Oxford PH404 - Beinn a Bhuird
Cairngorm Memorial Project
On Sunday 18th September 2005, a granite memorial plaque was unveiled, and a service of dedication was held, at the location on Beinn a' Bhuird where Oxford PH404 crashed in January 1945 killing all onboard.
The instigator behind this memorial was Squadron Leader Sandy Reid, RAFVR Rtd, who is Chairman of Aberdeen and North East Scotland Wing of the Air Training Corps.
His attention had been drawn to the remains of the Oxford aircraft on Beinn a' Bhuird by a friend and, having flown Oxfords during his own RAF training at Dalcross it struck a chord with him.
S/Ldr Reid decided that finding out more about the crashed Oxford and the story behind it would be a worthwhile project for some of the Air Cadets in the area, and passed what information he had on to the Cadets of 1298 Huntly Squadron.
The Cadets contacted me via this website for more details about the loss as I had already carried out some research into the circumstances and the crew onboard with the cooperation of a Czech Aviation Historian, Pavel Vancata. They also made valuable contact with the Free Czechoslovakian Air Force Association in London, and in particular with Lt Col Arnost Polak who is Secretary of the Association. Lt Col Polak had himself served with 311 Squadron and had known personally the members of the crew who perished in the Oxford on Beinn a' Bhuird.
The idea to place a commemorative plaque at the crash site of Oxford PH404 to commemorate the loss of the many airmen killed in the Cairngorms during the war and subsequent years was agreed on. All relevant agencies, landowners etc were approached and a weekend expedition planned in order to carry out the necessary ground work and ultimate placing, unveiling and dedicating of the plaque.
Funding for the project was greatly assisted by contributions from The Lottery, Veterans Reunited, The Royal British Legion and The McRoberts Trust.
Cadets from several Squadrons in the Wing volunteered to take part in the weekend expedition which was planned by F/Lt Bruce Lumsden, F/O Donna Greig, P/O Leanne Campbell, civilian instructors Alisdair Brooks, David Birch and John Strange.
The expedition took place over the weekend of Friday 16th September with the ceremony on the mountain being carried out on Sunday 18th once all preparations were completed.
A helicopter from 202 Air Sea Rescue Squadron was able to assist with transporting the plaque and equipment required to the top of the mountain during a training exercise.
After a busy weekend of logistics, planning and organising in the field, the Cadets had everything in place for the services and ceremonies to take place. Some camped overnight at the foot of the mountain ready for an early morning start to be on location for the unveiling.
On Sunday 18th September 2005, a 'Base Camp' was set up on the Invercauld Estate. A civilian helicopter on hire from HJS Helicopters arrived and transported the Rev James Wood - Wing Chaplain, F/Lt Philip Dawson RAF Rtd - a former RAF Bomber Pilot and flying Instructor, F/O Donna Greig and Cadet W/O David Leslie of 1990 (Ellon) Squadron, to the crash site.
Waiting for their arrival at site was a party of Cadets and Instructors who had spend the night camped further down the mountain. With the 'congregation' assembled, a short ceremony of dedication was performed at the unveiling of the plaque by the Rev James Wood and wreaths laid.
The helicopter then returned to the Invercauld Base Camp and made several flights over the various crash sites in the area with groups of veterans as passengers.
At noon the same day, a further service was conducted at the Wellington Memorial in Braemar by the Revs John Forbes & James Wood.
All participants in the weekends events then attended a BBQ held by 2367 Banchory Squadron Cadets.
On Sunday 30th October 2005, S/Ldr Sandy Reid and Cadet W/O David Leslie attended a ceremony at Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking, Surrey, to commemorate The Free Czechoslovakian Air Force Freedom Day.
During the visit they were presented to the Czech Ambassador and members of The Free Czechoslovakian Air Force Association. S/Ldr Reid laid a wreath on the Czechoslovak War Memorial and Cadet W/O Leslie laid a sprig of heather on the graves of each of the five airmen who had lost their lives on Beinn a' Bhuird in 1945.
A Trust Fund is being set up to have the local Air Training Corps Squadron at Woking place sprigs of heather and a wreath at Brookwood Cemetery every Remembrance Sunday.
Thanks to Sandy Reid for his assistance with information and photographs for this page.