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Thread: Highland Sopwith Camel Crash

  1. #1
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    Highland Sopwith Camel Crash

    I have just been reading the book 'Bomber Crew' by James Taylor and Martin Davidson (Hodder & Stroughton, 2004) - I think it was published in association with the Ch4 'reality' show, anyway, in it there is a seemingly first-hand account of a search team looking for a lost training aircraft during WWII in the Highlands of Scotland, discovering the remains of a Sopwith Camel, still containing the remains of its pilot.
    Now I recall mention of this in one of the 'High Ground Wreck' books (possibly by Eddie Doylerush) but it was discounted as being nothing more than rumour. Anyone know any more (either way)?
    Martin

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    I've heard this before too - but with a 'ghostly' element, something about a Spit being unable to catch a 'phantom' biplane, which disappeared when the wreck was discovered, IIRC the pilot was trapped in the cockpit and died of exposure - I beleive it was found during the War so I assume it was scrapped, if indeed it ever existed...

    TT
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  3. #3
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    It's certainly a very old story. The version I was told was of a team in WW2 sent up to search for a lost aircraft in the Scottish highlands and finding the remains of a Camel with a skeleton in the cockpit.
    In the version I was told the crew set fire to the wreckage, including the human remains, and tried to keep the story quiet.
    It goes along with the many stories of "Camels" hidden in barns etc.

  4. #4
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    I first read about the crashed Camel in one of my father,s old war time Aeroplane Spotter magazines. I cant remember which year it was. I must go through them again when i get time. I wrote to David J Smith year,s ago when it was mentioned in a early 'High Ground Wrecks' book.

  5. #5
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    Highland Sopwith Camel Crash - Zombie

    Quote Originally Posted by G-ASEA View Post
    I first read about the crashed Camel in one of my father,s old war time Aeroplane Spotter magazines. I cant remember which year it was. I must go through them again when i get time. I wrote to David J Smith year,s ago when it was mentioned in a early 'High Ground Wrecks' book.
    This would be the "28th August 1941" Issue of Aeroplane Spotter - I would love a verbatim version of what it says (if you still have the copy)

    BTW Can anyone who has 'Bomber Crew' confirm that the lost training aircraft was a Miles Master? The Camel is supposed to be RNAS one.... but as with all this.. the sory might get better an better which each re-telling

    Many thanks

    Paul
    Weather - Fair with cloudy patches, clear by early evening.

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    I've got the relevant Aeroplane Spotter but not readily to hand. It was a lovely story which appeared to have a grain of truth in it. Quite recently I discovered that it was indeed true and I have the details filed away somewhere. They include the pilot's name and an approximate location. Must search in my chaotic records.

    David J Smith (Yes, that one!)

  7. #7
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    Found it.

    Dave
    Last edited by G-ASEA; 5th November 2012 at 10:00.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by G-ASEA View Post
    Found it.

    Dave
    Dave and Dave

    Dave G-ASEA

    Thanks for that post..

    Dave 'High Ground Wrecks'

    If you could dig out the information about the location and pilots name that would be great it would put to death a 70 year old mystery (the aeroplane spotter story) and a 95 old one as well (when the camel crashed'.)..

    Many Thanks

    Paul
    Last edited by paulmcmillan; 26th April 2011 at 16:44.
    Weather - Fair with cloudy patches, clear by early evening.

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    I'll try, Paul, but don't hold your breath!
    Dave

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    Dave I will try not to get excited that this can be closed for good
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  11. #11
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    Paul, you can exhale now, I managed to find the information. It was a Pup, not a Camel! The story was published in Aviation Archaeologist magazine Series 2 No 45 in 2004. This is the official quarterly publication for the British Aviation Archaeological Council and well worth its modest subscription. PM me if you want contact details.

    A CROSS MARKS THE SPOT.

    David Hanson.

    In 1941,the "Aeroplane Spotter" carried the surprising news story that a Sopwith Camel, missing since 1918, had been found in a remote part of Scotland with the skeleton of its pilot still in it! Later, just after the war, the book "I Couldn't Care Less" by former Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Anthony Phelps told of how a party of men on their way to salvage a crashed Wellington in the Grampians had stumbled across the Camel.

    I wondered if there was any truth in these stories and decided to investigate. Despite the passage of time and an almost complete lack of information in RAF records and newspapers, I have found that while there were no missing Camels and pilots, there is some basis for the story.

