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Great Carrs

Great Carrs memorial & crash site.

Memorial & crash site of Halifax LL505, near the summit of Great Carrs.
(click on the image for an enlarged view)
Photo ref. MG_0982-210241

Prints

Technical Details: -

Canon EOS 5D MkII
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II - ~2 degrees of forward tilt
1/30 sec @ f/10.0, ISO100

Over the few months prior to this photo being taken, I'd read about and researched the crash site of a wartime Halifax bomber on Great Carrs.  The story goes...

On 22nd October 1944, while on a navigation exercise, Halifax LL505 FD-S encountered thick cloud over the Lake District.  The pilot descended to allow the navigator to get a visual fix on the ground, but at about 2500 feet (760m) crashed into Great Carrs near the summit killing the crew of eight, seven Canadians & one Briton. The aircraft caught fire but was found mainly intact. If left on the mountain it might have been repeatedly reported by aircraft flying overhead as a recent crash, so due to the location & rough terrain making recovery impractical, it was cut into smaller sections & pushed off the mountain into Broad Slack.  Although many parts have since been recovered for museum display, several large pieces remain, including one Merlin engine & a couple of airframe sections.

I've always had an interest in recent and particularly wartime history & curiosity was getting the better of me. One weekend in August, the weather was too miserable for my usual style of landscape photography, so I decided to go out in search of the wreckage on the hillside & in particular, the one remaining engine, being one of the most recognisable parts of the aircraft.  From my research I concluded it lay in a stream in Broad Slack at about 590 metres, so it should be a straightforward job to follow the contour around from the path between Swirl How & Wetherlam at it's lowest point of 620 metres, until I reached the stream.

I left the car at Walna Scar Road at the base of Coniston Old Man in cloudy but calm conditions shortly before sunrise, when there was just enough light to see without a head torch. By the time I'd reached Levers Water, the wind had picked up and there were spots of rain.  I reached the path between Swirl How & Wetherlam at about 7:30am, by which time I was in cloud and couldn't see further than 20 or 30 feet, except when the odd gap in the clouds drifted by and I'd get glimpses of the valley below.  From there I left the path and headed towards Broad Slack, roughly following the contour of the mountainside and trying to loose as little height as possible, knowing my target was no more than 30 metres below my starting point.  Nobody likes walking down more than necessary, only to have to regain lost height.  After 10 minutes, I could see the stream & headed straight for it.  As I approached, I could see the engine right in front of me, talk about lucky. 


 

Merlin V12 engine from Halifax LL505

Merlin V12 engine lying in a stream.
(click on the image for an enlarged view)

I spent the next 20 minutes or so taking photos of the engine (between showers), before walking up Broad Slack in search of more remains.  Almost immediately, I found a propeller hub followed shortly by another, then a large section of the airframe & what appeared to be a wing.  All around there were small fragments of aluminium scattered on and between the rocks.

Propeller hub from Halifax LL505

Propeller hub minus the wooden propeller blades.
(click on the image for an enlarged view)

 

Wing section from Halifax LL505

A shattered wing section lying on the scree.
(click on the image for an enlarged view)

After spending some time looking around, I made my way up to the summit of Great Carrs to visit the memorial.  When I got there the wind was very strong and it was raining quite hard, so I wasn't about take any photos.  I sat down on rocks in front of the memorial for a quick rest.  There's a memorial plaque on the cairn, which was placed there during a ceremony on Armistice Day in 2005 which reads: -


In Memory of
 8 Crew Members of Halifax LL505
From No 1659 HCU Topcliffe
who lost their lives on this site
on 22nd October 1944
Fg Off J.A.Johnston RCAF C29783 (27)
Fg Off F.A.Bell RCAF J388 (33)
Plt Off R.N.Whitley RCAF 38243 (20)
Sgt H.E.Pyche RCAF R225354 (21)
Sgt W.B.Ferguson RAFVR 1826294 (19)
Sgt D.F.Titt RCAF 271259 (19)
Sgt G.Riddoch RCAF R259938 (20)
Sgt C.G Whittingstall RCAF R198207 (20)

As I sat there reading the plaque, it made me wonder if this was indeed the actual spot where the plane came to rest, or whether it was just a convenient location for the memorial.  Then, over my left shoulder I noticed a large piece of aluminium, which had melted & solidified into the ground amongst the rocks.  This was almost certainly where part of the plane had melted in the fire following the crash.  I immediately saw the composition of my next photo.  When conditions were right, the molten metal would be positioned at the bottom of the frame leading up to the memorial cairn.

A month later I set off from the Three Shires Stone at the summit of Wrynose Pass just after 5:00am to be at the memorial by sunrise.  When I arrived, I set up the camera on the tripod & composed the shot.  The sun was too low to reach the cairn, so I sat down for a rest, taking a couple of shots to fine tune the composition & check camera settings & waited.  I sat in that spot for about an hour waiting for the sun to rise high enough and for the clouds to let enough light through to illuminate the cross & stones.  When the sun finally broke through, I took a handful of shots, checking & adjusting camera settings as I went.  Then, after 5 minutes, cloud passed over the summit obscuring the cairn, so I sat and waited for the next clearing, taking the opportunity to eat breakfast.  I looked up, having just taken a bite out of my sandwich to see the cloud clear & the sun light up the cross & the top of the cairn.  Behind it, I could see the faint colours of a partial Brocken Spectre forming on the cloud drifting by in the background.  I took a shot, checked and adjusted the exposure to ensure the colours of the mini-rainbow had recorded, then took two more shots before it disappeared.  Looking at the timestamps later in the file info, it lasted about 40 seconds.  It was one of those rare moments when everything comes together for a very short length of time and I was the only person there to see it.  I even managed to capture it.

I waited another 20 minutes or so until I could see my own shadow on the cairn, at which point, the day was over as far as this mission was concerned  I packed up my gear and continued my walk over Swirl How and Wetherlam and eventually back to Wrynose Pass for a welcome rest in the car before driving home happy in the knowledge that I'd captured more than I'd hoped for.

Swirl How, Broad Slack & Great Carrs

Swirl How, Broad Slack and Great Carrs. The wreckage lies on the scree in a vertical line through the centre of this view.
(click on the image for an enlarged view)