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Friday, 28 November 2014

Divers piece together WWII Lakes mystery

DIVERS from a scuba diving club are turning detective to piece together what happened when three World War Two airmen perished in a fatal plane crash.

On a January night in 1945 a Royal Navy Grumman Avenger crashed into a scree slope, known as Great Gully, high above Wastwater which lies at the foot of Scafell.

Now divers from the Keighley branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) are trying to find out more information about the crash.

In particular they would like to know more about the three airmen who died instantly when their plane flew directly into the scree slope while they were participating in a night-time navigational exercise.

IT manager and Keighley Sub Aqua Club member, Graham Clay, says the hunt for information about the crash, and in particular the three airmen who lost their lives, has become an obsession so far as club members are concerned.

He said: “As a club we were diving in Wastwater earlier this year and came across the Grumman Avenger’s engine block in only about six metres of water. We also believe the tail section is in one piece and is also in Wastwater, although we are yet to locate it.

“Apparently you can still find small pieces of aluminum and other debris from the crash on the scree slope above Wastwater, although Great Gully is difficult and very dangerous to access. I think the engine block and tail section, being heavy, slid down the scree and basically dropped into the lake. However, we suspect much more of the wreckage lies in Wastwater and is just waiting to be found.”

But Mr Clay says what club members really want to find out is more information on the three crew members who died.

He said: “There seems to be very little known about them. We have trawled the internet and what records we can but there is scant information out there.

“The pilot was a Barnard J Kennedy, a Canadian, from Hamilton Ontario, his body, along with his two colleagues, was recovered and Kennedy is buried, we believe, in Lytham St Anne’s.

“However, there is, apparently, a memorial to him in his native Hamilton. He was a Lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve. The wireless operator was a man called Phillip Royston Mallorie, a Royal Navy leading airman. He was a Yorkshire man and is buried, we believe, in Inskip while the navigator was a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Midshipman called Gordon Fell. He is buried in his home town of Accrington, Lancashire.”

Mary Tetley, chief executive for BSAC, said: “This research by Keighley Sub Aqua Club is just another example of the wonderful voluntary work which is conducted by our members and I wish them lots of luck with their search. The whole story sounds fascinating.”

Mr Clay said it’s the human side of the story that he and his fellow Keighley divers are keen to learn more about.

He said: “We would love to trace any relatives of the three men who died in this plane crash so we can try to discover who they were, what they were like and, if we can, find out what actually happened to cause the crash.”

To contact Keighley Sub Aqua Club for information about the club, or if you have any information about the airmen killed in the plane crash, contact Graham Clay via email at grahamclay@blueyonder.co.uk or call 07900 135288.

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