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Fuselage on Feusaige

Fuselage on Feusaige


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:35 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn na Feusaige, Càrn Breac

Date walked: 06/07/2019

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 16.6 km

Ascent: 849m

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For most hillwalkers, there is nothing special about Beinn na Feusaige and Carn Breac. Yes, they are Grahams so dedicated Graham baggers will visit them. On a good day, they are nice viewpoints, especially Carn Breac, which offers superb panoramas of Torridon mountains. But as this duo is situated amongst dozens of Corbetts and Munros, they are mostly overlooked and ignored, which is a shame. I always felt that these Strath Carron twins deserve a better reputation than they have at the moment. Today's report will be mostly about Beinn na Feusaige and its hidden secret.

We climbed this duo in 2016, which will be remembered as "the year with no summer". Weather was rubbish: cloudy, cold and so windy we could hardly walk, but we managed to complete the full circuit of both Grahams. Quoting myself from 3 years ago: "There is a plane crash site somewhere near the summit (fuselage on Feusaige :lol: ), but in that wind we didn't fancy looking for it. We may come back here on a calmer day for more detailed investigations."

It was the first day of our summer holidays and weather forecast was so-so, not good enough to venture onto Munros (unless you fancy a cairn-in-the-mist experience) but reasonable enough for a quick jaunt up a Graham or two, especially if we had an extra fish to fry in the shape of another crash site added to our collection!

Our route starts from near Loan, where a track goes into Coire Crubaidh. We climbed the southern slopes of Beinn na Feusaige first, then traversed to Meallan Mhic Iamhar and eventually to Carn Breac, returning over Coille Bhan:

Track_BEINN NA FEUSAIGE 06-07-19.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The morning was dull and cloudy with a high chance of showers, so we didn't rush it. With better weather forecast for the afternoon, we hoped to get at least some views from the second Graham. Everything else was a bonus.
Panther well wrapped for a wet start:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 003.JPG

We knew about a stalkers path that climbs from Coire Crubaidh to the col between Meallan Mhic Iamhar and Carn Breac, but we wanted to find the crash site so the best option was to go straight up Beinn na Feusaige, turning of the track just past a pine plantation. The ground was wet and overgrown, nothing unusual for obscure Grahams, but the higher we climbed, the more vegetation we had to fight :lol:
Swimming in the sea of bracken:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 149.JPG

After about 100m of ascent, the sea of bracken gave way to high heather, which was even more difficult to tackle. We used deer paths where we could, but honestly, I would not recommend this route up unless you are very determined (and resistant to scratching) :lol:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 157.JPG

Eventually, the scratchy experience was over and heather was replaced by grass and moss on higher slopes of Beinn na Feusaige. The forecast showers were moving on, and the clag was lifting slowly. Heyy, maybe it won't be such a miserable day after all!
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 004.JPG

We kept our eyes open, looking for any signs of the crash site, but couldn't see any scattered plane parts. We had the rough grid reference for the impact crater but surprisingly, it can't be seen from below as it is situated on a little flat shoulder, about 30m below the summit of the Graham (grid ref NH 087542). Only when we emerged on the flatter ground, we spotted it right in the front of us:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 202.JPG

There is less debris on this site than on the previous ones we visited, but the impact crater is obvious.
Looking west from the crash site, with Carn Breac and the ridge we planned to walk:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 050.JPG

On closer inspection, we were shocked how little was left of the mighty Martin B-26 Marauder. The only two large pieces are: a short section of wing spar and a part of a fuel tank cover.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 009.JPG

According to "Aircraft wrecks - the walker's guide" (a great book which I must recommend to any walker interested in visiting plane crash sites), the B26 struck high ground in low cloud and was completely burnt out. More details about the circumstances of the accident in a minute. At the moment, let's concentrate on what we saw in the crater.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 183.JPG

As you can obviously see, most of the aluminum parts are melted down, which suggests a serious fire. Again, I referred to good old Wikipedia for spec info about Marauder's performance, and its cruising speed is given as 216mph. The circumstances of the accident look very similar to those of the Mosquito on Cranstackie: in bad weather the crew didn't see the steep side of the mountain and flew right into it at full speed. The fire must have been very hot to melt so much of the fuselage:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 041.JPG

