Aircraft Type and Background
RN (FAA / NAS) Fairey Swordfish / V4554
Aircraft Type Nickname: "Stringbag"; "Blackfish"
Designed originally as a 3-seater reconnaissance aircraft, and equipped with a Bristol Pegasus nine cylinder radial engine, the Swordfish was converted later to a torpedo bomber.
By the time WWII arrived, this large bi-plane had become obsolete. Nevertheless, it was used with great effect against several targets during WWII, including attacks on Norway and against the German battleship, Bismarck.
Fairey Swordfish V4554 (featured here) had been delivered to Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Eastleigh on 17 July 1941. In September 1941, V4554 was delivered to the storage section of RNAS Donibristle near Cowdenbeath in Fife. Subsequently, on 1 November 1941, this Swordfish was taken from storage and delivered to Fleet Air Arm (FAA) No. 823 Squadron. [SH]
BELOW: The cockpit of a Fairey Swordfish showing instruments and controls.
Aircraft Accident Details
Fairey Swordfish V4554, together with 3 others, was en-route from Fraserburgh to RAF Machrihanish, near Campbeltown in Argyll. The pilot was Sub/Lt J. A. King. However, due to a shortage of fuel, the other three Swordfish aircraft crashed near Alexandria in Dunbartonshire, not far from Balloch by Loch Lomond and several miles N of the River Clyde. The fourth Swordfish, featured here, managed to stay in the air for a few miles further, crossing to the south side of the Clyde and crashing eventually somewhere around Calder Dam, or in the vicinity of Queenside Muir / Duchal Moor in the Renfrewshire Heights.
According to a report by Mr. A. McKellar—who was standing close to the summit of Windy Hill at the time of the accident—the very low flying Swordfish passed almost directly overhead. However, as there were heavy snowfalls and drifts at the time, Mr. McKellar was unaware that the aircraft had crashed shortly afterward. Indeed, it was only about 3 weeks later that the aircraft wreck was finally discovered. Mr. R. Fleming, the McKellar family's shepherd, was out searching for sheep lost on the snowbound moors. According to Mr. Fleming, he found the wreck, together with the dead airmen, lying between Queenside Muir and Duchal Moor.
According to another report, the aircraft lay on the hillside undiscovered for about 12 days. Eventually, however, police and local volunteers assisting in the search found the wreck. The three airmen were removed, and the main wreckage was removed by an RAF recovery team.
Crash Site Photos
Crash Date / Site
Accident Date: 30 Jan 1942
Calder Dam (230m) / Duchal Moor (350m) area
(exact location unknown)
Region: Renfrewshire (Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park)
Nearest town or village:
Nearest large towns:
Kilmacolm (N) or Kilbirnie (S)
OS Grid Ref. N/A
GPS Ref: N/A
Present Condition: Very little, if any, remains to be found on site. Fragments of the aircraft were discovered by Muirshiel Park rangers near Old Calder Dam in 1988.
Registration or Serial: V4554
Operator: Royal Navy / FAA 823 Squadron / Naval Air Squadron
Operating Base: RNAS Campbeltown. Base also for RAF Machrihanish; HMS Landrail, and Disembarked Squadrons.
Current Airport Status: Military Airport closed 1997. Operational Civil Airport.
Current Airport Name: Campbeltown (Machrihanish) Airport (IATA: CAL / ICAO: EGEC)
Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields
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Fairey Swordfish V4554
Calder Dam, Lochwinnoch, Renfrews