The Wirren What's What
Hawker Hurricane AF978 on East Wirren.
Liberator KG857 on Hill of Wirren.
Bristol Beaufort AW242 on Hill of Wirren.
(Distance covered = 15.0 mile/Ascent =+1201m)
I'd been wanting to visit 3 crashsites on Hill of Wirren for some time but had never got round to it, then I found out the that there were possibly 9 crashsites on the Hill, so that was the incentive I needed and the opportunity arose when Heather was dancing in a Championships at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen.
Of the 9 crashsites I knew something had been
found at four of them, so I was confident I was going to beat my record of
visiting 3 new crashsites in one day and as I had grid references for 8 of
the 9 perhaps I might find a few more as well.
I was also meeting someone on the top of Wirren who had happened upon some wreckage to the north east of the well known about B24 wreck, so he was going to show me where it was. From his description of where he found these pieces it sounded like they were right in the area of the grid reference I had been given for the crashsite of a Bristol Beaufighter.
Parked just above Dalbog Farm and ready to go at 5:30am.
To enable me to encompass 8 of the crashsites into one circular walk I ignored all the recommended and well used routes to Hill of Wirren and parked to the east, just above the farm at Dalbog. Then if I had time I was going to relocate the car to look for the 9th one which was within a mile of the nearest road, I should have known the 'if I have time' clause never works with me!
above and below:-Some views while walking up the first hill of the day,'The Crannel'
The first hour of my walk was one of the few occassions I had to put my fleece and gloves on, the sun had yet to make an appearance and it was baltic. Luckily by the time I'd walked over the Crannel and reached the first crashsite of the day on the lower slopes of East Wirren the sun was up and it had warmed up considerably.
Around the other side of the Crannel, the first crashsites of the day are marked on the lower slopes of East Wirren, '1' is the location I had at the time for a Sea Fury crash and 2 is the location I had for a Hurricane crash.
The first crashsite on my agenda for the day was a Hawker Sea Fury, I had a grid reference for this from a reference book that put it not far down the hill from another crashsite which was a Hawker Hurricane. I also had a photograph taken in the late 1990's of someone holding a piece of wreckage, so using that I was able to pinpoint the exact spot(or so I thought). The exact spot was right where a Landrover track had been constructed and there was no sign of the piece in the photo(The piece is still there, I just managed to miss it). I found out after I returned home that the Sea Fury in fact crashed about half a mile further north and the grid ref I had was actually from where a piece of the Hurricane that had crashed a couple of hundred yards further up the hill had been found.
Landrover track up to East Wirren, I thought this must have been built over the part in the 1990's photo but that is not the case as the piece is still there, I just managed to look everywhere but where it was!
After spending way too much time looking for that piece of Sea Fury that wasn't actually a piece of Sea Fury, I gave up and started off up the Landrover track towards crashsite number two of the day, which as it transpired was crashsite number one! This one proved extremely easy to find as it was right next to the aforementioned Landrover track.
Only a few pieces at this one, but a few pieces are infinately better than no pieces!
A piece of Hurricane AF978's centre wing section.
Above and below:-Close up of the bracket on the
piece of the Hurricane's wing
centre section on East Wirren above, and the same bracket labelled 'C' on
the image of a Hurricane restoration below.(The one on the other side)
This bracket also had numerous part numbers and inspection stamps on it.
Above and below:-The same piece of AF978 on East Wirren labelled for clarity above and the identical part on a Hurricane restoration below and previous photo. Note:-The piece shown above could be from the port or starboard side!
Above and below:-Part of Hurricane AF978's
After Stuart Whittaker had identified the pieces of wing centre section shown in the previous photos for me, I challenged him to identify this piece, which he did, then he sent me the image below. The firewall is labelled 'D' on the previous image of a Hurricane under restoration.
This is a piece of wing spar from the outer wing, it was still attached to the piece of wing centre section shown in the photo below.
Above and next two photos:-The front of the wing centre section where
the undercarriage and outer wing attaches, shown on a Hurricane restoration above and the
identical part lying on East Wirren below.
Note the broken bracket on the photo below it can clearly be seen in the photo above at the top of the box section with the four round holes.
Photo showing the proximaty of the landrover track to the pieces of Hurricane.
Above and below:-Panel found lying in the spoil from the road consruction, it is on the other side of the road to the other pieces.
View back down the landrover track, this is one of several that could be followed to the top of East Wirren, the Hurricane crashed in the immediate foreground and pieces were scattered down the hill, some of the pieces further down were misidentified as the Sea Fury crash at some point.
While I was at the Hurricane crashsite I received a phonecall from George Middleton who was meeting me on the top of Wirren to show me where some possible Beaufighter wreckage was situated, I thought I would make the top of Wirren long before him, saying as I set of at 5:30am, but my undoubted talent at dawdling meant he was there long before me and even after he walked over to the summit of East Wirren he had a bit of a wait while I trudged up the steep zigzags to meet him. I should add that of all the hills I have been to, Hill of Wirren has by far the best phone signal!
Approaching the final slog up to the summit of East Wirren, the sight of zigzags up a hill are always a good indication that the legs and lungs are going to have some work to do!
Stopping to take photos is a good way of stopping to take a breather without admitting to yourself you need to stop to take a breather!.
The large Torr on the top of Clacknaben makes it easy to spot in the distance.
Ooh look!, I can see my car from here.
