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Autumn Road Trip Diary – Part 3

24 Oct

torr 1000

Monday 12 October – Death of a Plane

On the 13th June 1945 a USAAF B-24H Liberator with 9 crew and 6 US army passengers took off from Prestwick for home, having survived the War. The exact events are unknown but it appears the airplane lost its way in poor visibility and glanced off the nearby mountain of Slioch. The airplane started to break up as it circled Gairloch bay and on its second run in to the bay, possibly trying to ditch, it failed to clear the rocky knolls near Sidhean Mor and crashed into an area known as the Fairy Lochs, all on board were killed instantly.

Taken from http://www.geocaching.com – my thanks to the eccythumps

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J was not happy.  Having grudgingly consented to an uphill walk into the semi wilds she found herself trudging up an unpleasantly soggy track climbing from the more civilised delights of Loch Shieldaig into its adjacent hummocky (and decidedly boggy) hinterland.  I had come across a pre-planned route from the walkhighlands.co.uk website (thanks Paul) taking us for a tour around a series of small lochans and the wartime crash site of a US Liberator.  We were hoping that there would be some decent views to both the Torridons and the coast, as well as the prospect of finding what remained of the old plane.

A disgruntled squawk came from the path below me.  Oops, J had now read the print-out of the directions for the walk and had discovered the bog rating!  Admittedly there were quite a few indications in both the ratings (and the text) that there might be just a wee bit of dampness to be encountered.  Out of consideration for my general wellbeing I pleaded ignorance rather than admit to knowing about the soft going.  As a result my ability to read simple instructions was questioned somewhat scathingly and at length.

The Fatdog was in her gloopy element as she somehow failed to miss every boggy hole on the way up.  J was probably not in her element, judging by the glares, as she also failed to miss every boggy hole on the way up.  Just goes to show you can’t please everybody.

The Fatdog in her element

The Fatdog in her element

When you get a view in this part of the world - you get a VIEW - Baosbheinn (left)

When you get a view in this part of the world - you get a VIEW - Baosbheinn (left)

A single propeller blade stuck poignantly from the dull grey surface of the tiny lochan some 20m from the solid rock buttress holding the memorial plaque.  I don’t pretend to know in which direction the plane was heading when it crashed into this remote location but the flat looming face of the buttress lent finality to the scene as if confirming that it was the object past which the dying plane would not pass.  Strolling amongst still shiny fragments of the 64 year old catastrophe it was difficult to comprehend that the crash had happened such a long time ago.  Pieces of engine block and twisted frame littered the area with edges so sharp that the Fatdog had to be kept well away before paws were inadvertently sliced open.

No words...

No words...

The Memorial against the rock buttress

The Memorial against the rock buttress

The Last Roll Call

The Last Roll Call

Pieces of wreckage were scattered both in the water...

Pieces of wreckage were scattered both in the water...

...and on the surrounding land

...and on the surrounding land

As if determined to relive the horror of that appalling crash somewhere in the sky amongst the clouds a deep thrumming sound approached from the west.  The unmistakeable sound of prop engines flying unseen overhead played havoc with the senses.  Past mingled with present as our minds began to realise exactly what we were hearing.  Minutes later the plane had passed and the present re-established itself but for a minute or so it was impossible to shake off thoughts of the fatal events of 1945.

FD and I climbed up a nearby knoll in search of a geocache, leaving J to chat to another group of walkers who had arrived at the memorial.  As we gained a bit of height hitherto unseen pieces of wreckage became visible in the grass between the small lochans.  I rejoined J and the other arrivals back down by the lochan side.

As The Fatdog and I climbed...

As The Fatdog and I climbed...

...more and more wreckage became visible scattered over the landscape

...more and more wreckage became visible scattered over the landscape. The rock buttress is on the right.

Like the other pilgrims we wandered around slowly, looking at each small plane remnant in turn, the way you would study gravestones in a silent graveyard.

Quietly we set off south west following a trail across bog land to reach an estate track taking us back to Shieldaig.

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10 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2009 in General Drivel

 

10 responses to “Autumn Road Trip Diary – Part 3

  1. fenlander

    October 25, 2009 at 12:46 am

    “We are the Pilgrims, Master; we shall go always a little further”
    A little bit of the true meaning of that phrase begins to show in this report.
    The airmen in that aeroplane didn’t ‘beat the clock’. Sorry Ken only another Pilgrim would know what I mean.

