – And it was dedicated to all members of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team – With a message….Keep up the good work guys.

The Mountaineer

It takes a noble brand of man…. to be a mountaineer

No petty minded person ever found his pleasure here

But he who’s never climbed a hill…. for fear of aches and pains 

Has never felt adrenalin… surge madly through his veins

When safety is a toe-hold…. and your faith in finger tips 

And every breadth is like a prayer…. escaping from your lips

It isn’t just an urge to reach… the topmost craggy shelf

Its stretching nerves to breaking point…. to riseabove yourself

Nor is it tossing coins…..with life and death on either side

Its Courage, Caution, Commonsense,…. And ‘how to do it’ pride 

It’s Teamwork. And the best way is the best – No ifs and buts……

You learn to pull together… and to share each other’s guts

You reach the peak…. You’re handing round a flask…..A bite…..A smoke

While soaking up a scene… unseen by ordinary folk 

A no-man’s land of awesome splendour…. Beautifuland bare

And this is because you climbed a hill … purelybecause it’s there 

Wives and friends of Mountaineers … case hardened to their fate

Will tell you that they also climb….. Who stay at home and wait

A hill’s a burning heartache…. you just hope he can’t detect

That makes you pray the next one… will be climbedin retrospect

Jimmy on Great Harry.

Thanks for your input troops comments and photos always welcome .

Posted in Alaska, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being | 2 Comments

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.
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Short Sunderland 111 ML858 Crash – St Kilda – 7 June 1944 – A visit in May 2022.

The Sunderland aircraft crashed on a navigation exercise from a flight out of Oban.

I have been very fortunate to visit this sad Crash site on the remote Island of St Kilda on two occasions in 2014 and May 2020. On my first visit in 2014 I went down into the Gleann Mor to the crash site and was getting attacked by the birds.

That day the walking poles were handy that day as the Skuas dives bomb you. (The Skua a large brownish predatory seabird related to the gulls, they pursue other birds to make them disgorge fish they have caught)

Grid reference for Sunderland crash site .

On this visit 8 years later there were very few Skuas about; there is a problem with their numbers this year. This made it a lot easier to visit the site at grid reference NF 085 991 at 232 metres is the where the main wreckage just above the ridge. There is other aircraft wreckage scattered in the burn just below the ridge. It’s an amazing place the glen is wide open and one can only think of what happened here.  

The memorial at the Church on St Kilda

In these tragic places seeing the destruction of a big aircraft is a very sombre place to be. I always have a few thoughts for the young crews who died here. As always it’s a sad tale as all the crew were buried at sea due to the war. On this aircraft there were 10 crew sadly all who all died here on 7 June 1944 the day after D/Day. The story of the missing plane is told in the excellent Book “Lost to the Isles” and the recovery of all the crew. A harrowing experience for those involved.

The crew – Cecil Osbourne – Pilot

Richard Ferguson –

2nd pilot

Frank Robertson

David Roulston –

Australian Emigrate

Johnny Lloyd

Oliver Reed

William Thomson

Reference: Lost to the Isles Volume 3 David Earl & Peter Dobson.

There are three known wrecks on St Kilda one near the summit of Conachair

Bristol Beaufighter LX 798 St Kilda.

There is a propellor near the summit of Conachair and another down by the jetty (May 2022.)

During World War II, a long range night fighter, Bristol Beaufighter LX798 of 304 FTU based at Port Ellen, Islay, crashed on Hirta, St Kilda within 100 metres (328 ft) of the summit of Conachair on the night of June 3, 1943, with the loss of two crew. Most of the wreckage slid down the hillside and was lost over over the cliffs, and no bodies were ever found. The time of the event may explain why this wreck is also reported on June 4, 1943.

There is also the wreck of a Wellington on Soay which I visited in the late 70’s I have written about this in previous blogs. The crew have not been formally identified despite our efforts and others.

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