Will Wastwater give up its watery secret of three lost WW2 airmen? Divers plan return to lake in hunt for answers into aircraft missing 67 years

The Westmorland Gazette: The engine block of the plane as found in Wastwater The engine block of the plane as found in Wastwater

DIVERS are planning to plumb the depths of England’s deepest lake in their 'obsessive' search to find out more about a Second World War air disaster which happened 67 years ago this month.

In January 1945, three airmen perished in a fatal plane crash when a Royal Navy ‘Gruman Avenger’ aircraft smashed into scree slope high above Wastwater in the Lake District.

Now divers from the Keighley branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) are trying to find out more information about the crash which occurred around the scree slope known as Great Gully.

In particular, they would like to know more about the three airmen killed instantly as they participated in a night-time navigational exercise.

Graham Clay, 43, a member, said: “We were diving in Wastwater earlier this year (2012) and came across the Grumman Avenger’s engine block in only about six metres of water (pictured).

"We also believe the tail section is in one piece and is also in Wastwater, although we are yet to locate it.”

“Apparently you can still find small pieces of aluminum and other debris from the crash on the scree slope above Wastwater, although Great Gully is difficult and very dangerous to access."

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"I think the engine block and tail section, being heavy, slid down the scree and basically dropped into the lake.

“However, we suspect much more of the wreckage lies in Wastwater and is just waiting to be found.”

Graham said what club members 'really' want to find out is more information on the three crew members who died.

He said: “There seems to be very little known about them. We have trawled the Internet and what records we can but there is scant information out there.

“The pilot was a Barnard J Kennedy, a Canadian, from Hamilton Ontario, his body, along with his two colleagues, was recovered and Kennedy is buried, we believe, in Lytham St Anne’s.

“However, there is, apparently, a memorial to him in his native Hamilton. He was a Lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve.

“The wireless operator was a man called Phillip Royston Mallorie, a Royal Navy leading airman. He was a Yorkshire man and is buried, we believe, in Inskip while the navigator was a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Midshipman called Gordon Fell. He is buried in his home town of Accrington, Lancashire.”

In terms of the aircraft, Graham said although a version of the Grumman Avenger is still flying today, particularly in Canada, very few people outside of aircraft buffs, seem to know much about it.

He said: “The Grumman Avenger, originally called the Grumman Tarpon, was an American-developed torpedo aircraft and light bomber which had a crew of three.

“However, the Americans used the Avenger more as a bomber and as a search and anti-submarine aircraft, rather than as a torpedo-plane.

"The Royal Navy took delivery of an initial 402 aircraft in 1943 and later, after most of those aircraft were returned to the US, the Royal Navy received 222 of the up-dated version of the aircraft in 1944."

“The Royal Navy used the Wartime Mark 3 version of the Avenger until 1947. But the Mark 4 and Mark 5 versions were used by the Royal Navy from 1953 until 1955 when it was replaced by the Fairey Gannet."

“Outside of military use the Avenger found a useful role as a fire bomber, dropping tons of water on wild fires, with many still in use in Canada today.”

If you have any information about the airmen killed in the plane crash or the aircraft, contact Graham via e-mail at grahamclay@blueyonder.co.uk or call 07900 135288.

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