Avro Anson Mk.I EG110 of No.9 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit crashed on Foel Grach in the Carneddau on the night of the 14th January 1943
|Kenneth Archer||Pilot Officer RNZAF||Pilot||Injured|
|Eric Thomas Brocklehurst||Sergeant||Wireless Operator / Air Gunner||Died|
|William Henry Barnett||Sergeant RNZAF||2nd Navigator||Died|
|Frank Paterson||Sergeant RNZAF||1st Navigator||Injured|
The crew of the aircraft were on a night navigation training exercise from RAF Llandwrog near to Caernarfon, while on the return leg from Shrewsbury at 21:00 the aircraft struck the southern side of Foel Grach. All of the crew survived the initial impact though three of them were seriously injured and were unable to leave the wrecked aircraft. Pilot Officer Archer, being the least injured, was the only man able to walk out for help.
The Flying Control Officer at Llandwrog had declared the aircraft overdue at midnight on the 14th and a search began at first light with aerial reconnaissance being carried out by an Anson and the OC of No.9 (O)AFU in the station’s Magister. Neither flights saw anything but as the weather was poor their chances were slim.
At 15:50 on the 15th a call came in from the Post Mistress at Tal y Bont to report that P/O Archer had arrived at one of the farms at Rowlyn, the Mountain Rescue Team set out to Rowlyn Ucha Farm where they collected the dazed and injured P/O Archer. He was unable to provide much information about where the crash had occurred, but a clue he gave was that on his way down the mountain he had seen two lakes. These were assumed to the lakes of Dulyn and Melynllyn which put the aircraft somewhere on either Foel Grach or Foel Fras.
A search party was assembled in the at the hut near to Llyn Dulyn to carry out searches of Foel Grach and Foel Fras, when the Medical Officer in charge arrived at 20:45 the first search party were just returning from the summit of Foel Grach having seen nothing. A second party under the command of the Medical Officer set out in darkness at 21:00 to search the col between Foel Fras and Foel Grach, they then returned around the northern side of Llyn Dulyn when they had cleared their search area. At 23:00 a party of 30 men from No.34 MU at Bethesda arrived to assist in the search, but according the Llandwrog ORB they had “arrived with tools but no food, as they had to walk the eight miles from the main road to base hut, as their vehicle was unable to negotiate the mountain track”. A message had to be sent down for rations for 35 men, fuel and the MRS Humber Ambulance.
The MU team was almost immediately put to work with two parties being sent out, the first was sent up onto Foel Grach while the second was detailed to search the ridge dividing the Dulyn valley from Cwm Eigiau. Both parties completed their tasks without finding the aircraft. A Beaufighter was drafted in drop parachute flares but its pilot unfortunately dropped the flares too far south and attempts to communicate with the aircraft failed.
The after midnight on the 15th the weather took a turn for the worse with heavy sleet, strong wind and low cloud, the MRT broke into the hut at Dulyn, which until this point had been locked to seek shelter and firewood, much to annoyance of the local Police. The weather continued to worsen with heavy rain and sleet with complete cloud cover.
At 10:00 on the 16th January after having received some rations two search parties again set out onto the hill, one party to continue the search of Foel Grach and the other was to carry out further searches of Foel Fras. After only 1 1/4 hours the party on Foel Fras were summoned to Foel Grach by the party there with flares. When the full party arrived they found the crashed aircraft above Melynllyn, but in a position that is out of sight from just about the entire hill and below. The three airmen who P/O Archer had left were still in the aircraft wrapped in their parachute. However on inspection two were found have succumbed to their injures and the cold weather. Sgt Brocklehurst was found lying across the navigator’s table, apparently as though he had fallen asleep there and died, Sgt Barnett was in the co-pilot’s seat and was also found to be dead. Sgt Paterson was alive and reported to be warm. He was suffering from a compound fracture to his jaw and multiple breaks in his forearms. One comment made in the ORB is that despite his injuries he did not complain about suffering any pain.
Sergeant Paterson was carried down to the hut at Dulyn where he received first aid before being transferred to Llandudno Hospital, reaching there at 14:30 and within a few days was moved to the RAF Hospital at Cosford for surgery to his face.