The aircraft took off early Sunday morning on the 23rd August, from Oban and flew up the Caledonian Canal towards Invergordon. After landing, the aircraft was refuelled and serviced for the flight to Iceland on the 25th. Sergeant Jack travelled up to Invergordon independently having been delayed and unable to join the crew at Oban. Much speculation surrounded this fact, to the extent that it has even been suggested that the circumstances were transposed in time in order to account for all the crew members after the crash. This is of course a complete fabrication and has no known basis in truth.
Weather conditions at Invergordon were overcast on the morning of the 25th, the windspeed recorded at RAF Wick that morning was recorded as ESE 10 to 20 knots, force 4 to 5. This velocity would have required that course adjustments be made, however, taken on its own, would not have caused the deviation of 15 degrees to the west which ultimately brought the aircraft to its doom. Other factors had to be present....... The heavily laden aircraft required, in these circumstances, a long take off run to lift it clear of the increasing drag of the placid water. Even at full power, the 3000 horsepower of the four engines could only gain height slowly as the aircraft set off at 1310 hours on the first leg of the trip parallel to the coast of Scotland, northwards for Wick. The headland of Dunnet Head was the usual landmark for the turn into the Pentland Firth. It was normal procedure for aircraft to follow the Caithness coast and not ingress over land unless it was absolutely essential to reduce flying time. Fifteen minutes after take-off the aircraft encountered fog and Goyen would have had to resort to flying by instruments, relying on navigational estimates of flying time to calculate the prudent moment to turn west for the Pentland Firth. This, it would appear, was when a fatal and fundamental error was made. A strong on-shore wind had been encountered which would cause a slow flying aircraft to drift westwards. In these circumstances of fog and bad visibility the navigators estimate of sideways drift was obviously hindered. On instrument flying, the aircraft would appear to the pilot to be still on the predetermined compass bearing and he would be oblivious of the developing error in the aircraft's relative position to land.
The aircraft crossed the Caithness coast south of the Berriedale Water, its course coinciding with the line of the river valley. At the head of the valley, still in poor visibility, it crossed a ridge and crashed into an outcrop on the northern extremity of the ridge known locally as The Eagles Rock. The resultant explosion instantly extinguished the lives of all on board save one, the tail gunner, Sergeant Andrew Jack, who, complete with the turret was hurled clear from the wreck. The turret took most of the impact although Jack sustained serious burns to his face and hands from the fuel load which had been sprayed over the hillside.
The crash site at Eagles Rock on 27th August 1942
Impact point of aircraft is bottom right.
Semi-conscious, Jack extricated himself from the wreckage and tried to descend the hill using streams as a guide. Several times he collapsed, eventually lapsing into unconsciousness. The crash point was one hundred feet below the summit of Eagles Rock, at 700 feet. Two local crofters, Hugh Morrison and his father heard the plane flying low overhead and the sound of the explosion a short time later. The local doctor was summoned and, along with other local people, the party crossed four miles of moorland to the crash site. It was immediately evident that no survivors would be found there. The authorities were contacted and recovery teams sent up from Wick and Invergordon. Number 63 Maintenance unit from Inverness was ultimately responsible for clearing wreckage from the hillside.
Flight Sergeant Jack was not found for a further 22 hours, having staggered around injured and disorientated until he was seen trying to get through a gate by a local girl called Nell Sutherland. She took him to the family croft where her mother tried to tend to his serious burns and facial injuries, before setting out to get help. The Duke of Kent's remains were taken to Dunrobin castle, Golspie in Sutherland.
Dunrobin Castle 1942.
The remains of the others aboard the ill fated aircraft were taken back to Oban. The following week a burial service was held within St. Johns Cathedral on George Street, Oban, after which, a tragic procession of six lorries draped with the colours, acted as gun carriages. The procession was preceded by pipers and an honour guard with reversed arms, all of whom slow marched the two miles to Oban's Pennyfuir Cemetery in bright sunshine.
The funeral cortege of crew outside The Sergeants Mess,
The Marine Hotel, Oban on Sept 15th 1942.
Special orders were issued that every trace of the aircraft was to be removed from the hillside. This was achieved by the 16th of September, but not before local people at Dunbeath had noted the large number of bottles containing various types of alcoholic drinks strewn about the crash scene. Rumours not unnaturally abounded that all aboard had been drunk, that the Duke himself had been flying and even that Hess had been onboard!
On September 14th the King, George VI, visited the spot where his brother had been killed and met the local people, including Doctor Kennedy, who had been first at the scene after the crash. The site was also visited by the brother of the aircraft's captain, Norman Goyen, also serving in the Royal Air Force with Bomber Command.
Today, Frank Goyen, Moseley, Smith and Blacklock still lie together within the cemetery at Oban, all the other have since been interred elsewhere.