Whitley Mk.V LA877 / ZV-W of No.19 Operational Training Unit crashed on Meallan Odhar near Loch Pattack on the 3rd July 1943
|Dennys Cyril Hunt||Sergeant||Pilot||Killed|
|Edwin Albert Deacon||Sergeant||Navigator||Killed|
|Donald James Gillies||Flight Sergeant RCAF||Bomb Aimer||Killed|
|Robert Norman Cowie||Sergeant||Wireless Operator / Air Gunner||Killed|
|Keith Pratt Gemmel||Sergeant RCAF||Air Gunner||Killed|
The aircraft was being used for a screened bombing exercise followed by a cross country navigation exercise. The crew took off from Forres on the Moray coast, a satellite of RAF Kinloss, at 22:30 for the practice bombing portion of the exercise, which they completed and landed back at Forres at 23:20 where the instructor left the aircraft. The next part of the flight was to be the crew’s first cross country exercise without an instructor onboard, they took off again at 23:35 for the second part of their flight, which was to be Kinloss – Gigha – Douglas – Gigha – Kinloss.
At 23:55 it was seen by a Royal Observer Corps post on the ground and its track was plotted at Dalwhinnie, at this point it was flying normally at about 9,000ft to the northern side of Loch Ericht. At 00:03 while towards the south western end of Loch Ericht black smoke was seen coming from the aircraft and it made an 80o turn to starboard. Fire was observed shortly afterwards and soon this had clearly taken hold and caused serious structural damage to aircraft. The port wing broke away after which the aircraft went into an uncontrolled dive. The AIB inspector who was tasked with investigating the crash stated that the wing showed clear signs of having been subjected to fire before it failed. It fell half a mile away from the main wreckage which struck the ground at a steep angle and was completely destroyed.
At the request of the investigating officer the port engine was excavated from the crash site and sent to Rolls Royce who examined it. They said that there been a failure of one of the pistons with hot gases passing beyond the piston rings of that piston which caused the gudgeon pin to fail and the connecting rod to break away which then broke through the crank case. This allowed a fuel/air mixture as well as engine oil to escape under pressure into the nacelle were it ignited and in less than one minute caused the failure of the forward wing spar and lower skin of the port wing.
A number of other Whitleys were lost in almost identical circumstances around the same time, with engine fires leading to structural failure of the affected wing. If it was at a high enough altitude this was usually followed by break-up of the whole aircraft.