     
  2. Linda

    October 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    My parents did this walk 2 years ago whilst on holiday in Gairloch. My mother fell into just about every boggy bit in sight, apart from Dad who, for some reason, had no sign of any mud splattered clothing after they returned from the walk. Perhaps Maisie could give Mum a lesson!

    The photos are very poignant but the one of the view looking to Baosbheinn is stunning.

     
  3. fatdogwalks

    October 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Linda welcome to the blog! 😀

    We met a few people who went down the way we went up i.e. the boggy way. Keeping their feet seemed to have been a major problem. I’ve been meaning to drop a note to Paul who runs the walkhighlands site to suggest poles if the route is done in reverse. Maisie very rarely looks mucky when she gets back from a walk – this is a great puzzle to me. In fact she gets muckiest on tracks, which seems a bit perverse.

    The crash site is very atmospheric – probably because so many pieces are left scattered around. The rock butress on which the plaque is fixed is just scary because you keep imaging the plane running straight into it – whether that was actually the case or not.

    The Baosbheinn shot was the last good one of the holiday (don’t tell anyone else as I’ve still some stuff to write)
    as the cloud hung around for the next couple of days.

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Was this your first visit to the blog or have you dropped in sometime in the past ?- I’m busy trying to work out how many readers I actually have as I’m not very clever with the blog stats 😆

    PS You didn’t say whether your folks enjoyed the walk…or not! 😀

     
  4. Linda

    October 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Yes, my folks enjoyed the walk, apart from the mud! 😀 They did it during the summer if I remember rightly.

    I post on the Scottish Hills website and very much enjoy reading your ‘exploits’ with Maisie and Cap’n Jack – I’ve been wondering why he has been given that nickname! Last week I visited your blog for the first time and I’ve also read The Fat Dog Repository. The photographs on both your sites are fantastic. : D

     
  5. fatdogwalks

    October 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Ah the curse of usernames on web forums. I now scratch my head thinking about scottishhills meets in case I’ve bumped into a Linda but I don’t think I have…I think…maybe…did I?…jeez I have a bad memory. Do I get a clue? 😆

    Cap’n Jack – my son Christopher. When I began writing I wanted to develop characters. That never really got underway but I did assign names to a few of the people I’d walked with. eg Sgt Cuillin and The Prince of Darkness (Daveg). I thought there also might be a bit of confusion referring to Chris (with ChrisM about)so I came up with Cap’n Jack based on his two favourite characters Cap’n Jack Sparrow and Captain Jack Harkness (Dr Who and Torchwood). Also, at the time, his favourite tipple was Jack Daniels.

    You can play guess his age from the photos…not many get it right. 😉

     
  6. Martin Rye

    October 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    It is sad that in the mist of such beauty lies such tragedy. To survive the war and then suffer such a tragic end. Life is cruel some times.

     
  7. Tessa Park

    October 27, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Well you learn something new every day – I assumed your son’s name was Jack for some reason 😉

    Nice pictures there, glad you had a good time.

     
  8. fatdogwalks

    October 28, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Martin, I think what is amazing about this place is that it doesn’t feel as if the accident happened a long time ago with so many bits and pieces lying about.

    Not being a crash chaser I don’t know if this is typical, though I would expect most are pillaged by souvenir hunters, This one is a memorial so I assume that is why so many pieces are still there.

    Tessa 😀 I must admit I thought you knew Cap’n Jack’s real identity 😆 .

     
  9. Linda

    October 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Ken

    No, you haven’t bumped into me yet! 😀 I’m a fairly new member to the Scottish Hills forum. My username is Lindylui. I haven’t been doing much in the way of walks since April this year – the joys of saving for a wedding. In regards to Christopher’s nickname, I did wonder whether he liked Cap’n Jack Sparrow! 😀 I am useless at guessing people’s ages but I will give it a go – I would say Christopher is in his mid twenties and hopefully I won’t get lynched if I ever meet you both on a hill! 😀

     
  10. fatdogwalks

    October 29, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Linda: Much to my embarassment I decided to stalk you on ScottishHills – well at least try to work out which username held the highest probability of being yours 😆 . I did guess the right one (ok I know it wasn’t exactly mensa stuff) but didn’t quite have the courage of my convictions to post my guesswork on the blog…I am pathetic 😦 !

    Christopher does a pretty good impression of Cap’n Jack Sparrow and has for a work event dressed up in piratical fashion and done his impersonation, complete with the camp run.

    Well done on the age guess. He’ll be 27 in February and always requires ID in pubs ’cause if he’s clean shaven he can look about 14. 😯

     

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