Like a lot of you, we have been looking at new activities that are safe to do during lockdown, and one of these is interesting local walks.
Our family took a walk to visit the crash site of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress which crashed in the hills behind The Lodge on Loch Goil on the 17 January 1949. This is the same class of plane as the Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb.
This was an amazing experience and when we arrived at the crash site after a 5km walk hike through the hills, the snow had started and it was bitterly cold. These conditions would have been very similar to the morning when the plane crashed.
The words below were written by our son, Luke Hopkins, aged 16.
A visit to the crash site
By Luke Hopkins
Sunday 17th January 2021 (72 years after the disaster)
On 17th January 1949 a Boeing B29 Superfortress flying home after participating in the Berlin airlift experienced icing problems, lost height and clipped the summit of Beinn Tharsuinn before crashing in the valley beyond, killing all 20 people on board. Even today the devastation caused by the impact is evident.
While researching the information, it seems the plane came down due to bad weather. After visiting the site 72 years later on a very cold and snowy January I was very surprised to see large amounts of the wreckage still remains. I explored the area for a while, the site is marked with a memorial cairn with all 20 names of the men that died.
The B-29, 44-62276, was one of the 301st Bombardment Group which was part of the 15th United States Air Force, and had been involved in the post-war Berlin airlift.
The aircraft left RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on the morning of January 17th 1949 for a return trip to its home airfield at Smoky Hill Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas.
The aircraft was accompanied by a 2nd B-29 also returning to Smoky Hill, it was a very cold morning as the airmen boarded the aircraft.
Their planned route was over Scotland to Keflavik in Iceland where there would be a short stop for supplies and refuelling. Conditions across the British Isles were varied, with a lot of scattered cloud, but even worse was the freezing temperatures.
Both aircrafts began to experience problems with icing while over Scotland. Captain Donald E.Riggs, pilot of the other B-29, decided that conditions were too bad and made a turn to head back to Scampton.
It is not certain what happened next, but the B-29 piloted by 1/Lieutenant Sheldon C.Craigmyle, who had requested permission to climb from 10,500 to 14,500 feet, clipped the summit of Beinn Tharsuinn and crashed into a hillside at Succoth Glen near Lochgoilhead at 9.50am and burst into flames.
The inquiry into the crash was unable to determine the exact cause, but adverse weather and heavy ice was believed to be a contributory factor, if not the sole cause.
Visiting this site has been incredible, it’s so worth the journey, but a little piece of advice don’t attempt it in a cold snowy January, wait a few months and enjoy the trip in a Summers afternoon.