Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking
Winter Hill is just to north of where I live. It’s close enough for an afternoon stroll to the top, or a couple of hours hard mountain biking over the summit to Rivington Pike and beyond.
In a post-Christmas walk, while the family were at the sales, I decided to visit the site of a few geocaches. Starting from the car park on Scout Road, I headed off over Whimberry Hill intending to make it to Shady Dingle (doing some groundwork for another blog).
I couldn’t find the cache I wanted, it was one of those where the owner suffered from a lack of imagination and hid the box under some heather. I am not going to spend time looking around damp vegetation in the cold and extremely gusty cold day. Upset at this setback, I headed back to the car park across country. Its rough around there, mainly tall 1m tussocks, with deep holes to break an ankle in, so it was tough going until I picked up a hidden water pipe, which provided a slightly easier route down. Part way down, around the back of Whimberry Hill, I came across a small crater, with some pieces of metal scattered across the ground. It was very similar to the aircraft crash sites I have found in the Peak District, so I suspected a World War 2 crash. Some on-line searching at home reveals the following sad story, thanks to the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation team for pulling together the story and doing the physical work.
On the afternoon of the 2nd February 1945 two Hurricanes fighters, took off from RAF Calverley in Cheshire. Flying these were Flight Sergeant Thomas Stanley Taylor and Warrant Officer Norman Thomas Huckle, both aged 21.
The two pilots were cleared for local flying exercises, but some 20 minutes later they were flying over Winter Hill. The crash investigators could not be sure what they were doing so far from their flight plan, but it was suspected that they had been flying in formation at some 6-7,000 feet over the Smithills area (where I live), and collided in cloud. Out of control they dived to the ground, one into the ground close to Horrocks Fold, the other – PG472 – diving into open moorland on the flank of Whimberry Hill. The evidence found by the investigation teams suggests that PG472 hit the ground upside down, exploding on impact and creating the crater I had found. Fire consumed the plane and pilot and little was left to recover at the time, apart from the engine and remains of the pilot. Investigators worked out that they two fighter planes must have flown directly to the area, instead of doing their training over Cheshire. The crash inquiry tried to find out what the Hurricanes were doing there and so appealed for any information through the Bolton Evening News, hoping to find a witness to the tragedy. Someone responded saying that one of the pilots was engaged to a young woman who working in a Bolton factory and an impromptu air display had been arranged, but sadly the aircraft never turned up.
What started out as a a prank, turned into tragedy.
So, there are some remains still there after the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation team excavated the site in 2010. If you find them, please don’t disturb, it is still a crash area, and there is nothing worth the effort in carting an illegal souvenir back.
If you want to hunt, the crater can still be seen on Google earth some 250m east of Whimberry Hill. Thats all I am giving away.