We found it impossible to identify most of the debris due to its fragmentation, but a few photos attached below show the sheer force of the impact:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 024.JPG

2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 029.JPG

2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 035.JPG

2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 036.JPG

2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 184.JPG

2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 190.JPG

A small part of the fuselage not affected by fire, buried in the ground near the crater:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 199.JPG

Parts of the metal frame of the plane added to a small cairn just above the impact zone:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 168.JPG

I always associated B-26s with the movie "Memphis Belle", though the Belle in the film is actually a B-17F Flying Fortress. But it is true that The Marauder was one of the most commonly used American bombers in the WW2. The early models of B26 were notorious for their high accident rate during take offs and landings. This particular Marauder was one of the later versions, specifically a B-26C, it had longer wings that the early models. According to Wikipedia, 123 B-26Cs were used by the RAF and SAAF as the Marauder Mk II. The approximate cost of a plane at the time was $138,551.27/aircraft.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 173.JPG

Irrespectively of the cost of build, B-26s had bad reputation amongst the crews and the aircraft was nicknamed "Widowmaker", "Flying Coffin", "B-Dash-Crash" and a couple of other names the censorship would not allow on WH :wink: I guess the pilots and crews of Marauders had a specific sense of humour, but standing in the middle of the impact crater I didn't feel like laughing at all. It was a sad place to be. I actually felt a bit uneasy, walking on top of the debris, and tried to place my feet carefully to cause as little disturbance to the remains as possible.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 047.JPG

Now to the details of the crash...
It was the 3rd June 1943, and the B26 41-34707 took off from Iceland to fly to Prestwick, Scotland. It was a part of a larger group of bombers ferried across the Atlantic from the USA, with Iceland as a refill stop. Their final destination would have been Horham, Suffolk, where they would join the 323rd Medium Bombardment Group. So strictly speaking, this Marauder was brand new and has never been used in the battle. Like a young bird just out of the nest, eager to stretch the wings and fly into the sun, but its journey ended even before it started.
All right, I'm getting overdramatic here. Back to facts.
The crews of all ferried planes were instructed before the start, that if weather over Northern Scotland turns bad (which is not unusual), they should head for Stornoway, land there and wait out the bad weather conditions. Obviously, flying over the high mountains of the Highlands in zero visibility was considered too risky.
The formation departed Meeks Field in Iceland at 05:50 and reported via radio every half an hour. At 08:15 they received a weather report from Prestwick informing them, that conditions over the Highlands were pretty nasty: rain and thick, low cloud/mist. They had to climb to 7000 feet to stay above the cloud level...
...
The crew of B26 41-34707 must have followed the western coast for some time, but then they became completely lost and in the thick fog, the pilot decided to descend below the cloud level to actually see where they were. Maybe he assumed that the plane was still over the sea, but by then, the Marauder was flying dangerously close to the high Torridon peaks...
...
The remaining bombers reached Stornoway at 9:05, but due to low cloud (4000 to 1000 feet in places) they decided to circle around and wait, at 10:13 they contacted Stornoway and confirmed, they would continue on the original flight route to Prestwick. By then, they were aware of the absence of one Marauder, but decided to continue the flight without the missing straggler. The formation landed at Prestwick at 11:44. They didn't know what happened to B26 41-34707, but I guess they hoped it might still show up, the crew all smiling and cracking jokes about the "*** Scottish weather". Sadly, the missing B26 never joined the pack again :(
...
There were no witnesses to the accident itself, as the low cloud obscured the view of the higher slopes of Beinn na Feusaige, but the locals heard the crash and several of them quickly climbed up to the impact spot. Sadly, there were no survivors. The local residents stayed on site as guards until they were relieved by the military forces. The wreckage was nearly completely burnt out, but the bodies of the five airmen were recovered and taken down the mountain. Three of them were taken back to the US, two are buried in England.
The five men on board were: pilot 1st Lt Merritt Young, bomb aimer 2nd Lt Robert Anderson, flight engineer Staff Sgt Vincent Bravo, radio operator Staff Sgt Marshall Miller and gunner Master Sgt Lewis Cross. Young American guys who came here to fight, yet they never saw the battle. Their journey ended on the slopes of this little known Scottish mountain...
Three of them were returned to the USA for burial and two were buried in England. All that's left of the plane now are a few scattered, melted pieces of metal. Hopefully, a memorial plague will be installed (see HERE for details).
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 030.JPG

