Brecon Beacons Walks – World War II Wellington Bomber

Crashed World War II Wellington Bomber, Garreg Goch

Crashed bomber

The mountainous areas of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park are without question a paradise for all those who love walking in the hills and include the highest peaks in southern Britain. However, the rolling hills and gentle landscape hide a harsher and more sinister side to their existence.  In bad weather conditions, this area can be as harsh and unforgiving as anywhere in the world.  It is not just by accident therefore, that the Special Air Service (SAS), choose this part of Wales for much of their training and selection process.  Over thirty aircraft crash sites are recorded within the Park, and a booklet containing the location and brief history of each is available from offices of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park Authority.  Tragically, many have been fateful and some sites are marked by memorial cairns and plaques inscribed with the names of those lost.

Brecon Beacons Walk Ideas – Western Brecon Beacons

Today, at many sites, there is little or no evidence of wreckage and crash sites can be found only by map reference and individual story.  The crash site of Wellington Bomber MF509, at Garreg Goch (Red Stone), in the western Beacons, (Grid Ref: SN817168) still has a great deal of wreckage and the history of this crash is both interesting and heart rendering.  On the night of 20th November 1944, Wellington MF509 from 22 Operational Training Unit, Wellesbourne, Mountford, on a cross country exercise, developed trouble in the starboard Hercules XVI engine and flew into shower clouds, building up heavy layers of ice on the wings.  With insufficient power from the port engine, the aircraft lost height and crashed into Garreg Goch killing all six Canadian crew members.

The six men killed were:

  • Sgt. Charles Hamel – Pilot
  • Sgt: Jules Robert Rene Villeneuve – Navigator
  • F/Off. William Joseph Allison -Bomb Aimer
  • Sgt. Joseph Paul Ernest Burke – Air Gunner
  • Sgt. Arthur Grouix – Air Gunner
  • Sgt.Gerard Dusablon – Air Gunner

Crashed Wellington Bomber Brecon Beacons

Wellington Bomber Brecon Beacons

All the crew were interred with full military honours, at the Canadian War Cemetery at Blacon, Chester, England.  Wreckage is scattered over a wide area, with the main wheel being a very long way from the main site near the river Giedd.  Until recently, the Canadian families of the crew, knew nothing of the circumstances or location of the crash, nor of the existence of the memorial plaque that now stands at Garreg Goch.

Brecon Beacons Walks Crashed Wellington Bomber

In 2005, the photograph of an airman, found at the site in 1944, was placed on the Internet in an effort to identify him.  This stimulated  co-operation between McGill University in Montreal, Canada and the people of the Swansea Valley.  Only then, some 60 years later, did the families know the specific fate of their loved ones and of the plane.  The crash site is in a remote and lonely spot, at about 520 metres above the upper Swansea Valley.   In May 2006, a climb to the site, was undertaken by representatives from McGill University, surviving family members of the crew and people from the Swansea Valley.  Later, in November of that year, McGill University established a display detailing Wellington MF509’s story.

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