Finding the Peak District’s Plane Crash Sites
As part of a content marketing project for client Mammut, we teamed up with writer Andrew McCloy and photographer Mike Smith to find some of the area’s most famous aircraft wrecks…
Words by Andrew McCloy. Photos by Mike Smith
There’s a rough beauty to the Dark Peak, the belt of wild and largely inhospitable gritstone moors across the north of the Peak District, that for a hillwalker like myself offers adventure and escape. But the empty expanses of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow hold a darker secret that I knew little about. During the last century over 150 aircraft have crashed in the Peak District, most coming to grief on these high, unforgiving slopes and rocky edges. The evidence is still there, if you know where to look.
To help me locate three of the most prominent crash sites today I enlist the services of Don Walker, an experienced hiker and amateur military historian. We park at the A57 Snake summit lay-by and head north on the Pennine Way towards Bleaklow Head.
“I’m immediately struck by the sheer amount of wreckage. Undercarriage legs and wheel struts stick out at jarring angles, while shiny riveted sections of steel glint in the weak sunshine.”
After half an hour’s puffing we strike off for a narrow path towards the rounded summit of Higher Shelf Stones, weaving our way through the dense heather and shallow peat valleys known as groughs. All of a sudden we emerge on to a bare strip of land where, on 3rd November 1948, a B-29 Superfortress of the USAF 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron crashed in thick cloud.
I’m immediately struck by the sheer amount of wreckage. Undercarriage legs and wheel struts stick out at jarring angles, while shiny riveted sections of steel glint in the weak sunshine. I’m also a little surprised that it’s all still here in the first place, so real, as if it had only happened last month.
Looking out from the hilltop position on this blustery yet clear Spring morning, I wonder what it must have been like to fly low over this terrain at 220mph in the patchy mist. “Frightening,” suggests Don, “especially as the pilot wouldn’t have been familiar with the topography but had elected to fly by keeping visual contact with the ground. Even if he saw the land suddenly rise ahead he wouldn’t have time to avoid it.”
We retrace our steps to Snake summit, disturbing a few indignant red grouse on the way. Across the road, we now aim for the dark outline of Kinder Scout to the south, picking up a good pace along the Pennine Way’s winding flagstones as we head to our next destination, the wreckage of a B-24 Liberator…
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