This crash site is virtually unknown to hillwalkers, as Beinn na Feusaige is just an obscure Graham and very few people venture out here. I thought that this lost Marauder and its crew deserve a mention here on WH.
...
From the crash site, we quickly climbed to the summit of Beinn na Feusaige. There are two cairns about 200m apart, we visited both and our GPS showed the same height by each cairn. According to Hill Bagging database, this is the summit spot:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 070.JPG

We decided to sit and have lunch on the summit. Soon we were joined by a pair of very noisy golden plovers - they were not happy with our presence!
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 059.JPG

Get lost, people! It's our mountain! :lol:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 061.JPG

It was time for a sandwich...
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 204.JPG

...and some views, as the cloud was lifting nicely. It was never going to be a brilliant, sunny day, but with improving conditions we could actually take a few decent pictures.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 065.JPG

Slioch still in clag:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 072.JPG

View west to Carn Breac and the Torridons beyond:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 083.JPG

Having rested on the summit of the first Graham, we started the traverse to Carn Breac. The first col (between Feusaige and Meallan Mhic Iamhar) is quite peat-haggy, we picked our route carefully past Lochan Meallan Mhic Iamhar:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 089.JPG

On the summit of the middle top Kevin said he wasn't feeling well and we had to slow down significantly. I suspected he had dairy in his system again, which results for him in "energy drain", he just feels tired and weak. Poor old Kev. I kept encouraging him, saying that the rest of the traverse didn't look steep and particularly demanding...
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 096.JPG

...but I couldn't hide the fact, that we still had a few hags to jump over!
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 099.JPG

Slowly but surely, we made our way across the second col to the final slopes of Carn Breac.
Looking back at the ridge we walked:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 109.JPG

The summit of the second Graham is topped with a big cairn:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 112.JPG

Views were partially obstructed by cloud, but good enough for a few more panos:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 117.JPG

The southern Torridons, Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgor Ruadh:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 119.JPG

Zoom to Beinn Liath Bheag:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 126.JPG

On the summit with Lucy:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 132.JPG

Coire Crubaidh from above:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 137.JPG

It is possible to descend into Coire Crubaidh to pick the hydro track down in the glen, but we preferred to continue on high ground, which, though a bit peat-haggy in places, offered relatively easy going.
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 143.JPG

The final descent was steep-ish but grassy:
2019-07-06 beinn na feusaige 147.JPG

This circuit can be easily done in 6 hours if walking quickly. The steep ascent past the plantation is not recommended due to horrible, scratchy heather, but an alternative (see my 2016 report from this duo) requires climbing a wobbly deer fence, so the choice is yours :lol:
.............
It was a somber start to the holiday adventures, but on Sunday weather was much better and we ventured into the wild wild (south)west in search for solitude on remote Corbetts. TR in progress.
...............
List of sites with details about the Marauder crash:
https://heavywhalley.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/maurader-aircraft-crash-accident-site-3-rd-june-1943-beinn-na-feusaige-625m-2051ft-hill-of-the-beard/
https://librarylink.highland.gov.uk/LLFiles/245622/full_245622.pdf
http://www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk/aircraft/scotland/34707.html
https://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/crash_sites/scotland/martin-b-26c-41-34707-beinn-na-feusaige/
https://www.ross-shirejournal.co.uk/news/gairloch-digs-deep-after-theft-of-girls-collection-box-for-air-crash-140214/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_B-26_Marauder
Last edited by BlackPanther on Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3793
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Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Fuselage on Feusaige

Postby ancancha » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:16 am

Very informative as always Panther :clap:
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ancancha
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 989
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Joined: Jun 30, 2014
Location: Killadysert

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