Airspeed Oxford Mk.I HM724 / AL of No.19 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit crashed on Braeriach in the Cairngorm Mountains on the 12th October 1943



Airspeed Oxford at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon


Eric William Hutchins  Flying Officer Pilot (Inst)  Survived
John Turner  Flight Sergeant Pilot (u/t)  Survived
Geoffrey Charles Vaudrey Flying Officer, RAAF Passenger Survived
Raymond McGregor Flying Officer, RNZAF Passenger Survived


During the morning of 12th October 1943 HM724 was being used for a cross country flight from RAF Dalcross near Inverness. Onboard was a pupil and instructor along with two passengers. The planned route took the aircraft south across the Grampian Mountains and a safety height of around 6,000ft was dictated to cross the mountains. Having left Dalcross, with the pupil flying, the aircraft climbed to between 5,500 and 6,000ft before heading south towards the mountains. On nearing the mountains the instructor noticed that the aircraft was being buffeted by a strong wind before it suddenly began to lose height at a rate of nearly 5,000ft per minute. He took over the controls and advanced both throttles to full power but the aircraft continued to descend and entered the clouds which were covering the summits of the mountains. Shortly after the aircraft crashed in a stalled position on the upper slopes of Braeriach at a height of 3,900ft, only 300ft short of the summit.

Wreckage at the crash site of Oxford HM724 on Braeriach
Looking towards the summit of the mountain from where the aircraft was burnt by the team from No.56 MU. In the gravel are many small fragments along with the pile of steel parts immediately adjacent to the path up the mountain.
Crash site of Airspeed Oxford HM724 on Braeriach in the Cairngorm Mountains
Looking back down hill from the crash site, with the path over Sron na Lairige in the background, and Cairn Lochan on the opposite side of Lairig Ghru

On impact the four crew of the aircraft received varying injuries, Hutchins and Vaudrey received minor injuries while McGregor suffered a broken arm with Turner suffering concussion from a head injury. Once out of the wrecked aircraft the four crew left the crash site, probably knowing that help would be a considerable time away and in the strong wind and cloud the temperature would have been fairly low, increasing the chances of hypothermia. After five hours the four airmen had made their way to a farm near to Aviemore, it is not recorded which farm in RAF records, from which help was summoned. Once an ambulance from RAF Dalcross arrived they were taken back to Inverness, Vaudrey being treated at the Station Sick Quarters and the three others being admitted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Wreckage at the crash site of Oxford HM724 on Braeriach
Propped against a rock close to the footpath up the mountain is one of the undercarriage legs. The summit of Braeriach is in the background.
Wreckage at the crash site of Oxford HM724 on Braeriach
Close to where the aircraft crashed are numerous scattered parts, including these familiar brackets from the wooden wing spars at the undercarriage attachment points. The wood was burnt from between the brackets when the aircraft was destroyed by No.56 MU

Recovery of the wreckage from the crash site was handed to No.56 Maintenance Unit at Longman in Inverness and it took them some time to deal with the aircraft. Their first attempt to reach the crash site failed because of cloud covering the mountains preventing them from locating the aircraft. Another larger party was assembled with the help of the Army’s mountain training detachment at Glenmore. They reached the crash site to find that snow had fallen which made working at the site difficult. Smaller items which could be removed were recovered from the site but all larger items were disposed of on the mountain. Both engines were rolled into the head of Coire Beanaidh while the bulk of the wooden airframe was burnt where it had come to rest.

Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engines from Oxford HM724 on Braeriach in the Cairngorm Mountains
The two engines lie together in the stream at the head of Coire Beanaidh several hundred feet below the actual crash site.
Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engines from Airspeed Oxford HM724 on Braeriach, Cairngorms
A closer photo of both engines, while the cases show signs of surface corrosion both are in very good condition, once still has its cowling around it which still has quite a lot of paint on it.

After recovering from their injuries the four crew went back into service, three surviving their wartime service. Sadly though Raymond McGregor was killed during the night of the 30th/31st December 1944. He had been posted to No.138 Squadron at RAF Tempsford near Sandy in Bedfordshire. This squadron, along with No.161 at the same air station, was a Special Duties Squadron which supported SOE and SIS in their operations in occupied Europe. On the night he was killed he was flying Stirling Mk.IV LK283 as part of a supply drop to Norwegian resistance members. It is believed that while not far from the southern coast of Norway the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire from a ship causing it to explode in mid-air. The flash of the explosion was seen by the crew of another Stirling from No.138 Sqn. None of the crew were recovered and they are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Wreckage at the crash site of Oxford HM724 on Braeriach
Taken at the end of May, this shows a piece of fuel tank just protruding from beneath a snow bank high in Coire Beanaidh.