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
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.
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.
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.
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.