• Galloway Air Crashes 1940 - 1979

    Galloway Air Crashes 1940 - 1979

    Adventure, Hills and History

    By Barry Donnan

    'Military aircraft crash sites are an important part of Britain's military and aviation heritage. Predominantly dating from World War II, during which there was a massive expansion in air activity over the UK, they comprise the buried, submerged or surface remains of aircraft, most of which crashed either in combat or training.'

    Military Aircraft Crash Sites - Historic England (2002)

    In my last article published on FlightSim.Com, I examined a double air crash that took place high on the slopes of Meikle Craigtarson, a remote and steep western spur of Galloway's second highest mountain, Corserine (2,617 ft) on 9th January 1939. You can read the full article here.

    On the 27th of November 1940, Armstrong Whitley P5009, with three crew onboard departed from RAF Dumfries for a short transit flight to RAF West Freugh. The crew were tasked with picking up a small group of RAF officers at West Freugh, before returning to Dumfries. In command was Pilot Officer Leon Szamrajew of the Polish Air Force, with Flight Sergeant Jerzy Luszczewski, as the co-pilot. 19-year-old aircraftman Douglas Barnes of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) was the third crew member.

    The Whitley belonged to 10 Bombing and Gunnery School, redesignated as 10 Air Observer School, a month before in September 1940. Atrocious weather meant the briefed flight route was to the south of the normal track across the Solway to West Freugh. The route was intended to avoid the mountainous terrain of the Galloway hills.

    In this area the high ground is composed of twenty-eight mountains over 2,000 ft and four that are above 2,500 ft. In the depths of winter, thick low cloud hangs on the tops for weeks, driving rain and severe wind shear, make the area extremely hazardous for aviators.

    Only fifteen minutes after departure P5009 was last seen by the Royal Observer Corps, a few miles to the west of St. John's Town of Dalry. This track showed the crew were well north of their advised route and dangerously close to the mountainous terrain, on the eastern side of the Galloway hills. The Armstrong Whitley was never seen again.

    During the Second World War years, the rolling hills and glens of Wigtownshire were abundant in hill farms. Modern forest tracks didn't exist. The Sitka spruce plantations that are familiar to modern hill walkers, mountain bikers, and visitors came later, in 1947, with the creation of Galloway Forest Park. The nature of the terrain presented great difficulty to those who were involved in search and recovery operations. Even today, hill-walkers find the terrain challenging both physically and mentally.

    An extensive search of the hills was arranged, with miles and miles of boggy upland terrain painstakingly searched on foot by volunteers' teams from RAF Wigtown. Local shepherds were also asked to maintain vigilance as they wandered the hills looking after their flock. For many days, the search teams hunted high and low, with no trace of the aircraft found.

    Galloway Air Crashes
    Image 1. Loch Enoch from the nearby summit of Craignaw. The Merrick is the first peak on the left. Craignaw was also the scene
    of an air accident in 1979, when a USAF F1-11E impacted just below the summit.

    Loch Enoch is an extensive body of deep water. (Image 1). The remote hill loch lies to the east of The Merrick (843m), the highest mountain on the southern Scottish mainland. Only Goatfell (874m) to the west on the Isle of Arran, and Ben Lomond (974m), in the southern highlands are higher. Scottish broadcaster and author Tom Weir, writing in The Scottish Lochs, published in 1972, describes Loch Enoch as, 'a strange, ragged loch with islands at 1,617 feet ringed by naked rock slabs and strewn with boulders as if the ice had melted yesterday.'

    Galloway Air Crashes
    Image 2. Whitley P5009 impacted in the promontory in the middle right of the image.

    James McBain discussed the loch extensively in his excellent book The Merrick and the Neighbouring Hills published in 1929. Famously (and perhaps rather foolishly) James waited until Loch Enoch was frozen over in the depths of a harsh winter, before walking onto the ice, to plumb the depths of the loch. After chiselling a small hole, James dropped a weighted line into the chilly waters, recording a depth of 127 foot, making the loch the deepest in the south-west of Scotland. (Image 2). James noted, ' During my sojourn on the loch the wind never ceased to drive ribbons of snow, falling from the clouds, across the ice, and it was excessively cold.'

    1. AlyMac's Avatar
      AlyMac -
      Fantastic reading auld pal - thanks fur sharin :-)
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Thanks Aly. My pleasure
    1. sky44's Avatar
      sky44 -
      Very Interesting.
    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      Thank you.
    1. W33's Avatar
      W33 -
      Excellent article!

      Thank you for the time and effort you put into writing this. Your research is superb!

    1. BarryDon's Avatar
      BarryDon -
      My pleasure W33. Thank you for the kind comments!
    1. archangelmj12's Avatar
      archangelmj12 -
      Superior writing and accounts of history. Under the same pretense i was researching and saw an article about the missing aircraft that took off from Malaysia and was lost.
      From what the article said he had found the plane in a Vietnam jungle, well I went on to Google map and i located the wreckage and i measured it from satellite in meters, the measurements were off by two meters of the fuselage small break. I also located a small clearing with huts about from what im seeing at the most 3 to 10 miles. its a large makeshift clearing, near enough that anyone there would of heard the plane crash.
      Im surmising that the clearing with huts was a recovery by either legal or illegal operatives.
      What I did find interesting is the damage to the aircraft which showed wings rudder flaps all intact, the aircraft went down without power and there wasnt any fuel damage to vegatation anywhere in the surrounding area, no skid no downed trees, this aircraft did a freefall, and from the damages im seeing, there is sign of holes made by projectile and what appears to be damage from a missile of some sorts.
      What i found absurd is after the find Im not seeing anyone stepping up in Govt anywhere discussing what to do next.
      As you recall, the Soviets shot down an airliner over the Kamchtuk Peninnsula and strafed the water killing all passengers including a senator or congressmen from Georgia.
      Im also wondering if the reason they havent gone in is as to what they will find.
      Semper Fidelis
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