The phantom of Dava Moor

Date walked: 27/05/2021

Time taken: 4.75 hours

Distance: 14km

Ascent: 358m

After several days of rain and low cloud, at last the Scottish weather started to change. With Kevin still taking advantage of his extra time off, we had some big plans, maybe even an overnighting trip. But coincidentally, I had my appointment for the first dose of COVID vaccine on Thursday so we didn't really know what to expect after that. Several members of my close family had suffered bad side effects, from nasty headaches, general weakness and fever to sore throat and coughing, so I prepared myself for the worst possible outcome. Of course, I was eager to get the jab (Kevin had his first dose just before Easter and since then he's already received his second) but the perspective of spending several days in bed when weather was so lovely at last made me angry.

Thankfully, my fears were unsustainable. I had virtually no reaction to the vaccine. My body just took it and didn't care. The only side effect was a swollen arm in the spot of the injection. This occurred almost immediately after the jab and the swollen lump stayed for about a week. It did hurt a bit especially when I twisted my arm, but I could still walk and carry my rucksack, as long as it wasn't too heavy. Overnighting trips and scrambling were obviously out of the question, but I still felt fine for daytrips, so Kevin suggested we continue Panther's Aircraft Investigations and find some more crash sites.

On Thursday we only had half a day after my appointment, so we drove to Dulsie Bridge. Kevin knows this spot well as it used to be part of his delivery area, so he remembered there is a good parking spot by the bridge, used by tourists to access the nearby viewpoint. Our target though, was a bit more illusive. From Dulsie, we hoped to find a way onto the vast emptiness of Dava Moor to visit an obscure local TUMP, Maol an Taillier. Here, on the 6th of December 1951, an Airspeed Oxford met its sad end...

We took a track to the abandoned farm in Lynemore then followed local paths and a windfarm access road which took us to the bottom of Maol an Taillier. We had a 6 digit grit but it still took some time and effort to locate the crash site. We nipped up to the summit of the hill then returned the same way:

Track_DULSIE 14 KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

From Dulsie Bridge we walked along a grassy track full of sheep:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 010.JPG

Typical Moray countryside:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 001.JPG

Des Res at Lynemore :wink:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 179.JPG

The track ends by the ruins but we continued across a grassy pasture to join another one. The second track passes just behind the small tree plantation in front of Kevin:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 185.JPG

From the second track, we could now see our target hill - not a big deal, just about 150m of ascent. Hardly an Everest!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 026.JPG

This track eventually joins the windfarm access road, a nasty scar in the landscape, but for us it made things easier - we could get close to our target top without much heather bashing!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 189.JPG

Not a very inspiring "path" and the views were rather flat, too, but we kept our fingers crossed we'd manage to find the Phantom of Dava:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 192.JPG

Rhilean Burn:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 033.JPG

The burn had to be crossed as there's no bridge, but water levels have dropped since our adventures in Glen Loth:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 040.JPG

The ruins of Battanmaceachain served as a good spot for a short break. I assessed my post-injection arm and noticed it was already swelling up; I decided to ignore it. Apart from the sore bruise, I was feeling fine.
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 044.JPG

To find the crash site, we headed up the eastern side of Maol an Taillier.. The grid ref gave us only a general idea to where we should search; the slopes ale dotted with bumps and small peat hags and also covered with high heather so the task wasn't as easy as we had hoped for.
It's up there somewhere:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 053.JPG

Kevin had a few photos of the crash site from other sources saved on his phone so he tried to compare the views in the background. Good luck, as the distant vistas looked exactly the same anywhere on this moor!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 199.JPG

I was eager to head up!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 204.JPG
Come on, it must be over there, above us!

