H.P. Halifax R9438

Fitful Head, Shetland Isles













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A Royal Air Force Handley Page Halifax B.V Series 1 (Special) (s/n EB151, "OO-R") of No. 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit based at Rufforth, Yorkshire (UK), getting airborne from RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire, during a training flight. [Wikipedia]


This is a similar variant to the type featured on this page.


a B.V Halifax bomber of 1663 HCU


Photo: c.1943 Flying Officer W. Bellamy, Royal Air Force official photographer.


Crown Copyright (expired).


HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide (ref: HMSO Email Reply) More information.



BELOW: An RCAF Handley Page Halifax bomber in flight.


an RCAF Halifax bomber in flight


Photo: Pre 1949. Public domain.






Aircraft Type and Background


RAF Handley Page H.P.57 Halifax / R9438 TL-H



(Click here for RAF history of this type)



The original design of this aircraft was for a twin-engine bomber using Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. However, during development, the plans were altered to produce a four-engine aircraft using the more powerful RR Merlin X engines.


The Mk I version of the Halifax was equipped with two .303 Browning machine guns in the nose turret, with another two in the centre of the fuselage and four in the rear turret. In the Mk II series, the nose turret guns and the guns in the fuselage waist area were deleted. A Boulton Paul twin-gun turret was installed in the dorsal position to replace the waist guns.


In time, other versions and variants followed with greater improvements.


Equipped to carry a crew of seven, the Halifax entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1940.






Aircraft Accident Details

Along with two other bombers from 35 Squadron, Halifax R9438 was dispatched from RAF Kinloss (satellite of RAF Lossiemouth) to attack the German battleship, Tirpitz. Tirpitz was moored in
Fættenfjord; one of the Norwegian fjords. However, bad weather and low cloud prevented this mission from being accomplished. The aircraft, therefore began the return flight to northern Scotland.

The pilot may have intended to land at RAF Sumburgh (the diversionary airfield) on Shetland. However, the aircraft was not flying at a sufficient altitude to clear the high ground at Shetland. Consequently, as it approached the Shetland Isles, Halifax R9438 flew into the cliffs at Fitful Head (c. 1,000 feet high). All on board perished in the crash.

Two of the airmen's bodies were recovered from a field overlooking Fitful Head. A third body was retrieved from the side of the cliff, where it had been caught by the airman's parachute. It was not until the following year that another body was discovered still lying in the wreckage of the Halifax bomber.

The bodies of three crew members could not be found at, or recovered from, the crash scene. Their names are among those recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.






Aircraft Crew Casualties


The seven crew members who died in this tragic accident were:


(Please click on the hyperlinked names above for further details at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website.)





Fitful Head Memorial


Fitful Head Memorial


Photo: 2007 © Copyright Robbie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.



The inscription on the granite memorial stone reads:


To the memory of the crew of Halifax R9438 (H), 35 Squadron, who crashed into the cliffs here on returning from an air raid on the Tirpitz, 30/31st March 1942.

Captain F/Sgt J B Bushby 1057442

2nd Pilot Sgt A J Peach 1268062

Observer Sgt G N E Powell 922967

1st W/Op A.G. F/Sgt J P B R Buckley R56144


Tail Gunner Sgt J A Wood 9011460

Flt Engineer Sgt R H Meredith 937585





Headstone Memorials


(Lerwick, New Cemetery)



BELOW: Headstone memorial to Flt Sgt J P B Buckley, RCAF.


grave memorial to flight sergeant buckley


Photo: ©  2006-2013 David Earl



BELOW: Headstone memorial to P/O M L Usher (25), RCAF.


grave stone memorial to pilot officer moses lewis usher


Photo: ©  2006-2013 David Earl






Crash Site Photos


There are no photos for this crash site due to the inaccessibility of the cliff face.



















Crash Date / Site



Accident Date: 30 / 31 Mar 1942


Accident Site:

Fitful Head [map] (cliffs; inaccessible)


Region: Shetland Isles.

Nearest towns or villages: Scousburgh (NE) [map] or Sumburgh (SE).


Nearest large town: Lerwick (NE).


OS Grid Ref. N/A 


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition: Memorial near crash site. Wreckage status unknown, and cannot be reached due to location on cliffs.




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: R9438 TL-H


Operator: RAF (35 Squadron)


Operating Station: RAF Kinloss / satellite of RAF Lossiemouth


Station Location: (RAF Kinloss) Kinloss, Moray.


Current Airport Status:

RAF operations ceased in 2012. Now, Kinloss (Army) Barracks.



(Note: Following the closure of RAF Leuchars in 2013, RAF Lossiemouth (near Kinloss) will be the only remaining operational RAF Station in Scotland.)





Hill Walking Links



(Hillwalking, Rock Climbing, Abseiling, Mountaineering, Kayaking, etc.)

WalkingScotland (The official Walking site of Scotland's national tourism organisation)

Walking Scotland's Mountains



Other Outdoor Activities


Backpacking and Backpackers

Backpacking in Britain

Backpacking Lite

Cicerone (Backpacking Guides for Walking in the UK)

The Backpackers Club

UK Backpacking Websites



Kayaking and Canoeing

Kayak Scotland (Sea Kayaking in Scotland)

Kayaking at Active Scotland (Various venues)

Sea Kayak Scotland


Mountain Biking

H and I Adventures (Mountain bike holidays in Scotland).

Mountain Bike Trails (Forestry Commission Scotland)

Mountain Biking (Sport Scotland, Glenmore Lodge).

Mountain Biking in East Scotland.

Scotland Cycle Routes.

Trail Scotland (Scotland's mountain bike community).


Rock Climbing and Abseiling

Abseiling in Perthshire

Abseiling Scotland (Various venues)

Climbing, Scrambling and Abseiling Scotland

Mountain Sports Courses and Paddle Sports Courses at Glenmore Lodge

Rock Climbing at Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre (Skills Courses and Qualifications Courses)

Rock Climbing in Scotland (Rock Climbing Areas)

UKClimbing.com (UKC) (Includes Abseiling / Rappelling)


Trekking and Hiking

Gairloch Trekking Centre (Pony Trekking in the Scottish Highlands)

Pony and Quad Treks (North Wales)

Ramblers (UK)

Ramblers (Worldwide Holidays)

Trekking Britain

Walking and Hiking



Emergency Services Link

Register for Text 999 Emergency Service

If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone.