Discover the tragic and fascinating aircraft crash sites of The Lake District.
Aircraft Crash Sites in the lake district
The lake district, with its striking beauty, the endless possibility for adventure, and enchanting views does not bring tragedy to the forefront of the mind. While enjoying the allure of undisturbed nature, the mysterious rolling hills found in the northwest of England and the wind caressing your face, you may happen upon the remains of an aircraft.
The possibility of this occurrence is higher than you might think – with an estimated 40-100 crash sites dispersed across the district. The possibility of whatever piece of the aircraft you find haven been there, exposed to the elements, since WWII, is even higher.
You could blame the altitude of the mountains, pilot error, engine failure or the vast expanse of the area for these accidents – all have contributed to these devastating accidents.
The wartimes were clearly tremendously turbulent time, with only minimal time available to be allocated to collection processes of the ruined aircrafts – plenty of aircraft components were left behind. Oftentimes crashes would occur unnoticed. With the less complex technology available at the time, this is not surprising.
The first recorded aviation crash occurred on 02 December 1911 owned by Lakes Flying Company and flying over Windermere – the aircraft was never located. The first downed aircraft to be located was found in the Helvellyn area only fifteen years later in 1926.
Due to the lake district having become a UNESCO protected area in 2007, the crash sites are now permanently protected and serve as a lasting reminder of our past. Few crashes have occurred in the district since and most of their crash sites have been completely cleared yet are still noted.
Curiosity will naturally be peaked by the sight of an engine or wing perched upon a relatively barren mountain. It is a destabilizing experience if you are not expecting to come upon the ruins of a tragedy as you trek through beauty, though you are escaping from the realities of everyday life, these crash sites can serve as an abrupt and harsh reminder. On the other hand, if you are prepared, these sightings can become moments of reflection, thought and respect.
You might even be tempted to search out specific historical crash sites as reading about the crash and seeing the site for yourself are vastly different experiences.
World War 2
A sharp spike of crashes has been recorded from the years of 1940-1945, mainly manned by RAF pilots. A clear indication in the change of circumstance surrounding the crash is the sudden variation in crash sites. The make of the aircraft also suddenly becomes somewhat uniform compared to previous crashes – evidence of the increase production line manufacturing of aircraft during the war period.
If you have an interest in aviation, you might like to seek out the disbanded engines which could be unique to the time in which they were produced. Unfortunately, the majority of crashes occurring during this time were due to poorly trained recruit pilots, or trained pilots under unexpected and undeserved stress. The first crash to occur in the Coniston area happened on the 20 December 1943. Manned by a crew of three – one unknown aged man and two 19-year-old men, the Barracuda P9828 met its end upon explosion after colliding with a drystone wall.
Little is known about the cause of the malfunction within the aircraft. Adrian Harris of yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk located the site to be within a field in Skelwith bridge near Coniston.
Hurricane V6565 – Slight Side
One of the most prominent aircraft crash sites can be discovered from Wasdale Head. Two Polish pilots on a flying exercise, long after taking off from Usworth, near Sunderland, flew through the cloud and hit the south end of Slight Side near Scafell. The two planes, a Hawker Hurricane Mk.I V6565 and V7742 hit the ground on 12th August 1941 and the pilots, members of No. 55 Operational Training Unit RAF Unsworth, would have died instantly.
You can see the Hurricane crash site if you descend Slight Side heading north-west towards the National Trust car park at Wasdale Head. Unexpectedly happening upon this site for the first time in 2017, I was stopped in my tracks.
Pieces from the crash can be found at the RAF Millom Museum.
Mysteries remain throughout the mountainous lands. Perhaps being the only downed aircraft on British soil to never have been identified in British history, the unidentified Beechcraft 18 model is believed to have originated from south-west Scotland. The trajectory of the flight is believed to be from Scotland towards Hedon, London.
Researchers have reason to believe that this task was done under the authority of representatives of the US forces who intended on visiting various aircraft bases across the UK. Aircraft fragments from this tragedy can still be found at the crash site to this day.
Believed to have simply lost their way, all three men on board died instantly on impact with the mountain named The Old Man of Coniston.
Halifax LL505 – Coniston
Between Swirl How and Great Carrs in the Coniston Fells, the wreckage of Halifax LL505 can be located. This crash is believed to be due to cloudy and unclear weather on 22nd October 1944, leading the 8-man crew from 1659 HCU Topcliffe to fly low and into the unsuspected high fells of Coniston.
The crew were aged 19 to 33 years old.
Most of the wreckage had to be quickly pushed over the top of Broad Slack to hide it from bombers in the air. I came across this site on a Winter hike around the Coniston Fells in 2016 with a group of friends.
You can find it between Swirl How and Great Carrs to the south-west of the ‘Top of Broad Slack’ as marked on Ordnance Survey OL 6 map.
Bristol Beaufighter EL285
There are many other remains from aircraft crash sites to be found throughout the entire district such as the Bristol Beaufighter EL285 which crashed at Wolf Crag on the 15 November 1943, killing both the pilot and co-pilot. Only a few small fragments of this aircraft can be found still on its crash site.
A relatively small number of aviation disasters have occurred since then with one of the most prominent occurring in 1973; many years passed the gloom of the war. Returning to Blackpool from a party held in in “The White Heather Club” in Cumbria a plane containing four people was last seen heading towards Illgill Head of the lake district. It is believed that harsh and foggy weather caused this crash.
Further research upon the crash sites found on the lake district will provide you with expansive knowledge to prepare you for any hike, trek, or camping trip you wish to take upon its many beautiful sprawling fells, and landscapes.
Every crash site I have found was unintentional, giving me chills that would last most of my descent from the hillside. These sites are memorials to men who gave their lives in the effort to fight tyranny. These men are as much heroes as their friends who died in the field and the sites where they died should be visited with respect.
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