Sunday, 22 March 2020

Sabre Mk 6 23380

 Sabre Mk 6 23380
 Crashed into the summit of Iron Crag on 26/06/1959 at 13:11. The aircraft took off from Prestwick at 13:00 enroute to his home base of Grostenquin in France via a stop off at RAF Wethersfield in Essex to refuel. He never made it to Essex.
When the pilot was found his watch had stopped at 13:11 so is presumed to be the time of impact.
It was a misty/cloudy day and the pilot had climbed to avoid the Scottish mountains clearing those but not the English Lake District Mountains. He descended through cloud and hit Iron Crag (2077 feet High) just below the summit..  no one will ever know why, perhaps he thought he was out over the Irish Sea perhaps he thought he had flown further than he actually had done, but that is all conjecture, no one will ever know why for certain.
What is certain is that at 13:11 the aircraft hit the hill and exploded in a ball of flame, breaking up and tumbling for a half mile down the hillside. Much of the wreckage remains on site today, the tail was removed to the now defunct  Millom Aviation Museum (whereabouts now unknown). Dials and plates etc have been pillaged over the years but after that pretty much 75% of the aircraft remains on the hillside. With time pressing I only covered the main areas of crash site and didn’t descend the half mile to the engine and the furthest wing fragments.
The main areas of wreckage are around 400 – 450 m from the summit although there is still evidence of the gouge from the initial impact and a small collection of wreckage fragments have been placed in the gouge.
Walking down to the crash site it is very clear the aircraft exploded, evidence of the fire still remains in areas of scorched peat and heavy fragments as well as light ones are scattered across the scree field.
Below follows an account, found online (, by  a man called Geoff Bland who was involved in the search for the aircraft and covers his initial observations. I haven’t edited it in any way.
‘’ The radio news reported a Canadian F-86 jet missing, possibly in the lake district. Low cloud held up the search until the following day when the weather cleared and the plane was found on Iron Cragg.
The next day I set off alone from Ennerdale and went up Silvercove Beck turning right at the top. Being on unfamiliar territory, I followed the wall that runs along the skyline in a northwest direction. It was a fine sunny day and as I approached the summit I could smell paraffin on the southern side of the wall. I saw the impact point which looked like a deep plough mark in the ground.The aircraft, on a southerly course, must have been going downwards to have cleared the wall and to have struck where it did. The pilot possibly looking for a landmark on that cloudy day.
There must have been an explosion, for about 50 yards further down the tufts of grass, in a circular area, were scorched on one side, but still green on the sheltered side. This area would be around 30 yards in diameter. Now going down the hill, I began to find more peices of the plane - smaller, lighter parts that had fluttered and fallen, the heavier and more solid parts had kept flying onwards.
The area of the crash was very rough ground, with boulders and rocks amongst the heather and grass.Behind one of the rocks I found all the pilots personal posessions and a logbook, including his wallet which contained photos and nightclub tickets from Canadian cities such as Quebec and Montreal. Also I found his black laced shoes which were badly cut up. (All these items had been gathered up by the RAF Search party, but were lost in the mist). The pilots name was Robert G Starling. The birdman had fallen.
Further downhill lay quite large pieces of wings and the tail, amongst hundreds of scattered grafments. I then moved down to the soft ground of the valley, to where I was told later, the machine guns or cannons had been found embedded in the earth. Moving on and rising now to the lower slopes of Caw Fell, I saw the engine which had struck the rocks higher up with such force that part of the rock was powdered. The engine had then rolled back down the slope. The distance from the engine back to that first impact point would be just over half a mile.
After a while I climbed slowly back up the hill, retrieving the pilots gear on the way. This I returned to RAF Silloth the next day, and an Officer from the airfield came to my home to thank me for returning the pilots things.
Having spent several hours there, the scene was well planted in my mind, and so it was that 33 years later, I returned to the site with my fellow walking friend Graham Golder, and his son Shane. It was a strange experience to find that most of the pieces of the aircraft were still lying there, having survived all those seasons of wind, rain, snow and frost.
We slowly moved along, examining the parts with great interest, and for me it was like going back in time. Some time passed and we headed back towards Silver Cove on a beautiful summer evening. Then I thought back to when this peaceful and lonely lakeland valley was visited for a few moments by awful destruction and sudden death, and I thought of that young pilot whos short life had ended so tragically in the summer of 1959.
Geoff Bland
Great Corby
Cumbria’’Today, much of the wreckage remains as described by Geoff. It is one of the most complete crash sites in England. It is one I have wanted to visit for a long time but it is a very long way from anywhere and the routes up are all very steep, combined with it not being on a ’honey pot fell’ where the evidence of the crash sites seem to be removed, its possibly why the wreckage remains in situ.
A report on, says that
‘‘Robert "Robin" Starling was the son of Robert and Beryl Starling and was born on 30th October 1932 in Asansol, India. He enlisted into the RCAF on 23rd October 1953 in Montreal, Canada. His parents had either ran or where running Powri Hill Colliery in India at the time of his death.’’
The pilot was buried at Brookwood Cemetery Surrey.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

