• Air Crashes in the Galloway Hills

    Air Crashes in the Galloway Hills

    By Barry Donnan

    The Galloway Hills are located in the south-west of Scotland and are renowned these days as a hill-walkers paradise due to their remoteness and the splendid diversity of the upland terrain. The hills form part of the Southern Uplands and the high ground contains the wreckage of numerous aircraft, dating from the interwar years through to the late 1970s.

    Southern Scotland's highest peak The Merrick 843m (2,766ft) is the highest in the area and is rightly described by one outdoor writer, "as the monarch of the southern Highlands".

    Air Crashes in the Galloway Hills
    Looking onto the Dungeon Hills and the Merrick from the Rhinns of Kells.
    Backhill of Bush can be seen to the left of the middle plantation.

    The Merrick is my local hill and its start point is just four miles from my back door. Over the years I've stood on its summit trig point in rain, snow, sleet and fairly recently during a winter storm when the temperature was minus 15, with the wind gusting to 60/70 mph, as Storm Jorge battered the country.


    The author on the Merrick in the winter of March 2020.
    Conditions were similar to those faced by the rescue party on Corserine in January 1939.

    The highlight of my walking calendar is an ascent onto the Merrick during mid-summer to watch the sunset from its elevated position. Quite a breath-taking experience as the sun drops behind the rugged peaks of the Isle of Arran, bathing the rugged south-western coastline in a golden luminescence. Often, I descend back to Glen Trool under a clear twinkling sky (the area was designated as a Dark Sky Park in 2009) and the only sound is the wind blowing across the tops of the conifer plantations.

    Air Crashes in the Galloway Hills
    Mid-summer sunset from the Merrick, looking west to the Isle of Arran.

    In the winter of 1307 King Robert the Bruce and his small band of supporters used these hills as a place of refuge, frequently moving through the valleys and onto the higher terrain to avoid numerous English cavalry patrols searching for them. Bruce eventually adopted highly successful guerrilla warfare tactics and skilfully used the steep terrain above Loch Trool to ambush a patrol by rolling a volley of rocks and boulders onto the men far below.

    Despite being massively outnumbered this small victory allowed Bruce to move northwards, and fight once again, eventually turning the tide of the wars in his favor. Bruce is highly regarded as a skillful tactician who used the natural landscape and terrain to his advantage again later in his career.

    A granite monument on the northern shore of Loch Trool stands on a rocky ledge commemorating the Battle of Glen Trool (1307) and was erected by locals in the summer of 1929.

    As a dedicated hill-walker I have explored the area for well over thirty years and have developed a deep love and affinity with the landscape and the area. In 2014 I moved to Glentrool Village within Galloway Forest Park, which allows me unlimited access to a rather beautiful and unspoilt corner of Scotland all year round.

    One of my interests as a historian is in people who have lived or are intertwined with the upland environment and of course the stories that lie behind it all down through the ages.

    Six groups of hills form the Galloways, and I have focused initially on the Rhinns of Kells, which is a 17km ridge and its highest point Corserine, which has witnessed a number of air accidents over the years. One well documented accident in particular highlights the hazards posed by these hills to aviators, and also the difficulties faced by rescue and recovery teams.

    Well over 40 aircraft have crashed here over the years, although the exact figure is likely to be much higher. In my spare time (and when studies allow) I have been researching a significant number of other air crashes that have been forgotten about for one reason or another.


    9 Comments
    1. zswobbie1's Avatar
      zswobbie1 -
      Thanks, Barry for sharing such a great story. It is always interesting to read new & interesting tales.
    1. W33's Avatar
      W33 -
      Fascinating article, thank you!

      That's some mighty fine scenery you have over there!

      W33
    1. sfgarland's Avatar
      sfgarland -
      Great Story, and I love nearly all things Scottish. The photos are phantastic.
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Quote Originally Posted by W33 View Post
      Fascinating article, thank you!

      That's some mighty fine scenery you have over there!

      W33
      Many thanks. Yes we're lucky having all this on our doorstep.
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Quote Originally Posted by zswobbie1 View Post
      Thanks, Barry for sharing such a great story. It is always interesting to read new & interesting tales.
      Thank you and glad you enjoyed it!
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Quote Originally Posted by sfgarland View Post
      Great Story, and I love nearly all things Scottish. The photos are phantastic.
      Many thanks
    1. allanj12's Avatar
      allanj12 -
      Thank you for the article. I think that the Air Transport Auxiliary also lost some aircraft in the Wigtown area during ferry deliveries in WWII. A couple ended up lost off the coast but one or more went down on your hills, but I don't recall the details. The ATA Museum at Maidenhead may have information that could assist.
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Quote Originally Posted by allanj12 View Post
      Thank you for the article. I think that the Air Transport Auxiliary also lost some aircraft in the Wigtown area during ferry deliveries in WWII. A couple ended up lost off the coast but one or more went down on your hills, but I don't recall the details. The ATA Museum at Maidenhead may have information that could assist.
      Thank you Allan. I'll follow that up I'm trawling through old newspaper reports from the Second World War, and its amazing how many losses there were in the high ground. It would be great to have an accurate picture. All the best.
    1. AlyMac's Avatar
      AlyMac -
      thanks for sharing. Reminded me of when I met a chap from Dumfries when I had a military vehicle collection. He invited us for dinner and he had 4 brownings from a Tiffie which crashed up on the hills. He also brought out an MG-15 complete with twin magazine drums and spider web sight - which he had bought from an elderly gent who had "liberated" the weapon from the Me 110 flown by Rudolf Hess.
      Poor chap was jailed soon after for holding guns "Off ticket" as it were but I often wondered what happened to that lovely Machine Gun
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