Avro Lancaster TX264

Beinn Eighe, Wester Ross, Highland













Aircraft Photo


BELOW: Avro Lancaster TX264. This photo was taken some time before the fatal accident at Beinn Eighe in the highlands of Scotland.


photo of lancaster tx264 taken some time before crash at Beinn Eighe


Photo: Kindly provided by Neil Laidler






Aircraft Type and Background


RAF Avro 683 Lancaster G.R.III / TX264, BS-D



(Click here for RAF history of this type)


(A Type B.III bomber modified for maritime reconnaissance purposes.)



Aircraft of the period were an inspiring sight and the Lancaster bombers of WW11 are remembered as one of the historical components of the air war. Today aircraft enthusiasts use 401k business funding flying replica aircraft and collecting historical artefacts relating to aircraft of the time period. The Lancaster was an iconic sight in the skies of the time.


Aircraft Type Nicknames: "Lanc"; "Lankie"


The Avro Lancaster was designed initially as a heavy bomber (more details at lancaster-archive.com). It was developed from the Avro Manchester bomber, but the unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines of the Manchester were replaced on the Lancaster with 4 Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. However, the Lancaster G.R.III variant featured here was fitted with 4 American-built Packard Merlin engines.


During WWII, Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron RAF were used to carry out the 'Dambusters Raids' (Operation Chastise) over the Mohne, Sorpe, and Eder dams using Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs. However, although of the same bomber type, the Lancaster featured here was not involved in Operation Chastise.






Aircraft Accident Details


This post-war converted Lancaster, now operating in a maritime reconnaissance role by 120 Squadron, had taken off from RAF Kinloss just after 18.00 hours on the evening of 13 March 1951 for a NAVEX in the vicinity of Rockall and the Faroe Isles.


The aircraft was due back at RAF Kinloss around 02.25 hours the following morning. However, while on the return journey, the aircraft experienced atrocious and freezing weather conditions, together with a strong N'Easterly wind.


Some time after transmitting its last radio message, the Lancaster crashed just 4.6m (15 feet) below the summit of Beinn Eighe, and at the top of the almost inaccessible Far West Gulley ('Fuselage Gulley'), west of Triple Buttress and above Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair.


Unaware of the crash location, the search teams could still find no trace of the missing aircraft after two days. However, at the time of the accident, a boy in Torridon had witnessed a red glow over Beinn Eighe. Believing this to be coming from one of the fishing boats on the loch, he thought nothing of it. However, two days later, on hearing about the missing aircraft, he remembered what he had seen and reported it. RAF Kinloss were notified of the boy's report together with the reports of several other witnesses who also had seen the red flash over Beinn Eighe.


As a result of these reports, the RAF redirected their search efforts to the extensive ridge which included Beinn Eighe. On 16 March, an Airspeed Oxford aircraft located the crashed Lancaster on the mountain and reported its position back to the ground search teams.


The rescue teams arrived at the base of the mountain on 17 March and began their attempted recovery from 18 March onward. However, because of the very difficult terrain and atrocious winter weather conditions, the teams could not reach the Lancaster, even after several attempts.


Although experienced civilian mountaineers offered their services, the RAF declined their assistance initially. This was unfortunate, asunlike today, and unlike the civilian mountaineers of that dayRAF recovery teams were not fully trained or equipped for arduous mountain rescues or recoveries. Indeed, it was as a result of this incident that the modern RAF Mountain Rescue Teams (RAF MRTs) were formed.


Eventually, two Royal Marine commandos reached the crash site and recovered one of the bodies. A few more bodies were recovered by the end of Marchtwo weeks after the accident. However, it was not until nearly 6 months lateron 28 August 1951that the remaining bodies of the eight crew members were recovered from the site.






Aircraft Crew Casualties


Those who died in this tragic accident were:

  • Fl/Lt Harry Smith Reid DFC (29), Pilot, RAF.

  • Sgt Ralph Clucas (23), Co-Pilot, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.

  • Sgt Robert Strong (27), Navigator, RAF.

  • Sgt Peter Tennison (26), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.

  • Sgt James Naismith (28), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.

  • Sgt Wilfred D Beck (19), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.

  • Sgt James W Bell (25), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.

  • Sgt George Farquhar (29), Flight Engineer, RAF.


Memorial wreath laid for the 1951 Lancaster crash at royalnavy.mod.uk






Crash Site Photos


BELOW: One of the Lancaster's four Rolls Royce Merlin engines; all of which remain at the site.



Photo: © 2014-2015 Gary Nelson



BELOW: One of hundreds of pieces of wreckage that lie at this site.


The wreckage pieces are scattered between the impact point on the summit, down 'Fuselage Gully', and on the lower slopes leading down to Loch Coire Mhic Fearchair.



Photo: © 2014-2015 Gary Nelson



BELOW: An aileron from one of the aircraft's wings.


An aileron from one of the aircraft's wings.


Photo: © 2014-2015 Gary Nelson



BELOW: Part of an hydraulic undercarriage leg. This and many other parts lie close to the impact point at the summit.


Part of a hydraulic undercarriage leg.


Photo: © 2014-2015 Gary Nelson



BELOW: Some of the wreckage found around the impact point.


Engine bearers and other wreckage can just be seen through the mist.


The impact point.


Photo: © 2014-2015 Gary Nelson



More photos from Gary Nelson's 2014 collection on Pages:


1-B,  1-C,  1-D,  1-E,  and 1-F




Other photos below





BELOW: The Triple Buttress, not far from where the Lancaster crashed on Beinn Eighe.