We walked uphill slowly, some distance from each other, checking every suspiciously looking rock and dip in the ground, but failed to see anything resembling a piece of a crashed plane. We got as far as the summit of Maol an Taillier. We knew now, we must have missed the site and were ready to locate it on the way back.
The edge of the Cairngorms with snow still on the plateau, visible from the summit of Maol an Taillier.
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 059.JPG

View west to Carn nan Tri-tighearnan:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 206.JPG

Today, we climbed another TUMP! What a success!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 064.JPG

Concentrating now on finding the Oxford crash site, we carefully descended back towards Battanmaceachain, scanning the ground as we walked. Again, zilch. Back to the spot we had started the search from, we just looked around in despair and Kevin was ready to give up, when I suddenly noticed a suspiciously looking rock on the slope above us.
"See that stone over there?"
He took a zoomed photo of it and...
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 065.JPG

"That is definitely NOT a stone. I think you nailed it again!"
The crash site is about 200m to the north and east of the grid ref we had so it was a strike of luck we found it at all!
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 154.JPG

The most interesting parts on this site are the two Armstrong Siddeley Cheatah engines from the Airspeed Oxford. One is better preserved, but both still have several cylinders attached:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 146.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 263.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 072.JPG

What's left of the plane is madly smashed but surprisingly, we found many small pieces that can hardly bee seen on other, more popular sites. Some stuff still has numbers/names on it; I don't usually touch anything when photographing wreckage but made a small exception for a couple of tiny pieces, just to get a better picture of them:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 319.JPG

This could be a part of the battery casing:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 324.JPG

Crushed radiator???
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 229.JPG

Part of the undercarriage assembly perhaps:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 237.JPG

A lightbulb socket, possibly from the cockpit:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 248.JPG

A wing spar:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 092.JPG

More interesting parts that I don't dare identifying 'cause I could be totally wrong:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 239.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 089.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 240.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 096.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 100.JPG

Fuel mixture indicators from the engines:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 149.JPG

2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 150.JPG

A small scrap of the fuselage still painted in its original yellow colour, a sign that this was a training plane:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 278.JPG

So what happened here?...
it was indeed a training flight. The young pilot, Acting Pilot Officer Peter Drury from Rotherham in South Yorkshire was only 19 years old and he was a pupil in Advanced Flying Training School at Dalcross near Inverness. On the 6 December 1951 he carried out a solo night cross country exercise and took off at 21:45. About two hour later, on his way back to base he was ordered from the ground to turn on his Beam Approach radio and follow it in descending line towards the airfield.
The ground controller waited for the pilot to confirm his position as he passed the Inner Master Beacon, but when this didn't happen, he called the plane again. P/O Drury just started to reply and give his position, but suddenly, the transmission was broken. Nothing more was ever heard from the Oxford...
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 138.JPG

The aircraft remained missing for nearly two weeks and it was only by chance that the crash site was located by a shepherd working on the Earl of Cawdor’s estate, on the 19th of December. The body of the pilot was retrieved by a party sent from Dalcross; he was later buried in his home town of Rotherham.
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 323.JPG

A Court of Inquiry concluded that the aircraft had dived into the ground after the pilot had apparently lost control; P/O Drury did not hold an instrument rating and had only eighty hours of total flying experience and though most of it was on Airspeed Oxfords, he had only six hours of solo night flying experience. What really happened here, we'll never know, but we can safely assume that it was a simple pilot error. :(
Looking back at Maol an Taillier; the crash site location is on the less steep slope to the right hand side of the picture:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 161.JPG

After examining the crash site, we returned the same way. On the way back, we stopped to admire waterfalls on Leonach Burn:
2021-05-27 dulsie airspeed 166.JPG

A shorter day this time, but the site was really interesting despite the wreckage being very fragmented. I was feeling reasonably well and hoped that I'd be able to return to the hills the following morning!

So we did. Ignoring my aching arm, the next day I walked nearly 30km to find one more crash site and this one was a belter! We took over 800 photos, most of which was of the wreckage :shock: It will take me some time to sort the photos and write this story up but it will appear on my blog some time next week :D


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User avatar
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
Interests: Hillwalking, cycling, jogging, mushroom picking and many other outdoor activities, meowing on mountain summits included :P
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Isle of Skye
Gear: well... my husband ;)))
Camera: FujiFilm Finepix HS10
Ideal day out: Anything - from beach strolls to scrambling up icy slopes. Just bring it on!
Ambition: Tick off all Munros...

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Long Distance routes: Dava Way    Moray Coastal Trail   

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