Aircraft Type and Background
MAEE* Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick Mk I / L7248 (Prototype)
* Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (WWII Top Secret Establishment).
The Lerwick featured here (L7248) was the first of its type to be built. The type was equipped with two Bristol Hercules engines and three powered turrets.
Saunders-Roe (Saro) Lerwick L7248 was the first of three prototype aircraft. The aircraft suffered from several design defects, including instability on water and in the air. Nevertheless, in spite of this and other problems, and because of the urgency of the situation, Lerwicks were pressed into service with 209 Squadron RAF based at Oban (Ganavan Sands) during 1940.
Twenty-one Saro Lerwicks were built. However, while still being delivered new to RAF Squadrons, the type was declared obsolete and were replaced by Consolidated Catalina flying boats.
Aircraft Accident Details
The Lerwick featured here was the first prototype aircraft, L7248. The aircraft was on a Calibration Test from MAEE Helensburgh. At the time, this was a Top Secret establishment that had been relocated on security grounds from its previous base at Felixstowe (Folkestone, according to some sources).
The aircraft had taken off from Rhu, a few miles from Helensburgh, when it developed an engine fault. It then flew low over the loch (Gare Loch), hit telegraph wires, and crashed above Faslane. The aircraft was smashed up, apart from the tail. The area is an oil depot, Greenfield Camp, OS Sheet 56 / 246901.
The detail says the pilot was inexperienced on type. The starboard engine failed in flight, the aircraft was unable to maintain height on one engine and flew into a hill at Faslane, Shandon.
Both engines were sent to Bristol for strip examination but nothing was found to account for the failure. It was therefore assumed that extractor control trouble may have been experienced. It was noted by both AIB and OC that the handling characteristics of the Lerwick had never been satisfactory when flying with one engine feathered and there is little doubt that with failure of either power plant under similar circumstances the pilot would be in a most difficult situation.
Full details of this appear in UK Flight Testing Accidents 1940 to 1971 from Air Britain.
The aircraft was very new to the RAF and being rushed in on account of the increased U-Boat threat. Only 21 were manufactured: 3 with the MAEE and the rest to 209 Squadron, a Coastal Command Squadron based at Oban. It was quickly overtaken by the Sunderland which re-equipped the Squadron as Lerwicks were still being delivered.
Aircraft Crew / Passenger Casualties
Seven people died in this accident. These were:
Mr. Such was an employee of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. At the time of the accident, he was attached to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) in Helensburgh.
Burial / Memorial Locations:
P/O Mills was buried at Radcliffe (Stand Lane) New Church Burial Ground.
Fl / Lt Alexander, LAC Gianella, LAC McLaughlin and AC1 Bullocke were all buried at Helensburgh Cemetery, Rhu, Dunbartonshire.
AC2 Hunter is commemorated on Panel 290 of the Runnymede Memorial.
Crash Date / Site
Accident Date: 21 Oct 1941
Greenfield Camp (oil depot)
Region: Argyll and Bute (Argyll)
Nearest town or village:
(Naval Base is a Restricted Area, and is off-limits to the general public.)
Nearest large towns:
Garelochhead (N) or Helensburgh (S)
OS Grid Ref. 56 / 246 901
GPS Ref: N/A
Present Condition: Destroyed in situ. Tail was only part remaining.
Registration or Serial: L7248 (Prototype)
Operator: Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) / 209 Squadron (Code WQ)
Operating Base: MAEE Helensburgh (formerly, Felixstowe)
Base Location (MAEE): Moorings at Helensburgh / Rhu, Dunbartonshire (in the current Argyll and Bute region.)
Base Location (209 Squadron RAF Station): Ganavan Sands, Oban, Argyll.
Current Status (Experimental Establishment / MAEE): Returned to Felixstowe in 1945. Finally closed down in 1956.
Current Status (RAF Station, Ganavan Sands, Oban): Flying boat station closed and reduced to Care and Maintenance on 16 April 1945.
Nearest Current Airport: Oban Airport / Connel Airfield (ICAO: EGEO / IATA: OBN)
Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields
Accident Specific Links
Aviation Safety Network (crash details summary)
SARO L7248 at Test Flying Memorial Project (Crash date recorded here as 1940)
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RAF and Related Links
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Medical Information and Advice
SARO A.36 Lerwick L7248
Greenfield Camp, Faslane, Argyll