Sunderland W4026

Eagle's Rock, Caithness, Highland













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: An RCAF Short Sunderland seaplane or  flying boat similar to the type featured on this page.


a short sunderland flying boat of the rcaf taking off


Photo: Pre 1949.






Aircraft Type and Background


RAF Short Sunderland Mk. III / W4026 "DQ-M" 


V.I.P. Transport for H.R.H. Prince George, the Duke of Kent



The Short Sunderland was derived from the C Class 'Empire' flying boats used by Imperial Airways1 in the 1930's.


Capable of carrying a crew of ten, the first Sunderlands Mk.I's were assigned to 230 Squadron at Singapore. When war broke out in 1939, three squadrons of Coastal Command had been equipped with the heavily-armed Sunderlands. These Sunderlands were used extensively over the Atlantic in the war against the U-boats, and also as search and rescue aircraft for seamen and downed aircrew.


The Mk.II version of the Sunderland was equipped with four Bristol Pegasus XVIII supercharged engines and improved turret arrangments. The Mk.III introduced in 1941 had a more streamlined hull to improve take-off. The Mark III is the type featured on this page.


Other version of the Sunderland up to Mk.V were introduced. This version had four Pratt and Whitney R1830-90 Twin Wasp engines.






1 Imperial Airways (IA). Imperial Airways was formed in April 1924 from the merger of The Instone Air Line, Daimler Airway, Handley Page Transport, and British Marine Air Navigation. Imperial Airways was the 'State' or 'National' airline until, in November 1939, it was absorbed by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).






Aircraft Accident Details


Short Sunderland flying boat W4026 of 228 Squadron RAF had been (re-) positioned from its base at RAF Oban to RAF Invergordon (Alness) on the Cromarty Firth to pick up H.R.H. Prince George the Duke of Kent and members of his personal staff.


The Sunderland then departed from Invergordon heading for RAF Reykjavik in Iceland. The Duke of Kent was making a visit to Reykjavik in the course of his official duties. He held the rank of Air Commodore and was a Staff Officer in RAF Training Command.


In addition to the personnel on board, the aircraft was carrying equipment, spares and alcoholic refreshments for the base at Reykjavik. 


Shortly after its departure from Invergordon, the pilot  of the Sunderland encountered bad weather and very poor visibility. Then, because of a strong on-shore wind, the aircraft began to drift from its intended course and began heading over hilly ground before gaining sufficient altitude to clear this terrain. Consequently, the Sunderland struck a hill known locally as 'Eagle's Rock', exploding on impact.






Inquiry Summary


The official inquiry came to the conclusion that the accident occurred as a result of navigational error. The crew had failed to make sufficient allowance for a strong on-shore wind and had allowed the aircraft to drift over high ground before it had gained enough height to clear this hilly terrain.


According to the Hansard Report of October 7th 1942, blame was apportioned to the captain of the aircraft, "Who changed flight plan for reasons unknown and descended through cloud without making sure he was over water, and crashed."  






Aircraft Crew / Passenger Casualties


Fourteen people died in this accident and one survived. Those who died were:


Royal Personnel:


Military Personnel (HRH The Duke of Kent's Staff):

  • Lt. John Crowther, RNVR, (Private Secretary).

  • P/O The Hon. Michael Strutt.

  • LAC John Walter Holes, (Batman).


Military Personnel (Aircrew):


The sole survivor was:


Sgt Andrew S.W. Jack W.oP / AG.


Sgt Jack managed to crawl out of the tangled wreckage and staggered around the crash site injured, disorientated and in a state of shock. Ultimately, after about 22 hours, he was seen by a local girl while attempting to get through a farmland gate to find help. The girl led him to the family croft where her mother attended to Sgt Jack's injuries.


Andrew Jack passed away in 1976.



The Duke of Kent's remains were taken Dunrobin Castle at Golspie in Sutherland. Later, they were taken to London for burial.