    James Harvey Hall of 228 Hornby Street, Bury, Lancashire, had joined the Royal Fusiliers in September, 1914, despite being only seventeen years old.
    He was wounded in France in July, 1916, and took some time to fully recover. On being declared fit for duty, he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was commissioned in March, 1918.1n June of that year, he volunteered as a pilot in the newly-formed Royal Air Force, although at he time of his death records still show him as a member of the 6th Lancashire Fusiliers. His pilot training was undertaken at the 32nd Training Depot Station at Montrose, Tayside.

    On 25th August, 1918, Second Lieutenant Hall was sent for a cross-country navigation training flight in Sopwith Pup D4030 and failed to return.
    To quote the subsequent Court of Inquiry report, "A heavy mist came up below him. He must have attempted to fly through it in order to find his direction when the aeroplane struck a very high hill, killing him instantaneously". He was found at 2.00 pm on the following day. Apart from the removal of his body,and possibly some of the aircraft's instruments, the scene was abandoned and the Pup left where it was. James Hall was buried with military honours at Redvales Cemetery in Bury on August 31st.

    Twenty-two years later, Britain was once again at war with Germany, and RAF Montrose was busy training pilots, some of whom flew into the surrounding hills. On 15th December, 1940, Leading Aircraftman E.E.D. Clarke was sent on a cross-country navigation training flight in Miles Master NI602, from which he failed to return.

    During ten days of searching for the aircraft, wreckage was sighted on a hillside. When the search party arrived at the scene, they were surprised to find what was identified as a Sopwith Camel. So that the "Camel" would not cause confusion in any subsequent searches, personnel of 56 Maintenance Unit were instructed to remove the wreckage. This was attempted in the spring of the following year,but abandoned due to "limited resources" and the aircraft was buried at the site.

    The Pup had crashed on land belonging to Auchmull Farm in Glen Esk. When the working party crew told the farmer, Mr.William Reid , that they had buried the wreckage, Mr. Reid and his wife visited the site and erected a wooden cross. The RAF station at Edzell is just four miles from the crash site, so the 56 Maintenance Unit men would have been billeted there, and spoken to the airmen at the base, so starting the story of the missing "Camel" and its pilot.
    It is probable that someone at Edzell informed the "Aeroplane Spotter" of the story.

    Perhaps, at some time, Anthony Phelps called there and was told the story.I had thought that the account of the pilot's skeleton still being in the aircraft had been made up by the 56 Maintenance Unit recovery crew, or that the story had been embellished as it was told. However, I have been told that Mr. Reid had also spoken of bones remaining in the wreckage. As he would have known that the pilot's body had been removed at the time of the accident, and that he and his family had examined the Pup, he should have known that there were no human remains in the aircraft. Could it be that when the wreckage was being broken up to be buried some bone was found?

    Although it is known that the Pup lies somewhere on Auchmull land, the site has not yet been found. Of those who knew of the location, all are now dead. However, when aviation enthusiast Alistair Skene heard that I was looking for a World War One crash site, he immediately came up with the story of the "Camel." He thought that it had crashed to the north of Auchmull, close to the Merche Fence, in the Hill of Fingray area. This is not Auchmull land, so perhaps he may have been mistaking the site with that of Master N7602. After speaking to the gamekeeper in the area, I found only the Master.

    The present owner of Auchmull knows only of aircraft wreckage on his land on East Wirren.This is probably from a Sea Fury. One of his employees, who has been there for ten years did not know of any crosses. Auchmull land covers both sides of the River Esk, so we are looking for a wooden cross, put up in 1941, somewhere within about five square miles of land. By now it may well have decayed into a short stump, so finding the site will be far from easy.

    The Montrose Air Station Museum has been informed of what has been learnt. If the Pup could be found, such items as the Clerget engine would make excellent exhibits.

  12. #12
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    Paul, I tried to answer your PM but your box is full! The answer is yes but credit the info to David Hanson and AA mag please.
    Dave

  13. #13
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    Dave in box cleared but yes I will give proper credit
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  14. #14
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    Dave

    Just a few typos/Updates

    Pup Pilot was James Hervey (not Harvey) Hall

    http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_...asualty=376265

    Master was N7602 of 8 FTS not NI602


    Leading Aircraftman Ernest Dowling Clarke #1251069 of 8 FTS

    http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_...sualty=2459495

    His body was found on Hill of Fingrey, Kincardineshire on the 24th December 1940
    Weather - Fair with cloudy patches, clear by early evening.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for those corrections, Paul. I should have noticed the incorrect Master serial. Duh! It is written correctly further on in the story.

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