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Families to mark RAF crash at hillside cairn

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It was the scene of an RAF tragedy that took the lives of 13 crew.

And next week, a pilgrimage is being held on a remote slope in Lochaber to commemorate the RAF Shackleton plane crash half a century ago.

A group of around 20 – including family members and former RAF personnel – will head to Lochailort, Lochaber, to pay their respects to the tragic crew who died in the crash in icy conditions.

Organiser John Channon, who was a sergeant at RAF Kinloss with 206 Squadron when the tragedy happened, said: “This episode was one of the most harrowing I experienced in my air force career.

“My wife and I knew were close friends of many of the crew and families, and we had to break the news to one of their wives at the time.

“It seems unreal that 50 years has passed since the disaster happened, but we must never forget those involved and pay our respects.”

It was on December 21, 1967 – the shortest day of the year – when XF702, an RAF Avro Shackleton MR3 maritime reconnaisance aircraft of 206 Squadron encountered severe icing conditions in cloud and subsequently crashed into the hillside below Creag Bhan, near Arieniskill.

All 13 crew members were killed.

The impact scar is still visible on the hillside at a height of about 700 feet.

In 2007, as part of a project started by Ken Bowker of the Moidart History Group, and in the presence of four children and one grand-daughter of the crew, Derek Straw of the 206 Squadron Association fixed a commemorative cairn at the scene bearing the 206 Squadron motto – “Nihil Nos Effugit” – “Nothing escapes us”.

Mr Channon said: “We have managed to contact some of the families of the crew-members together with a number of others who would like to commemorate the event.

“The plan is to use the Lochairlort Inn as our base and to assemble there next Thursday, which is exactly the 50th anniversary of the crash.

“At about 10.45am, we will arrange a shuttle to the trail base at the railway bridge and aim to get to the Cairn by noon.

“We will have a Padre in our ranks to lay a wreath and deliver a commemoration.”

When the accident happened, a roadman, Angus Cameron of Glenfinnan, had been working near Arienskill when he heard the crash above him and saw the flash of the explosion through the low mist.

The Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team had to drive 120 miles to the location and it was dark when they arrived three hours later.

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