Wellington R1646 - Glen Clunie
A lasting memory and a plan.....
Fifteen year old Andy Brown, the young lad who was part of the search party that first located the wreckage of Wellington R1646, never forgot about finding the remains of the aircraft on that cold day in February 1942. The memory of those who lost their lives stayed with him and he always felt that there should be something in the area to commemorate the airmen, not only those from Wellington R1646, but all the airmen who had lost their lives in the Cairngorm Mountains in aviation crashes over the years. Although the remains of some of the aircraft lost can still be seen scattered about in the remote hills and glens today there was no memorial in the area to acknowledge their loss and pay tribute to the airmen.
It was to be many years before the seed of Andy Browns idea for a memorial would start to grow and flourish. In 1999, Andy applied to the Ministry of Defence for permission to recover the Pegasus engines from the R1646 crash site with the idea of somehow incorporating them into a memorial. Permission was granted. One of the engines now lay in a burn some way down the hillside from where the Wellington had crashed, having rolled down the steep hill over the years. Getting the engines off the hillside was going to be quite a job, however, Andy was undaunted and he was determined. A helicopter would be required; an RAF Sea King Helicopter based at Lossiemouth was requested to assist. However, before the helicopter could lift the engines off the hillside they would have to be moved to an area where it would be possible for the helicopter to gain safe access for the lift. This involved having to move the two Pegasus engines some way back up the hill. At this point, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were contacted in order to lend some much needed muscle power. Appropriately, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the Regiment that had guarded RAF Lossiemouth in 1942 when the Wellington was lost. In 1999, they were part of the Royal Guard at nearby Balmoral Castle, the Royal Family's Scottish retreat.
Once safely recovered from the hillside, the two engines were taken to Andy Browns' workshop where the less damaged of the two was cleaned up and painted black in preparation for inclusion on the memorial.
Gerry Robb, an Architectural Designer from Aboyne in Aberdeenshire was asked to design an appropriate memorial which could incorportate one of the two Pegasus engines. The design he came up with was very effective and made use of local materials as well as the engine. Gerry was also heavily involved in the task of making the arrangements for the unveiling of the memorial and in the search for relatives of the airmen who died when Wellington R1646 crashed.
The Memorial and the unveiling.....
Finally, on Thursday 21st August 2003, the day that Andy Brown had been working towards dawned. The memorial was in place, situated in the centre of Braemar in its own small enclosure right next to the village War Memorial. Behind the Memorial runs the Clunie River in a steep sided gully shaded by trees. The main road through the village passes close by. After years of planning and months of preparation Andy would be able to witness the closure of something that he had vowed to see through many years before. The unveiling of a memorial in Braemar to honour the memory of not only the crew of Wellington R1646, but all airmen who had lost their lives in the Cairngorm mountains over the years.
Hanging, as a backdrop, behind the Memorial were the four flags representing the countries the airmen from Wellington R1646 came from, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Royal Airforce ensign fluttered high above on the flagpole.
Girls and boys from 102 Squadron Northfield, Aberdeen Air Training Corps formed a Guard of Honour outside the door of the Fife Arms Hotel where the organisers and invited guests were all gathered. Over on the other side of the road, by the Memorial, airmen from RAF Lossiemouth formed a Guard of Honour ready for the arrival of the HRH The Princess Royal, who was to perform the unveiling. Representing the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was their Shetland Pony mascot who brought along his handler looking very smart in his kilted uniform. The Ballater and District Pipe Band marched down the road playing a rousing selection of tunes.
Finally the main players in the show started to make their way from the hotel and take their places by the Memorial. HRH The Princess Royal arrived shortly afterwards and was welcomed by The Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire. They then walked through the Guard of Honour to the gate into the Memorial. Before entering the Memorial area the Princess Royal was introduced to Andy Brown, Gerry Robb and the three Ministers. Everyone then took his or her places and the Memorial Service commenced.
Towards the end of the Service, HRH The Princess Royal stepped forward to unveil the plaques on the Memorial and to lay a beautiful floral wreath. A buglar played The Last post and, poignantly, somewhere in the distance was the sound of an aircraft engine high in the sky.
After a brief silence, a lone piper played a lament before Reverend Sloan made the Dedication. The bugler then played Reveille and the laying of the wreaths began.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of: The Royal Canadian Air Force, The Royal Australian Air Force, The New Zealand Defence Force, The Officer in Command and personnel at RAF Lossiemouth and Aboyne Branch of the Royal British Legion. Later, flowers were laid by the relatives of Sgt Jackson RCAF, and flowers were also laid on behalf of all those relatives who could not be there on the day.
The ceremony was concluded with the singing of the National Anthem (God Save the Queen) with Turriff Silver Band providing the musical accompaniment.
Before leaving Braemar, HRH The Princess Royal, and all those in attendance, witnessed a fly past by a solitary Tornado aircraft from 15 Squadron who are based at RAF Lossiemouth.
|Thanks to Andy Brown and Gerry Robb for above images on this page.
Monday 19th January 2004 marked the 62nd anniversary of the loss of Wellington R1646 and crew. The memorial in Braemar was visited, flowers were laid on behalf of the relatives, and the crew were remembered.