A propeller blade from Lancaster TX264, which crashed during a training flight from RAF Kinloss into the summit of Beinn Eighe in Torridon on 14 March 1951 killing all the crew, has been re-sited at its new home at RAF Lossiemouth. A small re-dedication ceremony was held to mark the event.
After the crash of the Lancaster, RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) spent several days trying to locate the wreckage. When it was discovered, most of the wreckage was lodged high up in a steep gully near the summit of the mountain. At that time RAF MRT personnel were not trained as climbers and were unable to get to it. In an example of joint cooperation, the recovery of the crew was completed in around 4 weeks with the help of a Royal Marine Mountain Leader.
As a direct result of this incident it was decided that RAF MRT personnel would in future receive training in both summer and winter climbing to enable them to access personnel and aircraft anywhere in mountainous regions. To this day, RAF Mountain Rescue Team personnel still have formal summer and winter climbing training.
Because Lancaster TX264 came from Kinloss, and the change that its crash brought about in the Mountain Rescue Service, this incident had always been an important part of the Mountain Rescue Service's history. This was the reason the propeller was brought off the hill by the team and built into a memorial cairn.
Sgt Ali Beer, the current Team Leader of the RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team, said:
“It’s great to finally have the Lancaster TX264 cairn relocated to a permanent home at RAF Lossiemouth. It’s a symbol of the skill and determination that all RAF Mountain Rescue Teams have to ensure personnel are not left in inaccesible locations should the worst happen and there is an aircraft crash.”
When the MRT moved to RAF Lossiemouth the cairn was dismantled and stored. Now RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team has been established in a permanent home on the Station the cairn has been resited with the help of 39 Engineering Regiment, Kinloss Barracks.
Much of the original Lancaster wreck is still in the gully and at the bottom of the cliffs on Beinn Eighe. The gully is also known as a winter climb, named “Fuselage Gully”, which forms an amazingly atmospheric ascent of the mountain and requires some careful climbing around bits of the aircraft which can make excellent belays. New MRT personnel are often taken to this area to be shown where their heritage as mountain rescue climbers originated.