Botha L6416

Blackburn Botha Mk.I L6416 of 2 Air Observer School, RAF Millom
crashed Stainmore Summit on 22nd August 1941

Crew

PositionRank/TitleFull NameAgeService NumberInjury
Pilot SgtWladyslaw Wasilewski27793798Fatal
Observer U/TLACWilliam George Yeo311121315Fatal
Observer U/TLACHumphrey Warine Joseph Henry Vernon291058559Fatal
PassengerLtLionel Douglas Hall2594166Fatal

Accident Details

In the early morning of 22nd August 1941 Botha L6416 left RAF Millom on a navigation and wind finding exercise. The route was familiar to the pilot, Władysław Wasilewski, and it consisted of turning points at Sedbergh, Skipton, Barnard Castle and back to base. It is almost certain that the final leg would have followed what is known as the Barnard Castle Gap, a route commonly used by pilots to navigate over the Pennine mountains.

The weather on the day in question was poor, with low lying fog encountered on much of the route. At around 07:20 George Bainbridge, a railway plate layer from the small hamlet of Barras, had just parked up his motorcycle and was making is way towards the signal box at Stainmore Summit to commence work, when he heard the sound of an aircraft overhead in the fog flying in what appeared to be a north easterly direction. The engines seemed to be running normally until the sound ceased and there was a dull thud as if the aircraft had struck the hill. He set off with a Signalman to try and find the aircraft and had gone as far as the fell wall, but he was unable to see anything. He returned to Stainmore Summit where he raised the alarm with the Railway Police at Darlington, who in turn notified the local Police at the nearby town of Kirkby Stephen, by now the time was 07:40.

A search of the hills surrounding Stainmore Summit was made by Police Constables Cook, Keddie, Bond and Richardson with the aid of railway workers, but owing to the poor visibility, which by now was down to 20 yards, there was still no sign of the aircraft. At 11:30, once the fog had lifted, another search quickly found the aircraft scattered over an area of 120 yards about 1 mile north east of The Summit. Within the wreckage was found the body of LAC Yeo, with the other three bodies being found scattered up to 115 yards from where the aircraft had initially struck.

The authorising officer was criticised for allowing the flight to go ahead when the weather conditions were predicted to be poor.  The accident report suggests that the aircraft was on the final leg of the flight from Barnard Castle to Millom, this would mean that the aircraft  was flying in a south westerly direction.  However, Mr Bainbridge commented that the aircraft was flying towards the north east, which may suggest that the crew were either lost or that they were on the Skipton to Barnard Castle leg of the flight but several miles west of their intended track.  If this was indeed the case then they may not have been aware that they were over an area of high ground which could explain why they were flying at the altitude they were.

The Crash Site

The crash site is extremely hard to find on the flat and featureless boggy moorland, and only a few small pieces are on the surface. There is evidence however that some large sections may still remain buried.

We were unable to locate any identifying markings on the visible pieces of wreckage, however the discovery of a cowl flap suggested that the wreckage was that of a radial engine aircraft.  A Miles Master crashed only a few yards east of the Botha site but this aircraft was fitted with an inline engine and wouldn’t have had cowl flaps.  The location also fits with the witness statements from the time.

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