Martin B-26G 44-68072 of the 9th Air Force, USAAF, crashed on Y Garn near Llanberis on the 1st February 1945

 

Kenneth W. Carty 1st Lieutenant Pilot Killed
William H. Cardwell 2nd Lieutenant Co-pilot Killed
Nolen B. Sowell 1st Lieutenant Navigator Killed
Jack D. Arnold Corporal Radio Operator Killed
Rudolph M. Aguirre Corporal Engineer Killed

 

The aircraft was one of 16 new B-26 Marauders that were being ferried from the USA to the UK where they would have final preparations for combat and be assigned to frontline units. The transatlantic had ended at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall where ferry crews then briefing during the morning of the 1st February for the onward flight to Base Air Depot 1 at RAF Burtonwood near Warrington. The route was briefed as St Mawgan – St Davids Head – Valley – Woodvale – Burtonwood. If the weather was poor on arrival at their destination the crews were instructed that they could land at RAF Valley as the weather was expected to be clear for landing throughout the day. The crews were cleared to fly the route on instruments if required but it was expected that the cloud would be scattered enough for them to be able make the flight without instrument flying. They were however told that should they encounter instrument conditions to immediately climb to 5,000ft to avoid the high ground along the route.

Aircraft began departing St Mawgan a little late at around 11:50 with the last of the flights leaving at 12:50, the crew of 44-68072 having taken off at 12:38 with an ETA of approximately 14:05.

Around this time crews flying in the opposite direction reported that there was at times continuous cloud above 6,000ft with a mixture of broken and wide ranging cloud below 5,000ft, the base of this was between 500 and 2,000ft. During the afternoon the weather deteriorated to the extent that by 13:45 Valley was closed to flying and Burtonwood was expected to close by 17:00.

Of the 16 aircraft that had departed St Mawgan 12 had landed safely at Burtonwood, 2 had landed at RAF stations in the area and a single aircraft had landed at Valley, nothing however had been heard of 44-68072 with it being declared missing at the time it fuel supply would have been exhausted. For this flight the aircraft had 768 gallons of fuel and would have exhausted that supply after 3 1/2 hours.

The following day the RAF Mountain Rescue unit at Llandwrog were informed about the possibility of the missing aircraft being in their area. at 14:45 they were informed that a bus conductor had reported hearing an aircraft in the Nant Peris area the previous afternoon and that a crash was then thought to have been heard in the general direction of Bethesda. The team set out at 16:00 and headed to Nant Peris where 6 men then climbed up the western side of Y Garn to begin a search for the reported crash working in pairs. At 18:45 pieces of aircraft were discovered along with evidence of human remains, these were close to the cliffs that drop down on the eastern side of the mountain. As is had gone dark the team returned to base so they could carry out a proper search and recovery operation on the 3rd.

On the 3rd February the MRT and a supporting party set out to Nant Peris  and reached the point they had the previous night by 12:15. They found that the aircraft had struck very close to the top with only a relatively small amount of the aircraft being on that side of the mountain. Most of the wreckage had continued on over the top of the ridge and had dropped into Cwm Cywion where it had then burnt out. Four of the crew were reported to have been found in the main wreckage. This was accessed by lowering two sledge stretchers down the cliff with the MRT then taking an easier route. They then recovered the bodies of the four crew from the main wreckage to Llyn Ogwen with the fifth man being recovered to Nant Peris.

Plaque commemorating the crash of B-26 44-68072 in the Pass of Llanberis
As with a number of crashes in North Wales this one is commemorated by a plaque set into the road side wall in the Pass of Llanberis.
Wreckage near the crash site of B-26 Marauder 44-68072 in Cwm Cywion on Y Garn
Not much remains where the aircraft came to rest in Cwm Cywion, the largest items are pieces of armour plate and this undercarriage oleo.
Image Copyright: Mark Sheldon.
The crew of B-26 44-68072
Above is a photograph of some of the crew of the aircraft together with members of their crew who were not on the flight, Lt Holmes and Cpl Anderson.
Image via David Earl.

 

Most of the crew’s bodies were repatriated to the USA following the end of the conflict, however Cpl Aguirre was buried at Cambridge American Cemetery.

Grave of Corporal Rudolph M. Aguirre at Cambridge American Military Cemetery