Hawker Hector K8096 crashed on Red Pike above Wasdale on the 8th September 1941 while being delivered from No.1 School of Army Co-operation to No.18 Maintenance Unit
|James Anderson Craig DFC||Flight Lieutenant||Pilot||Killed|
Hector K8096 was being transferred from No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum near to Salisbury to No.18 Maintenance Unit at Dumfries where it was likely to go into storage. At the time No.1 SAC was being wound up prior to disbandment. The aircraft had already been flown as far as RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire.
The pilot, James Anderson Craig, was an experienced airman having served with the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force during the First World War when during 1918 as an Acting Captain he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation from the London Gazette reads “On 24th August this officer performed gallant service on a special reconnaissance. Having located our line and the enemy positions, despite very heavy hostile fire and under adverse weather conditions, he proceeded over the enemy lines at a very low altitude to try and find some of our troops that were believed to be cut off. His machine being hit in many places he returned, made his report, and proceeded again on a further contact patrol”. After the end of the First World War he served for a time as a reserve officer before leaving the RAF. At the outbreak of the Second World War he rejoined the RAF, initially as a ground based officer but shortly afterwards transferred to flying service. As he was approaching 50 years of age, more than twice the age of many aircrew at the time, he was not placed on front line duties and instead was serving with a maintenance unit as a delivery pilot.
During the morning of the 8th August a de Havilland Dominie piloted by Flying Officer Edward James Fleet left Dumfries for Binbrook with F/Lt Craig and a Sgt Dukszto, who may have been Witold Dukszto of the Polish Air Force, as passengers to allow them to collect two Hectors, one being K8096.
Between 15:00 and 16:00 all three aircraft left Binbrook, F/Lt Craig took off with about 2 ½ hours of available fuel, both Hector pilots had been briefed before leaving Dumfries that they were to fly to Catterick and take on more fuel before proceeding via Penrith to Dumfries. Sergeant Dukszto landed at Catterick for fuel but due to a deterioration in the weather decided to remain there overnight to fly in better conditions the day after. After F/Lt Craig had failed to arrive at Dumfries or Catterick he was reported overdue. On the 10th September it was reported to Dumfries by RAF Millom that the wreckage of K8096 and the body of F/Lt Carig had been located on Red Pike in Wasdale nearly 25 miles off the planned route.
It would appear that as the 180 mile route from Binbrook to Dumfries would take about 90 minutes in a Hector that F/Lt Craig had decided against landing for additional fuel at Catterick and fly directly to his destination. Had the flight been successful he would have had approximately 60 minutes of fuel still available on landing. He evidently became lost in the deteriorating weather to the west of Catterick and at around 18:00 having almost reached the maximum endurance of the aircraft he was flying flew into the eastern face of Red Pike about 400 feet below its 2,700ft summit. To get to where he did he must either have been descending fairly rapidly from the east or descending while circling as Red Pike is almost surrounded by higher mountains. The Court of Inquiry speculated that he may have been attempting to find somewhere to force land the aircraft due to its low fuel state at the time of the crash.
His body was recovered to RAF Millom before being sent by rail to Beith in Ayrshire at the request of his family for burial.