Some members of the crew were taken to Oban and laid to rest in Pennyfuir Cemetery.





Memorial Photos


(Crash site photos follow below)


Aircrew Memorials


Oban (Pennyfuir) Cemetery



BELOW: The last resting place of some of the air crew. This cemetery is at Oban, Scotland, where the Sunderland was based.


Graves  of some of the airmen who died in the Sunderland crash. This cemetery is at Oban where the Sunderland was based.


Photo © 2007-2010 Steven Spink



BELOW: Grave of Flt Lt Frank McKenzie Goyen, (Captain)


Grave of Flt Lt Frank Goyen (captain)


Photo © 2007-2010 Steven Spink



BELOW: Grave of Wing Commander Thomas L Moseley (29) (1st Pilot)


Grave of wg cdr thomas l mosely (29) (pilot)


Photo © 2007-2010 Steven Spink



BELOW: Grave of Sydney W Smith (24), RAAF, (2nd Pilot)


Grave of F/O Sidney W Smith (24), RCAF (2nd Pilot)


Photo © 2007-2010 Steven Spink



BELOW: Grave of Sgt Edward F Blacklock (30), RNZAF, (W.oP/AG)


Grave of Sgt Edward F Blacklock (30), (W.oP/AG),  Royal New Zealand Air Force


Photo © 2007-2010 Steven Spink





18 Group Coastal Command Memorial


RAF Oban



BELOW: The Memorial at Ganavan Bay, Oban, to all the air and ground crew who served at RAF Oban (a seaplane base) from 1939 to 1945.


Memorial to all air and ground crew who served at RAF Oban from 1939 to 1945


Photo © 2010 Steven Spink



BELOW: Closer view of engraved plaque on monument.


close-up view of engraved plaque on monument


Photo © 2010 Steven Spink




The engraving on the  plaque reads:


1939 - 1945


To the memory of all air and ground personnel

 of 18 Group Coastal Command who served at R.A.F. Oban


No. 209 Sqn R.A.F.

No. 210 Sqn R.A.F.

No. 10 Sqn R.A.A.F.

No. 228 Sqn R.A.F.

No. 422 Sqn R.C.A.F.

No. 330 Sqn R.N.A.F *

No. 423 Sqn R.C.A.F.

No. 524 Sqn R.A.F.

No. 302 Ferry Training Unit
"Mus Diochuimhnich Sinn"



* R.N.A.F. Royal Norwegian Air Force, otherwise abbreviated R.No.A.F.





Crash Site Photos


BELOW: The memorial to H.R.H. the Duke of Kent at Eagle's Rock, close by the crash site.


memorial to duke of kent at eagles rock


Photo © 1989-2011 Richard Mackay



BELOW: The burnt-out wreckage of the Sunderland flying boat at Eagle's Rock. As the aircraft exploded on impact with the ground, very little of the airframe remains intact.


the remains of the Sunderland flying boat at Eagles Rock


Photo, courtesy Richard Mackay



BELOW: One of the propeller blades from the four-engined aircraft.


propeller blade among wreckage


Photo, courtesy Richard Mackay



BELOW: This view shows the scarred debris field left by the aircraft after the crash and fire.


scarred debris field


Photo, courtesy Richard Mackay























Crash Date / Site


Accident Date: 25 Aug 1942


Accident Site:

Eagle's Rock

(or Eagle's Mount)


Region: Highland (Caithness)


Nearest town or village:



Nearest large towns:

Lybster (NE) or Helmsdale (S)


OS Grid Ref. N/A


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition: Wreckage of this aircraft was removed almost entirely from the site by an RAF recovery team.




Aircraft Details


Registration or Serial: W4026 coded DQ-M


Operator: RAF (228 Squadron)


Operating Base: RAF Oban (Flying boat station)


Base Location: Moorings at Ganavan Bay, N of Oban, Argyll, Scotland.


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 / North Connel Airport (ICAO: EGEO / IATA: OBN)




Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields




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