Triple Buttress, close to the crash site of the Lancaster on Beinn Eighe


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon



BELOW: One of the four engines from Avro Lancaster TX264.


one of the four engines from the acro lancaster


Photo: © 2013 Neil Daniel



BELOW: A wing section from the Lancaster reconnaissance aircraft.


wing section from the lancaster bomber


Photo: © 2013 Neil Daniel



BELOW: One of the aircraft's landing gear wheels and oleo assembly.


landing gear hub, tyre, and oleo assembly


Photo: © 2013 Neil Daniel













BELOW: One of the Packard Merlin engines from the Lancaster reconnaissance aircraft (ex-bomber).


packard merlin engine from lancaster


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon



BELOW: Nose landing wheel and  oleo strut from Lancaster.


nose landing wheel from Lancaster


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon



BELOW: One of the Lancaster's four propellers.


Note the memorial plaque attached to a blade (see enlargement below).


one of the four propellers from the Lancaster


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon



BELOW: The memorial plaque.


The memorial plaque attached to a propeller blade


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon


The plaque reads:


"In memory of the eight crew members
 of Lancaster TX264
 which crashed at this site in the

 early hours of
14 March 1951"


(See larger image in Photo Gallery, under Lancaster-Beinn-Eighe)




BELOW: Remains of a wing section from the Lancaster.


wing section from Lancaster


Photo: © 2012 Douglas Gordon




Earlier Photos


BELOW: This photograph was taken about ¾ way up the rock face and looking almost vertically down the wreckage- and rock-strewn 'fuselage gulley'. Note the small piece of wreckage in the foreground.


 looking down the wreck-strewn fuselage gulley


Photo: © 2008 Gary Nelson



BELOW: One of the four Packard Merlin engines from the Avro Lancaster maritime reconnaissance aircraft—a modified Lancaster bomber.


(G.R.III variants of the Lancaster were fitted with these American-built engines rather than the Rolls-Royce Merlins fitted to other similar aircraft.)


one of the four engines from the lancaster bomber


Photo: © 2008 Gary Nelson



BELOW: Another view of one of the four engines.


another view of a packard merlin engine


Photo: © 2008 Gary Nelson



BELOW: A closer view of one of the four Packard Merlins.


close-up view of packard merlin engine


Photo: © 2008 Gary Nelson



BELOW: One of the engines, with a landing gear wheel lying further down the slope just to the left of centre in the photo.


Lancaster engine with loch in background


Photo: © 2008 Gary Nelson





(Wreckage Among Boulders Below Triple Buttress)








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Crash Date / Site



Pages last updated: 18 Mar 2015



Accident Date: 14 Mar 1951


Accident Site:

Beinn Eighe (1,009m / 3,309ft)

Triple Buttress (976m)


Region: Highland (Wester Ross)


Nearest town or village:

Torridon or Kinlochewe.


Nearest large towns:

None in this general area. Nearest available: Dingwall (> 20 miles E)


OS Grid Ref. N/A


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition: The wreckage of the Lancaster was destroyed in situ by explosives, resulting in wreckage parts being strewn down the mountainside. Although more widely scattered now, substantial parts still remain, including the four Packard Merlin engines, landing gear, propellers, etc. A memorial plaque is fixed to a blade on one of the propellers. The plaque reads:


"In memory of the eight crew members of Lancaster TX264 which crashed at this site in the early hours of
14 March 1951"


(See photo below)




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: TX264, BS-D


Operator: RAF (120 Squadron)


Operating Station: RAF Kinloss (now, Kinloss Barracks).


Satellite Station for RAF Kinloss: RAF Forres (or Balnageith).


Station Location: (RAF Kinloss) Kinloss, Moray.


Current Airport Status:

RAF operations ceased in 2012. Now, Kinloss (Army) Barracks.



Note: Following the closure of RAF Leuchars in 2013, RAF Lossiemouth (near Kinloss) will be the only remaining operational RAF Station in Scotland.




Related Links


Accident Specific Links

Accident photos at Torridon Mountains.com

Avro Lancaster at Peak District Air Accident Research. (Casualty list and photos)

Avro Lancaster, Beinn Eighe at Edward Boyle.com

Searcher recalls 1951 Lancaster crash on Beinn Eighe (BBC News / BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors feature, March 2011)


Lancaster Archive and Forum

Lancaster and Manchester Bomber Archive. (Extensive historical database of Lancaster and Manchester bomber aircraft and air crew.)

Lancaster Archive Forum. (Includes Lancastrian and Manchester aircraft.)

Lancaster Pages. (General information, operational data, squadrons and units, air crew details, etc.)


RAF Links

RAF Avro Lancaster (History)

RAF Kinloss

RAF Mountain Rescue. (The Early Days.)


RN Link

HMS Gannet. (Memorial wreath laid for 1951 Lancaster crash.)


Other Links

120 Squadron at Wikipedia 

Aircraft Wreckage Sites in the Scottish Mountains. (Eddie Boyle)

Kinloss Abbey at Wikipedia 

Route map to crash site at Scottish Hills.com Forum

Steve Pardoe's Torridon Page (with photos showing difficult ascent to crash site)




Hill Walking Links



(Hillwalking and Mountaineering)

WalkingScotland (The official Walking site of Scotland's national tourism organisation)

Walking Scotland's Mountains




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