North American Mustang P-51 AP208
 North American Mustang Mk1 AP208 crashed here , on Holdren Moss in the Forest of Bowland on  29.11.1942. Crashed in mist twenty minutes into a photo  reconnaissance  sortie.
It was from No.4 Sqn, RAF, based at that time at Clifton.. This was the first Mustang lost by the squadron, two more were lost in training accidents before the year was out.
The pilot F/O Sholto Paton Marlatt (RCAF) was killed instantly. He is buried at Lytham St.Annes park cemetry.
Another bleak boggy moor , another pile of wreckage and another  young mans tragic death .
For such a small plane quite a lot is still there.

Monday, 13 March 2017


On 15th December 1945 whilst on a cross country navigational exercise flying out of RNAS Rattray in Scotland, Pilot Officer J.R. Crevier had a fortunate escape when he crashed into the flank of Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales. With only minor injuries he managed to walk off the hillside unaided.
What now remains of the wreckage is now scattered through reeds and long grass.
Some very easy to find items are located in the wall below the impact point.

Impact point

Sunday, 19 February 2017

'Woodford' Style Pillbox


Built between 1941 and 1942 one of a ring of 12 pillboxes providing defensive cover around Woodford Airfield and Aircraft Factory in Cheshire. The Pillboxes also formed a part of Western Stop Line no.6.
Built in a manner often seen with Seagull trenches this one consists of a stone/brick wall with a concrete lid on 4 posts added to it.
Set at a low level to the surrounding countryside only the slit and lid would have been visible to any attackers. This version does not have any blast walls either inside or out. The 12 'Woodford' Pillboxes whilst similar do not all follow the same exact format, though most seem to have large slits and a slab roof on posts. Some do have an external blast wall and whilst most are square some have a curved front wall.
They are not listed in normal pillbox classifications and are deemed specials, exclusive to the Woodford area.
Below can be seen two others, photographs courtesy of the The Defense of Britain Database.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

 Naval Air Station Killingholme

The remaining jetty
The Naval Air Station at Killingholme on the Humber in North Lincolnshire was formed in 1914. It closed in 1919 after a short spell as a US Navy Base.
Seaplanes were flown out of here by the Royal Navy in order to provide protective cover to a number of sensitive and vital establishments in the area such as the adjacent Admiralty Oil Depot and the Humber ports.  There was a large single slipway which has now been demolished. The slipway that still exists in ruins is one of two that were built in front of the hard-standing and hangers to allow access for the aircraft to the sea. In the old picture taken from the sea of an aircraft in front of the hangers this slipway can be seen on the right. It is the Northern most slipway.  Apart from some timber piles from the other slipway nothing else remains on site. The hangers were dismantled in 1919 and rebuilt to provide Grimsby with a bus station. Apparently they are still there hidden behind a brick facade in Grimsby.
Hangers behind with slipways to either side

What remains is in very poor condition and its probably not going to last much longer

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Sabre F4 XD712
On the 16th June 1955 whilst flying in a four aircraft formation XD712 broke up in mid air killing the pilot  Flying Officer  Lawrence Michael Percival Harryman.
The official report states ''This a/c No.3 in a tail chase was seen to commence to pull out from a dive. Shortly before the nose came above the horizon the a/c rolled onto its back and entered cloud. It was next seen by ground witnesses with the forward part of the fuselage on fire and cartwheeling through the air. When the remainder of the a/c crashed the pilot, still strapped in the ejector seat, was thrown clear and killed.''
It goes on to say that ''It is considered that the pilot blacked out when attempting to follow his No.2 and on regaining consciousness overstressed the a/c to such an extent that it broke up''

A reliable witness on the ground says that the aircraft was flying level when it broke up rather than pulling out of a dive. This same witness visited the area in which the aircraft fragments fell to earth. They were scattered around a land drain near a road bridge across the drain south of the Humber in Lincolnshire a few miles from Elsham.  The pilot was found still in his ejector seat in the drain itself.

