Consolidated Liberator Mk.I AM915 of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, flew into Arinarach Hill south of Campbeltown on the 1st September 1941 while flying from Montreal to Ayr
|Kenneth Dardanelles Garden||Captain||BOAC||Pilot||Killed|
|Geoffrey Llewellyn Panes||First Officer||BOAC||Pilot||Killed|
|Charles Alvan Spence||Flight Engineer||RAFFC||Flight Engineer||Killed|
|Samuel Walter Sydenham||Radio Officer||RAFFC||Wireless Operator||Killed|
|Louis Harris Wrangham||Lieutenant Colonel||RM||Passenger||Killed|
|Count Guy de Baillet-Latour||–||Civilian||Passenger||Killed|
|Professor Robert Balmain Mowat||–||Civilian||Passenger||Killed|
|Dr Mark Benjamin||–||Civilian||Passenger||Killed|
The crash occurred while the aircraft was on the final leg of its journey from Montreal with a number of passengers bound for the UK. They were a mix of military officers, technical personnel and a Belgian Count. Eric Taylor was the Principle Technical Officer, Air Ministry, at Farnborough, Mark Benjamin was returning to the UK from a scientific mission in the USA, Professor Mowat was a Professor of History at Bristol University and Count Baillet-Latour was either the Economical Counsellor in London to the Belgian Ministry for Colonies or the assistant military attache at the Belgian embassy in London, it is uncertain which as reports very. He was also the son of the International Olympic Committee chairman of the time.
The pilot was cleared for the flight to Ayr by RAF Ferry Command at Montreal and had left there at 17:26 local time (22:26 GMT) on the 31st August. It was expected to arrive at Ayr around 08:00 GMT on the 1st September.
Contact with Prestwick (which was the main air station in Ayrshire but due to major expansion work flying was being conducted to and from RAF Heathfield a few miles away at Ayr) was made at 05:35 and bearings to steer and weather reports were transmitted to the aircraft.
The weather was reported to be 9/10ths cloud cover at 2,000 feet with visibility below the cloud of 12 miles. The normal procedure employed at Ayr to land aircraft in conditions of low cloud was to guide the aircraft from west to east over the field (until it was heard by ground staff) and then let it fly on heading east. Between 2 and 3 minutes later the pilot would be instructed to turn onto a heading of 250o of a further 3 minutes and then directed to descend through cloud on a bearing of 075o and land normally.
AM915 was heard to fly over Heathfield and the pilot was instructed to turn onto the westerly heading but instead he asked Prestwick for weather conditions at Squires Gate, near Blackpool, so he could proceed directly to there. Weather conditions for Squires Gate were not available at Prestwick due to the report being corrupted. This was either at the Squires Gate end or at Prestwick’s Teleprinter.
Further bearings were transmitted, but at 08:35 Control at Ayr was informed that the pilot was ignoring them and was flying in the general direction of Squires Gate. It was eventually determined that the weather at Blackpool was unsuitable for flying operations, a Defiant that was due to depart there for Scotland was delayed because the Observer could not see across the airfield.
Captain Garden was then asked at 09:20 for his intentions, he replied saying “I am making for Ayr”, he was then provided with further navigational aid by Prestwick, it was last tracked at 09:36 on a north-westerly heading. When contact was lost the aircraft was reported missing and a large search operation was put into action.
Record of this search is made in the RAF Jurby station records for the 2nd September, “Unit pilots co-operated with 6 Blenheims and 1 Anson searching area from Point of Ayre to Mull of Galloway for missing Liberator A/C with “High personage” on board. Wreckage finally located 3 miles SE of Campbeltown. HQ No.15 Group conveyed thanks to Pilots of No.5 AOS though No.9 Group Sector, Ramsey, for their assistance; although A/C was not found by unit A/C.”
The aircraft had flown on in a north westerly direction at just below 1,000 feet until, at 10:10, it struck the top of Arinarach Hill and broke up over about a quarter of a mile.
Radio Officer Sydenham and Eric Taylor are both buried at Campbeltown, their graves are shown below.