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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Divers delve into history of Cumbrian plane wreck

A scuba diving club is turning its attention to the skies by trying to piece together the last moments of a plane crash above Wastwater.

The divers became interested in the World War Two crash in which three airmen died after finding the engine block of the plane in the lake.

The Royal Navy Grumman Avenger crashed into Great Gully, above Wastwater, in January 1945, during a nighttime exercise.

IT manager and Keighley Sub Aqua Club member, Graham Clay, said they had become ‘obsessed’ with finding out more about the accident and, in particular, the airmen involved.

“We were diving in Wastwater earlier this year and came across the Grumman Avenger’s engine block in only about six metres of water,” he said. “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.

“We suspect much more of the wreckage lies in Wastwater and is just waiting to be found.”

Graham said they wanted to find out is more information on the three crew members.

“There seems to be very little known about them,” he said. “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, and his body, along with his two colleagues, was recovered.

“The wireless operator was a man called Phillip Royston Mallorie, a Royal Navy leading airman. He was a Yorkshireman 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.”

He said they would like to try and trace any relatives of the men but were also keen to find out what had caused the crash.

He said the divers will be back in the spring to search for more wreckage.

VBrenan@cngroup.co.uk

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