No trace of the crash is now visible in the area. There may be fragments in the fields or the waste from dredging the drains but we found nothing.
Looking North toward the Humber

Elsham OB

Even a partially collapsed  OB is difficult to see

A visit to an incredible WW2 remnant .... In 1940 the threat of invasion was very real.
The government decided to create defenses for resistance should that expected invasion arrive. Many of these were very visible the Home Guard for instance ....but Churchill also had more clandestine operations put in place. Across the country can be found deep in woodland hidden bases for storing weapons and hiding men who once the area was over run by the German forces would creep out behind the German lines and wreak havoc upon the German supply systems and be a catalyst for counter attack. There are 15 of these in Lincolnshire the pictures here show one of them which has partially caved in.

Main entrance from inside main room
Escape corridor
Escape exit with groove for storing hatch when opened

Sunday, 15 November 2015

De Havilland Vampire VZ874


A 'VZ'  in rocks denotes the location the aircraft impacted the mountain
 On the 12th October 1956  at 1910 hours this aircraft , the De Havilland Vampire VZ874 took off from RAF Valley on nearby Anglesey.  The pilot, a member of the Fleet air Arm, Sub-Lt R. Davies was in training on Vampires and had just begun his night flying training having already flown a total of 110 hours in the type. His brief that night was to fly locally and do circuits (landings and takeoffs at the airfield).
Flying by instruments alone and only ten minutes after taking off the aircraft crashed into the West of the summit of Mynydd Mawr in Snowdonia. Unfortunately Sub-Lt Davies was killed in the crash.
The aircraft is said to have exploded on impact many parts of the aircraft continued across the summit and fell into the the cwm below  on the East face of the  summit.
The alleged impact point is now marked by the aircraft's letters in the scree a V and a Z .We found nothing here now...but possibly didnt look hard enough because photographs of small fragments can be seen on the internet.
On descending into Cwm Planwydd we had more success finding engine parts and aircraft spars.
The Aircraft a D.H. 100 F.B.Mk 5 was built at Broughton as a batch order of 63 machines.

A spar and some engine parts in the Cwm

Sunday, 1 November 2015

 De Havilland Mosquito MkII W4088
On the 1st November 1944 this Mosquito Aircraft crashed into Mynydd Mawr in  North Wales.
Flying out of RAF Cranfield on a night navigation exercise the crew became misplaced and crashed into the hillside at a col below the summit. The aircraft broke up and was scattered over a wide area, the bulk of it coming to rest and burning out.
This location can still be seen. a liberal scattering of brass screws from the wooden aircrafts structure and molten alloy from the engines cover the site.
Further down the hill a substantial section of undercarriage remains still with timber extant attached.
Other smaller pieces of wreckage can be found with a careful search of the area.
Unfortunately both crewmen were killed in the crash. They were

Captain J. De Thuisy
Pilot Officer J. Marchal
Location where the aircraft burnt out
Our visit took place on the 71st anniversary of the crash.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Lancaster PA411 Commemorative Visit

On the 20th December 1948 an Avro Lancaster (PA411) crashed into Tintwhistle Knarr on route back to its base at RAF Lindholme after a night training flight.
The plane was heard by locals flying in low cloud up the valley. A few moments later a vivid flash could be seen closely followed by an audible crunch of metal as the aircraft came to grief on the rock strewn peaty moor. An orange glow filled the cloud around the crashed aircraft as the fuselage and wings burned fiercely.
Mr Barry Love places a cross at the site of the Lancaster's tail section and where his relative died

Locals having realised what had happened rushed to the blazing wreck to see if anything could be done. First on the scene were the male members of the Bagshaw family, John and his sons Jack, Basil, Neville and Ernest. It took them only thirty minutes to reach the wreckage from Old Road, Tintwhistle. Yet what awaited them was a scene of devastation.

