Moving memorial to RAF crew at the summit of Beinn Eighe - Mountain rescue team climbs to crash site to lay wreath
By Neil MacPhail
A POIGNANT memorial service took place yesterday in Wester Ross, amid some of Scotland’s wildest mountains, to commemorate an RAF aircrew who died there in 1951.
The crash, near the summit of Beinn Eighe, happened in the early hours of March 14, 1951, after a Lancaster bomber from RAF Kinloss went missing off Cape Wrath.
The bomber hit the mountain and wreckage came to land in what became known as Fuselage Gully. In the harsh conditions it took days to get to the wreckage, and months to recover all the eight bodies.
The lessons learned from the recovery resulted in major improvements to the training and equipping of RAF mountain rescue teams, who have been responsible, with civilian teams, for saving many lives among the Scottish mountains.
It is for this reason that the event is etched in the collective memory of the RAF mountain rescue service, and yesterday members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue climbed to the crash site to lay a wreath in memory of their former colleagues.
Peter McGowan, a former RAF Kinloss team leader, said: “It’s important to remember the victims of this tragic crash and the dramatic effect this had on the development of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team.
“Back then the team was just in its infancy, but the Lancaster tragedy was key to it becoming the highly-equipped and trained unit it is today.”
The stunning sandstone and quartzite mountain, where the crew met their death is also home to some of Europe’s most precious wildlife, and the reserve is managed for the nation by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). There is a long history of involvement of SNH staff within the local mountain rescue team and current reserve manager, Eoghain Maclean, is leader of the Torridon and Kinlochewe Mountain Rescue Team.
He said: “Beinn Eighe is a very special place and, as a National Nature Reserve, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Most of the people who visit the reserve will not be aware of this sad, but important, story, and it’s fitting that we can pay respect to the airmen who died.”