Skip to main content

Storm Clean-up: Many of our forests, especially in the east and south of Scotland, remain closed. Please plan ahead and check online before visiting.

At ten o'clock on the night of 13 February 1942, a Vickers Wellington Type 1c bomber crashed into a hillside in Glen Affric.

The crew of six all survived. It was their last training exercise before going to fight in the Second World War in the Middle East. Today, there is little to see at the scene of the crash but there are personal accounts of the accident that tell us what happened that night.

Glen Affric wreckage

This photo of the remains of the Wellington Bomber crash site was taken years later.

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium-sized bomber designed in the mid-1930s in Surrey, by the aircraft company Vickers-Armstrongs. The Wellington was named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who, in 1815, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

The plane was widely used as a night-time bomber in the early years of World War 2 in Europe but was later replaced by the Lancaster. It continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft.

In the Middle East, however, where the crew of the crashed bomber were to be stationed, it was used throughout the war. Wellingtons based in India became the Royal Air Force's first long-range bomber operating in the Far East.

Storyteller Bob Pegg shares a local tale.

The crash

The Wellington bomber was on a cross-country training exercise, flying from the airbase at Royal Air Force Lossiemouth to Tiree, when it ran into difficulties.

glenaffric crew

This photograph shows the crew of the plane who trained in No. 20 Operational Unit at RAF Lossiemouth.

The crew managed to report to base that the aircraft was in trouble before they lost radio contact. The pilot, Sergeant C Handley, then lost control of the plane as it began to ice up in bad weather conditions; the engine finally failed.

The pilot gave the order to "Bail out!" to the crew; they put on their parachutes and jumped.

Three of the crew landed safely on low ground between Ciste Dubh and Glengreavie. A further two landed on Colan Hill. The plane continued and crashed into Glen Affric.

Mr Henderson saw the crash and hung a lantern for any survivors to follow in the dead of night. The first three followed the light and arrived safely at the Hendersons’ house.

The second group stayed put until daylight but were relieved to find the others at the Hendersons when they arrived. However, the pilot was still missing. He was later reunited with his crew, having landed in Glen Culloch and gone in search of help for his friends

We only know these details because of Duncan MacLennan, who was one of the local men, along with Henderson, helped the stranded airmen.

Duncan made a written account of the event, from his own involvement and from what the airmen told them of their experience. A few days after the crash, Duncan tells us how he helped air force officers check the crash site area.

"On arrival the air-men buried the ammunition and destroyed anything of good in case it would be of some use to the enemy, should they land at Loch Duich." Duncan MacLennan