Munro bagging has been on the back burner over the last couple of months. Adventures have still however been continuing weekly seeing me explore the country from Balmoral, to the island of Ailsa Craig. I was recently offered the chance by a local friend of visiting a plane crash site near Dunoon in Scotland. Of course I took him up on the offer to head both into the hills and investigate part of history.
Castle in the sky
The Flying Fortress was used as a heavy bomber originally during World War 2. It saw action all across the world from Japan to Europe and was known for being a fearsome site in the sky. The sheer amount of ordnance it was capable of carrying could quickly overwhelm an enemy position.
The particular plane I would be visiting was a B29 model. Technology was well ahead of its time. It had everything from a pressurised cabin, remote operated machine gun turrets and even dual wheeled landing gear. The chrome plated landing gear was of real interest as it had survived almost completely unscathed for 80 years. It was going to be an interesting trip.
Remote WW2 crash site
Getting to the plane wreckage was trickier than I first thought. The walk started near a farm in Succoth Glen in Argyll, Scotland. It began with a gentle Land Rover track before rising into the surrounding hill side towards Beinn Tharsuinn. Ground was difficult with rain coming down and the steep return through forrest required careful route finding. A return trip of around 6 miles makes for a short but interesting day out.
The crash took place on January 17th 1949 with a total of twenty crew and passengers on board. Flying from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire England. The bomber was returning men who had been working in Germany after the war to Kansas, USA.
Unfortunately for those aboard weather conditions in the air over Scotland deteriorated on way to refuel in Iceland. It is not fully known what happened. However the flaps may have iced over resulting in the planes wing clipping the Scottish hill side. The plane then sadly crashed with the loss of life of all those on board that day.
You can see details of the crash site and memorial in the above video footage. I was amazed at the amount of wreckage still intact given the weather regularly hitting the region. Engines, windows and the before mentioned landing gear were all still there. Even simple every day items like glass bottles of coke and aerosol cans lay strewn on the ground. It really hit home that this was a site that had seen a terrible loss of life.
Conspiracy crash theory abounds
For 50 years the crash site of the B29 bomber in Argyll had been classified as secret. Known only to locals who had helped retrieve the bodies of the fallen soldiers from the hill side. By early 2000 the details became wider public knowledge and led to several conspiracy theories being ran by tabloid newspapers.
These stories included everything from NAZI scientists being on board en route to work on American nuclear programs. Through to diamond smuggling and high ranking military staff. Whether or not there is any truth in there rumours it has added further mystery and intrigue to the tragedy. The only certainty is that men lost their lives that day in the Scottish hillside and should not be forgotten.