Seventy years ago eight men died in a wartime air crash which left a mark on the Lakeland landscape to this day. GILES BROWN reports.

GREAT Carrs is not one of Lakeland’s most well-known fells.

Walkers who visit its 785 metre summit tend to do so mostly because they are en route to the more famous Coniston Old Man or perhaps on a Wainwright-bagging expedition to the nearby Grey Friar.

However, a tragic accident that occurred on the fell 70 years ago yesterday (Wednesday) means it is a peak that often lives long in the memories of passing hikers.

On October 22, 1944, Halifax bomber LL505 crashed into Great Carrs, killing all eight airmen on board and leaving a trail of wreckage that can still be found on the summit, as well as in the nearby scree and crags, to this day.

For years these remains, along with the memorial cairn and plaque on the summit, have made it one of the most poignant spots in the fells.

Windermere resident Margaret Tyson remembers the aftermath of the foggy night when the plane ploughed into the hillside.

At the time Mrs Tyson lived in Little Langdale, where her mother and father May and Fred Bowness ran the local post office.

The night it happened her father, along with local farmers and other people from the area tried to mount a rescue effort.

“He went along with the local farmers to try and find it that night, but they couldn’t get up because of the heavy mist,” said Mrs Tyson.

“They were eventually found the next morning.”

As the plane was fully armed when it came down, servicemen from the Royal Air Force were sent to guard the site until all the ammunition and weaponry had been recovered, she said.

“We had about five airmen sleeping on the floor in our parlour until they were able to set up a proper base,” she said.

“There was quite a buzz in the village for a while.”

For the last 10 years Don Greaves, from Windermere, has taken a very active role in maintaining the memorial to the crash.

Mr Greaves, a lifelong fell walker from Windermere, regularly traversed Great Carrs and noticed the commemorative plaque on the summit was falling into disrepair.

His family business Gordon Greaves Slate Ltd made a new plaque and installed it in the cairn in 2005, with Mr Greaves, Rev Mark East, and representatives from the RAF and the Canadian Air Force holding a dedication at the site on Armistice Day that year.

He returned this year with fellow walkers Paul Sykes and Andrew Denley to rebuild the cairn and put a new mahogany cross in place.

Fittingly their trek coincided with the flight of the world’s last two airworthy Lancaster Bombers over the Lake District on September 7.

“We measured up the cross and made an identical one and put it in place and it looks quite good now,” said Mr Greaves.

“I am not the only one who cares. I go there every year and there are quite a lot of poppies and wreaths up there.”

Although people make the effort to mark and remember the site of the crash today, at the time of the disaster there was no news coverage. Copies of The Westmorland Gazette from the weeks immediately after the crash bear no reference to it, possibly due to a wartime news blackout regarding such events.

However, it is known the bomber and its crew were on a night navigation exercise from RAF Topcliffe, Yorkshire.

On board were Pilot John Johnston, 27, Navigator Francis Bell, 33, Bomb Aimer Robert Whitley, 20, Flight Engineer Sgt Harvey Pyche , 21, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Sgt Calvin Whittingstall, 20, Air Gunner Sgt Donald Titt , 19, and Air Gunner Sgt George Riddoch , 20, all of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Flight Engineer Sgt William Ferguson , 19, from Caldercruix, North Lanarkshire, was the sole Briton on board.

It is believed they became lost in the thick fog and descended hoping to get a visual fix on the ground. However, they came down too low over the western shoulder of Great Carrs and hit the hillside.

Mr Greaves said he hoped future generations would take up the mantle of maintaining the memorial to the tragic night.

“They must be remembered mustn’t they?” he said.

“We are not the first ones to show our respects by maintaining this site and hopefully we won’t be the last.”