Bleaklow, the B29 and the Lancaster KB993


This walk had been in my mind for some time, to go and visit the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Lancaster, KB993, a post war crash, on 18th May 1945 on to James Thorn, Bleaklow, while carrying out bumps and circuits,.

The story is, that they got bored doing these bumps and circuits, so decided to go for a fly around the local area, without a navigator! When the light faded, they became disorientated and flew around Glossop before finally crashing.

All six crew on board were sadly killed.

Anyway, I had been looking at visiting this site for some time, not expecting to see much from the research I had done. The walk to the crash site would be a good exercise of navigation skills, because after Higher Shelf Trig Point, the rest would be featureless terrain.

It was while out with Chris, who also enjoys wreck hunting as well as the Dark Peak, on Easter Sunday on Derwent Moor which I’ve already written about; “Derwent Moor to Highshaw Clough from Cutthroat Bridge”, I had another free day, set aside for a walk in the Peak District, Chris was up for a walk on Bleaklow, so I suggested the Lancaster KB993.

So Tuesday it was, almost a year since my first visit to Bleaklow, where I wrote “Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed! going to some of the main features, Bleaklow Head, Wain (Kissing) Stones and finally the B29 Superfortress, Overexposed which also, had crashed on Bleaklow.

Just as on last years visit to the B29, there was plenty of snow, in fact, considerably more snow on this occasion than last year.

The start of our walk, the Pennine Way on to Bleaklow


So once I had arrived home after being out on Derwent Moor, and after I had sorted my kit, cleaned what needed to be cleaned ready for Tuesday, then I set about plotting the route to KB993.

The route was basically going to be, the Pennine Way north from the A57 Snake Pass to Hern Clough, then west towards the B29 and Higher Shelf Trig Point, continuing west, though hand railing the ridge from Higher Shelf, via Lower Shelf Stones to James Thorn.

So Tuesday came, a very blustery and cold day, colder and windier than it was on Derwent Moor only two days prior. I arrived at the parking on the A57 Snake Pass, the only other vehicle there was Chris.

It was going to be a quiet day, or were we being foolhardy?

Well, we got suited and booted, even Chris made sure he had extra winter layers on!

We then set off along the Pennine Way, a route I had done several time before, so you would think I’d know it inside out?

I can assure you, in places, it was almost unrecognisable due to the snow cover not only on the path, but also around the immediate vicinity.

Oops, the path disappears!

Snow drifts reached across the path


The snow was deep, with snow drifts blocking the Pennine Way, where we had to walk along the edge because we didn’t have much option, other than the scale snow drifts almost as tall as we are!

Around Alport Low, the path became very indistinct, where careful navigation and observation of features, normally familiar, had to be studied in detail to make sure we didn’t make a wrong turn and walk along one of the small cloughs that look like they could be the Pennine Way!

Which way?


We sorted which way to go and Hern Clough was appearing just ahead.

That looked beautiful, covered in snow, the water flowing very silently and slow, the wind chill, hovering around -8.5ºC to -9.5ºC dropped down to -10.5ºC, with a fearsome bite to it!

Hern Clough

...... "the wind chill, hovering around -8.5ºC to -9.5ºC dropped down to -10.5ºC,
with a fearsome bite to it!
"


We followed Hern Clough, looking back over Bleaklow to Howden Moors, looking beautifully covered in snow, before carrying on to the point where the Pennine Way turns to the right, passing a stone marker.

The Pennine Way marker, but we were to head west before that point.

Looking west, from Hern Clough

Looking back over Bleaklow to Howden Moors
"Soon after leaving Hern Clough, we ascended and could see the brow of Higher Shelf
and just make out the Trig Point with reasonable clarity"


At this point, we needed to head west for the B29 and Higher Shelf Trig Point.

Soon after leaving Hern Clough, we ascended and could see the brow of Higher Shelf and just make out the Trig Point with reasonable clarity.

That was where we were aiming for.

While walking the planned route, I managed to lose my leg knee deep in snow!

Once again, I had been Bleaklowed…..

I had been Bleaklowed.....


We had reached about the halfway point between Hern Clough and the B29, when we came across two backpackers, a father and son, in good spirits, well wrapped up, doing a route check.

Chris stopped initially to chat to them while I carried out a route and time check for ourselves.

I could see they were in for a lengthy chat, being the friendly person that I am, I dropped back to join in the chat, find out where they had come from and where they were heading.

They were heading for Edale and seriously off route, thinking they were on the Pennine Way, when Chris pointed them in the direction of Hern Clough!

They were then wondering which route to take to Edale, in these conditions!

Rightly or not, we advised they headed for Jacobs Ladder, warning them it will be icy, but the shortest exposed route, where they could drop down to Upper Booth and follow the road back to Edale.

We then wished the backpackers a safe journey, waiting to ensure they were heading in the right direction, which they were.

Guys, if you’re reading this, we hope you got to Edale safe and well.

Onwards and forwards, we continued our route when we soon came across the first bits of the B29 wreckage.

"we soon came across the first bits of the B29 wreckage"



While we were around the B29, where thirteen young men were killed, we had a look at the poppy’s that had been laid, noting one from 42nd Commando, Royal Marines, pausing for a moments respect, before moving on.


Two of the B29 radial engines, with some poppies close by.



The Poppy laid on behalf of 42 Commando, Royal Marines

Looking up to Higher Shelf Trig Point


I mentioned earlier that you can read all about the B29 in my blog “Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed!

