Aircraft Type Photo
BELOW: An RAF Avro Anson in flight.
Photo: Source unknown
Aircraft Type and Background
RAF Avro Anson / K6255
Aircraft Type Nickname: Faithful Annie
The Airspeed Oxford was developed from the Airspeed AS.6 Envoy commercial aircraft as an RAF trainer. The Oxford was equipped with two 355hp - 375hp seven cylinder air-cooled Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah IX or X radial engines.
Essentially, this was a 3-seater aircraft, but provision was made for up to 6 crew. The Oxford was equipped with dual controls for pilot training purposes, but these could be removed for bombardier training.
Several other crew training roles were also covered by the Airspeed Oxford, preparing aircrew for entry into RAF Bomber Command.
At least 8 variants of the Airspeed Oxford were produced. In addition to those manufactured by Airspeed Ltd., some of these aircraft were built by sub-contractors such as de-Havilland, Percival, and Standard Motors. The Mark I Oxford was equipped with an Armstrong-Whitworth dorsal turret, but all subsequent variants lacked this feature.
In addition to their role as advanced trainers, Oxfords were used as communications, anti-aircraft, and anti-submarine aircraft; and also as air ambulances.
Aircraft Accident Details
The Anson featured here was attached to the reformed 269 Squadron of the RAF. Some later variants of the Anson continued in service with the RAF until as late as 1968.
Anson K6255 was part of a flight of 15 aircraft in transit from RAF Abbotsinch [Glasgow] to Belfast [possibly, RAF Nutts Corner or RAF Aldergrove] and back. The accident occurred on the return leg of the journey. Due to bad weather, the pilots were ordered to break formation, separate, and make their own way home. As they did so, there were several near misses of the hills between the Clyde coast and Glasgow.
One aircraft, however, failed to arrive back at RAF Abbotsinch. When this was realised and reported by the pilots and crew, there was a radio message was flashed immediately to all police stations in the area concerning the missing aircraft.
The police search was led by Sgts Dick and Galbraith. (I [Stephen Hayton] was later to serve under Sgt Galbraith's son, then an Inspector at Greenock.)
In due course, the crew of the missing aircraft were found. There Anson had crashed near Cauldron Hill, on the high ground above and behind Greenock and Inverkip. All four were alive when found (although one was to die later from his injuries).
A civilian on board—a Mr. H. J. Reynolds, then of 157 Nithsdale Road, Glasgow—was a member of the Civil Air Guard. As a result of the accident, Mr. Reynolds sustained serious head injuries. Reports also suggest that one crew member had a broken leg and arm splinted using parts of the airframe! Others had head injuries.
Injuries were treated at the locus prior to removal by Dr. S. K. Drainer from Peterhead who was holidaying nearby. All were later treated at Greenock Royal Infirmary (now demolished).
The Anson was badly damaged in the accident. Information suggests that the rudder was torn off and the wings were in several wooden bits (consistent with the structure of the Annie). Both engines were bent and torn off. There was a trail of a trough cut by the fuselage from a mound to the dyke where it came to rest [see RAF crash photo below].
According to local sources, the wreck was dug into the nearby ground and covered over; but, according to the local press, a party of airmen came later to dismantle it. [Possibly, this was the RAF Recovery Team (MU) who had arrived to remove weapons, radios, etc., before digging the wreck into the ground. Before the advent of heavy-lift helicopters, this practice was sometimes adopted where crash sites were inaccessible to heavy recovery vehicles.]
Unfortunately, all the witnesses involved have now passed over, but in a chat with a local farmer he told me that his father was asked to loan a tractor with a bulldozer blade to the Air Force, which certainly goes toward the buried wreck comments.
[The above information was kindly provided by Stephen Hayton.]
Aircraft Crew Casualty / Survivors
Sadly, one person on board the aircraft died shortly after this accident. He was:
The surviving crew members were:
NOTE: The above crew details have been corrected to indicate that the airman who died in this incident was Mr H. J. Reynolds. This has been confirmed by official documents.
Crash Site Photos
BELOW: This photo, taken in July 1939, shows the crashed Avro Anson lying between Cauldron Hill, Dunrod Hill, and No. 1 Dam (now disused) on the hills above Cornalees Visitors Centre.
(Additional aircraft photo on Page 2)
Photo 1939: Source, RAF No. 269 Squadron History.
BELOW: One of the Anson's two Cheetah engines. This engine is on display at Cornalees Visitors Centre (West end of the car park), Inverkip, Inverclyde, Scotland. The second engine is still on the hills, lying in the spillway burn flowing from the disused and now drained No. 1 Dam.
Photo: 2007 Gordon Lyons
BELOW: The plaque located beside the engine in the car park of Cornalees Visitors Centre, Loch Thom.
The text on the plaque reads:
"This Cheetah engine is one of a pair from an AVRO ANSON trainer. The plane crashed on Dunrod Hill (to your right) on July 26th 1939, whilst taking part in a formation exercise. One crew member died in the crash but the pilot walked away and sought help by coming off the hill at what is now the IBM plant. Meanwhile help was on its way from Inverkip on the opposite side of the hill...however, he survived the experience. In the 1970's, the engine was brought off the hill, allegedly on the sawn-off roof of a BMC mini, by boys from Greenock High School with the help of the South West Accident Investigation group. Little if anything now remains of the crash site, but the other engine can still be seen on the hill immediately below the number one dam."
Photo: © 2007 Giovanni Metra
BELOW: Location of second engine in relation to No. 1 Dam.
On the horizon, the safety signpost can just be seen, located beside No. 1 Dam's retaining wall. Running across the top fifth of the photo is the dirt track leading to the reservoir. (The track is concealed from view by the row of grass tufts.)
Former researcher, Gio Metra, is standing immediately above the burn at the spot where the engine is lying, concealed by overhanging grass. (See GPS reference above for precise location.)
Photo: 2007 Gordon Lyons
(Photo of Mr Reynolds and contemporary newspaper articles.)
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Crash Date / Site
Accident Date: 26 Jul 1939
Cauldron Hill (286m)/ Dunrod Hill (298m)
(Vicinity of Cornalees)
Nearest town or village:
Nearest large town:
OS Grid Ref. 63 / NS 237 730 (initial crash site only. No wreckage found at this location.)
GPS Ref: NS 23952 73028 (second Cheetah engine, W of disused No. 1 Dam)
Present Condition: One Cheetah radial engine is on display at Cornalees Visitors Centre, near Loch Thom. The second engine is lying in a burn flowing from the disused reservoir spillway and is located about 1,000yds below and NW of No. 1 Dam. However, this engine is partly concealed by long grass overhanging the burn. (No. 1 Dam is the now-drained reservoir closest to Dunrod Hill.)
The engine at this location is in poorer condition to the one at Cornalees Visitors Centre car park. However, it is still clearly recognisable as a Cheetah engine. It is believed that much of the remaining wreckage (fuselage, wings, etc.) were buried onsite at the original crash location.
Registration or Serial: K6255
Operating Station: RAF Abbotsinch / RN Sanderling
Station Location: Abbotsinch, near Renfrew / Paisley / Glasgow, Scotland.
Current Airport Status: Operational Civil Airport
Current Airport Name: Glasgow International Airport (EGPF)
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Avro Anson K6255
Cauldron Hill, Inverclyde