View Full Version : Seeking information on WWII plane wreck...

19-May-09, 16:46
On December 16, 1943, a plane took off from the RAF base at Wick. The starboard engine is reported to have failed completely just after becoming airborne The pilot F/O J.S. Cummins and his Navigator W/O W.K. McGrath were the crew of the Beaufighter. F/O Cummins feathered the propeller and attempted to do a circuit on one engine. He completed one half the circuit when the other engine failed and compelled him to crash-land in a field south of the airdrome. The landing was heavy and the aircraft was badly broken, the tail being practically severed. The undercarriage was found fifty yards away from the scene. The aircraft then started to burn. F/O Cummins was unconscious and strapped in the aircraft with the control column pressed into his stomach. W/O McGrath was unhurt and after freeing himself, he came forward and pulled out his pilot. He forced the control column back and had to remove one of the pilotís boots, and the safety harness before freeing him. The aircraft was burning during this interlude and W/O McGrath suffered burns on his hands and his hair and eyebrows were singed. There was extreme danger of the 60 lb. R.P rockets exploding due to the intense heat of the fire. W/O McGrath managed to lift the limp body of F/O Cummings out of the cockpit and dragged him 100 yards away from the crash to safety.

It is with great pride that I introduce myself as the granddaughter of W.K. 'Red' McGrath. Though my grandfather went on to receive the prestigious George Medal for his actions on that terrifying day in 1943, the event was something he rarely spoke of. After his sudden passing in 1970, (long before my birth), I have been left only with the second hand accounts of that day that my father and grandmother have proudly recounted to me over the years. Though I cherish these occasions, I have always wanted to know more.

Through recent, unexpected circumstances, I found myself in contact with 404 squadron historian, Major Chris Larsen. Major Larsen informed me that the wreckage of Grandpa McGrath's Beaufighter was discovered in a peat bog in Scotland around 2003. Purely out of curiosity, I immediately began searching out information about the location of the wreck and its condition. Though riddled with dead ends, this journey has also been marked with successes.

Perhaps most remarkably, and most rewardingly, I have made contact with F/O JS Cummins' grandson, Jeremy Cummins.Together, we are seeking any information that the good people of Caithness can provide about the condition of the plane. We believe the crash occurred 1.5 miles south west of Watten, Caithness. This type of research is very difficult from our homes in Canada, but we have come across rumours that the remains of the plane may be on display at Strath Farm where we believe they were unearthed. Over the past 66 years, this event has become a cloudy legend in both of our families. We are interested in any news articles about the crash or the unearthing that may exist. Perhaps someone may even have current photos of the remains. We are interested in adding these important pieces to the collections of items left to us by our heroic grandfathers. We hope this journey will allow us to pass on a more complete picture of this miraculous event to our own children, keeping the memories of J.S. Cummins and W.K. McGrath alive for years to come.

On behalf of the Cummins and McGrath families, thank you in advance for any assistance you may be willing to provide.


Erin McGrath

lynne duncan
19-May-09, 21:11

don't think this relates directly but some more information on the area at that time for you,
sure someone will be able to help here

a copy of the book that the hillhead school produced can be obtained from the school if you wish

19-May-09, 21:15
Put "WW II Aircraft Wreckage" in the google search on this site and you will get some useful information. You could also contact the North Highland Archive in Wick, they should be able to help with some info.

19-May-09, 23:39
If it is the aircraft near Strath, I remember reading an article on this in the last year or so - Possibly in the Caithness Courier or John O Groat Journal if it wasn't here on the Org. I think the farmer described their efforts to pull it out of the moss with a tractor.

20-May-09, 09:30
Try this it seems to be the same one

>> http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/archive/index.php?t-16013.html

>> http://forum.caithness.org/showthread.php?t=709

20-May-09, 12:56
congratulations bothyman, good job well done

20-May-09, 13:55
Thank you Bothyman,
You are very right, the article and the web post by George Brims are both about the wreck I am seeking. These are the items that have helped me track the wreck remains as far as Strath (and enticed me to sign up on this message board!).
I appreciate your help!

23-May-09, 15:27
Thank you to everyone who has passed along information and words of encouragement. Your kindess means so much to our family.