The pilot must have seen the moor at the very last moment and attempted to make the aircraft climb away from the danger, too late the nose rose, but the tail hit the ground breaking off the whole tail section from just before the aircraft's doorway. The aircraft's recovery then stalled and the  main fuselage of the Lancaster smashed into the moor and exploded in a ball of flames. Contemporary photographs taken the day after the crash show an almost intact tail section sat upon a peaty mound with the rest of the aircraft destroyed in the distance behind it.

The first crew member they came across was the person whose post was Tail-End Charlie on this training operation. It is assumed that this was Sergeant William Allen Love who was a signaller. He preferred to be called Allen rather than William.
Sgt.Love was still alive when the would be rescuers arrived. He was to die in the arms of Mr Bagshaw. Sgt Love's watch had stopped at 10 seconds to midnight which must indicate the exact moment the Lancaster slammed into the moor.
The rest of the 7 man crew were either engulfed in the fuselage or lay dead, scattered around the burning aircraft. It was most likely the usual Peak District crash site case of the aircraft being too low, in cloud and perhaps they believed they were somewhere other than over the Dark Peak.

Roll time on 67 years and a series of  events leads Sgt Love's great nephew  Mr Barry Love to this tragic section of moor above Longdendale.
Barry inherited a group photograph on a family members death and from this starting point, a picture dated 1941 of the three brothers dressed in uniform the search began.
Jack(Barrys Grandfather) and James were both Flight Sergeants in the RAF, an Observer and Air Gunner respectively, whilst Allen too young to join up in 1941 was pictured in an ATC uniform.
In 1942 the Wellington in which Jack was flying had to crash land in Northern France. Jack walked 290 miles and made it to the Swiss border where he was captured by the Germans and detained as a POW for the remainder of the war. He passed away in 1997 aged 85.
Unfortunately James was killed in action when his aircraft,  Handley Page Halifax LK762, was shot down during a March raid on Nuremburg in 1944 by a fighter using Schrage Musik (flying underneath the bomber and firing a vertically mounted gun into the fuel tanks of the bomber). It was James first op on his second tour of duty.
The third brothers fate (Allen) was very much an unknown to Barry and became the quest.
In the first instance Barry searched through the Births Deaths and Marriages register finally finding a person with the same name registered  as dead in Cheshire. Another photograph turned up of a young man now dressed in a RAF Air Gunners uniform , it was signed on the back ''With Love to Mum and Dad from Allen''. Could this be the boy in the group photograph dressed in ATC uniform?
Here the trail grew cold until Barry contacted  a Mr Jim Sewell who, with access to the Armed Forces  personnel database, found more information on how Allen had met his end. The Lancaster crash was noted and this led to a search of the internet where they came across some photographs of the scene taken by myself, Paul Johnson. I was able to later confirm that these were of PA411 and that it was indeed the aircraft of Sgt Love.
Barry then placed an advert on for anyone who may have further information. There was an immediate response from well known local aircraft crash site historian Mr. Norman Winterbottom.
A meeting was arranged and Barry, Norman, and myself were joined by aviation archaeologist Mr. Kevin Brown and his partner Lynda,  along with the TV Aircraft Crash Investigator Garth Barnard.

On the arranged date Sunday 5th April, this small party made its way up the moor in perfect weather listening intently to Norman's insight to the crash and to Barry's explanation as to how we had all arrived at this point. At the crash site, respects were paid to the crewmen and we all discussed the crash and attempted to visualise the scene and how the crash had panned out. A crash site visit is always poignant never less so than when in attendance with a family member of the deceased crew.
It was a moving occasion.

The full list of the men who died in this crash
Flight Sergeant Jack Sherwood Thompson, Pilot
Flight Lieutenant Peter Maurice Maskell, Navigator
Flight Sergeant Robert Smith, Signaller
Flight Sergeant Vincent Graham, Flight Engineer
Sergeant William Allen Love, Signaller
Flight Lieutenant Thomas Lowerth Johnson, Instructor
Flight Sergeant David William Henry Harris,  Instructor

Some of these men survived the war yet perished on an unforgiving hillside in the bleakness of a winters night. Despite being a truly tragic tale there is now a sense of closure for Barry and his family.

On our way down  from PA411 we visited a P-38 crash site and the site of the 3 Hurricanes that also crashed on the Knarr. It was a reminder, if we needed one, of the many sacrifices made for us by men we will never know.

Barry would like to thank  all parties for attending on the day and in particular Jim Sewell for his valuable research and Norman Winterbottom for relating the in depth knowledge of the happenings of the night of 20th/21st December 1948.