Above and below:-Heading over from the summit of East Wirren to the summit of Hill of Wirren with George Middleton as company.
George arriving at the crashsite of B24 KG857.
Some of the B24 wreckage. For more photos of the wreckage click here.
Part of the B24's nosewheel assembly. The thick strut is labelled 9 on the diagram below, the hinge on the left 1 and the triangle shaped frame 5.
Inside the nose of a B24, the nosewheel piece found on Hill of Wirren is immediately behind the red tape.
After waiting for so long to meet me on East Wirren then waiting around while I took photos of the B24 wreckage George ran out of time and had to head off back down the hill. Before he left he had located the other wreckage he found on his last trip up here and gave me directions on how to find it.
George's collection of wreckage.
This area of wreckage which I was hoping might be pieces of Beaufighter turned out to be more pieces of B24, one of the parts was a couple of the hinged cooling gills from the engine cowling, still attached to a bit of frame that had part numbers on it.
Piece of cooling gill frame with part numbers, one of which was an inspection stamp with 'CL' clearly visible. One of the two cooling gills and its hinge still attached to this can be seen at the bottom.
RAF B24 GRV showing the location of the cowling cooling gills.
Heading in a northeast direction I kept finding pieces of wreckage hidden in the quite deep peat gullies, on this day these gullies were nice and dry and easy too walk through but that might not be the case on a wetter day. As well as being sunny on top of Wirren it was also windy and the wind was blowing in exactly the same direction as the trail of wreckage which started at the B24 crashsite and finished quite a distance away on the other side of the hill.
Above :-A 6ft long wing section found in the peat gullies to the northeast of the B24 crashsite. It has a continuous hinge running its entire length. Below the hinge is the wing and above is a part of the hinged access panel from the leading edge of the B24 wing(see diagram below)
Below:-Diagram of a B24 wing showing the hinged leading edges, the wing section shown above comes from one of these..
These pieces lie right beside the fence that runs between East Wirren and Hill of Wirren and are mentioned on several websites as being the remains of the Beaufighter, the top piece is another cooling gill from the B24's engine cowling!
This piece I found right at the grid reference I had for the Beaufighter and it was also the farthest piece away from the B24 crashsite that I found, so I was hoping this might be a bit of Beaufighter.
Above and below:-The same piece as above, enlarged and rotated to match the orientation of the diagram below; which is a section of B24 wing!
There was so many gullies like this I undoubtadley missed as much wreckage as I found, some of which may or may not have been Beaufighter.
Heading off towards another crashsite on Wirren.
Looking back to the B24 crashsite.
It wasn't too far across to the next crashsite on my tour of Wirren and this one was very easy to find too. There was a deep crater full of wreckage and a large amount of wreckage scattered down the hill below that. It took me quite a while to go up and down the slope to get a photo of every bit.
Above and below:-Crashsite of Bristol Beaufort AW242 on Wirren.
click here for more photos of the Beaufort wreckage
I'd now missed two and found three, that left two to check out on the top of Wirren that I had grid references for, and the Albacore, but I'd already resigned myself to the fact I would'nt have time to go over there.
Heading back to the top of Hill of Wirren.
The next one to check out was a HP Hampden which crashed through the boundry fence that runs to the north east from the summit of Hill of Wirren. Despite having a good rummage around the area of the grid reference I had, I failed to find any sign of a crash.
Above and below:-Two photos of the area where the grid reference I had put the Hampden crash. One looking north and one looking west over to West Wirren.
As I set off to the north east towards the last crashsite on my circuit I pondered to myself whether the landowners who own the land either side of the boundry fence don't get on with each other, saying as they have constructed two landrover tracks running parallel with each other on either side of the fence, instead of sharing just the one. There's probably a logical explanation for why they've done this but for now I'll just imagine two feuding clans refusing to let the other one use their road!
The 'Duel Carriage Way' on the north eastern spur of Hill of Wirren.
Walking to the north east along one of the two landrover tracks, I had to turn to the south east before I reached Craigangower and go down 'The Shank of Stramile', about half way down this I had a grid reference for another Hurricane crash. Despite the heather being recently burnt off I could see no sign of any wreckage at the given location, but I was now running short of time so didn't have time to have a look around the surrounding area.
East Wirren from the top of The Shank of Stramile.
Looking back up the Shank of Stramile from the bottom, there may be Hurricane wreckage up there somewhere?
Looking back over to the Shank of Stramile from Monagob. I did spot an interesting scar in the gully over to the left but didn't have time to check it out. Probably just white stones anyways!
All that was left now was a long slog back to the car, I was going to go back via Cornescorn but when I realised there was a landrover track which wasn't marked on the map that went in more or less a straight line back over to The Crannel I took that option.
Passing close to the Sea Fury crashsite on the way back to the car.
I didn't know it at the time but this new route took me very very close to where the Sea Fury had actually crashed. If I'd looked to my left while walking past the Little Burn of Kilrie I probably would have spotted the wreckage, but I had just recieved a message to say the Competition at Aberdeen was finishing an hour and a half earlier then expected so I had to be back by 5:30pm. That mean't I had just over an hour to walk over 3 mile back to the car then drive back to Aberdeen, so I had my head down walking as fast as I could.
Heather and Emily with the trophies they won at the Aberdeen Championships.
Thanks to Stuart Whittaker for his help in identifying a lot of the parts.