We then headed for Higher Shelf Trig point, less than 200 metres from where we were, to stop and take in the views, albeit for a very brief moment. The wind was really blowing hard and the wind chill was biting deep.

But then we were high and exposed.

Chris found a bit of shelter from the wind, where we discussed our route.

The direct route was westerly, but that would mean a considerable drop in height with a similar height to ascend. That was not practical, so I suggested we handrail the edge of the ridge from Higher Shelf, via Lower Shelf on to James Thorn.


Looking across to James Thorn, where the RCAF Lancaster KB993 crashed

James Thorn


As we neared James Thorn, another route check was taken, because what I didn’t want to do was descend unnecessarily, especially as I could see a definite track heading upwards to James Thorn.

So that’s what we did, with the idea that we could look down and descend if necessary.

As we walked the track, I spotted a small cairn and no sooner after spotting the cairn did I spot a post just over the edge of James Thorn.

As we neared the edge of James Thorn, it became clear that was the crash site, right over the edge on a small ledge.

My decision to follow the track was a wise one and it paid off. For if we had taken the more direct route, we would have dropped down further than we needed and had to climb a short steep side to reach the crash site.


"As we walked the track, I spotted a small cairn"

The Memorial Plaque

Just a few remnants of the wreckage remain.


We stopped for brief while, the wind seemed considerably mild compared to what we had endured and the sun was beating down, making it almost comfortable.

The inscription on the plaque reads;


ON THE NIGHT OF MAY 18th 1945 AVRO LANCASTER KB993 OF CANADIAN 408 SQUADRON CRASHED AT THIS PLACE.
THE CREW WERE FLYING CIRCUITS AND BUMPS
F.O A.A CLIFFORD
F.O D.A FEHRMAN
W.O M.C CAMERON
F.S C.J HALVORSON
F.S L.C HELLERSON
P.O K.B McIVER
TWENTY SEVEN DAYS LATER 408 GOOSE SQUADRON RETURNED TO CANADA.
FOR FREEDOM.
NEARBY ON THE MOOR BELOW LIE THE REMAINS OF C47 SKYTRAIN 2108982 WHICH CRASHED ON THE 24 JULY 1945 WITH THE LOSS OF ALL ON BOARD.
1st Lt G.L.JOHNSON USAAF
1st Lt E.W.BURNS USAAF
1st Lt B.W. IZLAR USAAF
Sgt T.R. McCROCKLIN USAAF
Sgt F.M MALONEY USAAF
Cpl G.R ALEXANDER USAAF
LAC J.D MAIN RAF
IN MEMORY
THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

Butt that cold bite was still there!

We had a quick lunch stop and look around, with a particularly stunning view up Crooked Clough, though the photo doesn’t do the view we had, any justice….


Looking up Crooked Clough


Then we had to trek back, walking in to that bitterly cold easterly that was behind us after Hern Clough, was now in our faces!

Basically back tracking our outbound route, following the ridge edge back to Higher Shelf, then the B29 and Hern Clough to pick up the Pennine Way back to the cars.

As we approached Hern Clough, we stumbled across another backpacker, who at first appeared a little disorientated.
Our return route, looking up to Higher Shelf
The Trig Point on Higher Shelf


After Higher Shelf and the B29, we headed for Hern Clough.
Howden Moor in the background
We stopped to exchange friendly chat, which he happily engaged in, to find out where he had come from and where he was heading.

His destination was Glossop, though he seemed to be approaching it in a rather unusual, but feasible direction.

We wished him a safe journey and continued our way, now along the Pennine Way.

Again, careful navigation and observation was required, as the path was obscured by snow drifts and the ground around us tried its best to fool us in to taking the wrong turn.


The wind exceeded 30mph!

Ooops, the path disappears!

Snow drifts across the path


But we won and we kept on the desired route all the way back to our cars.

However, it was while returning along the Pennine Way the intrepid solo backpacker caught up with us!

Surprised, we were!

He was still trying to get to Glossop!

He looked like he had plenty of energy, though we still felt he was disorientated. If I had a mobile signal, I would have made a 999 call with genuine concern for the gentleman.

Again, we exchanged friendly conversation and off he continued south along the Pennine Way.

We expected him to take the Doctors Gate path or follow the A57 Snake Pass to Glossop, but instead he continued along the Pennine Way, crossing the A57 Snake Pass towards Kinder and possibly Mill Hill!

Yes, he could get to Glossop via Mill Hill, but it wouldn’t be a direct route.

Good sir, if you’re reading this, we hope you managed to reach your destination safe and well?

Though we had done this in good visibility conditions, it could have been a nightmare if the cloud had descended on us.


Higher Shelf from the end of our walk

James Thorn, location of the Lancaster wreckage, from the end of our walk
Even though the weather forecast was good, it could easily have happened, so to attempt a trek like this, your navigation skills need to be very good.


The map, showing the are and route

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler

6 comments:

  1. Good write up mate! I enjoyed reading it. My friends and I attempted to get to the B29 last time we were out together. The mist was terrible though, so we had to knock it on the head and turn back! Next time, though.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you.

      I'm sorry to read you had to turn back because of the mist descending. It was a wise move to turn back as the mist descended.

      However, I can assure you, the B29 crash site is well worth the visit, so good luck for the next attempt.

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    2. It was a cold day Mike, nice write up;-) until next time, take care mate.

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    3. Thanks Chris. Apologies for the delay in replying, its been a bit crazy at work.

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  2. Great write up of a wonderful looking day!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Chrissie. It was a superb day.

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