FAA De Havilland DH.89 Dominie (Dragon Rapide) air ambulance, crashed Scafell Pike, England August 1946

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Staff Sergeant
Jan 25, 2009
Newark, UK
An interesting crash site is that of De Havilland Dominie (as the Dragon Rapide was known when in military service) serial number X7394, operated by 792 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, out of RNAS Donibristle (AKA HMS Merlin) as an air ambulance, named "Merlin V". Sadly this aircraft crashed on Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, on 30th August 1946, with the loss of four crew and one patient.

This is me at the final resting place of Merlin V between lockdowns in summer 2020. The crash site is on the northwest face of Broad crag, a subsidiary summit of Scafell Pike, which is England's highest mountain with an elevation of 3,209 feet. Behind me is Great Gable, about as fine a mountain as you'll find anywhere.


The location of the crash site is indicated by the red dot:


The crash took place on Saturday, 30th August 1946. X7394 was transporting a seriously ill patient from RNAS Abbotsinch (the site of modern-day Glasgow Airport) to Rochester in Kent for surgery. It was due to stop at RNAS Stretton near Warrington, Lancashire, probably for refuelling, but crashed into the mountain in low cloud, killing all five on board. The wreckage was located by an RAF Avro Anson the following day and the bodies recovered by Sunday evening. The five lost in the accident were:

- pilot: Sub Lt. (A) Sidney Kenneth Kilsby RNVR, aged 24

- airman: Chief Petty Officer Harold John Clark RN, aged 25

- surgeon: Commander Surgeon William Tudor Gwynne-Jones RN, aged 54

- sick berth attendant: Leslie Howard Watkinson RN, aged 19

- patient: CWM Charles Robert Allwright DSM RN (ret.), aged 61

The aircraft is recorded as having been flying at around 2,500 feet when it struck the mountain. Wreckage is scattered over quite a large area of the mountainside; the engine above was at 2,617 feet according to my GPS, though I found other parts of the aircraft over a hundred feet lower down the hill. In fact I found a further piece of aluminium wreckage almost half a mile away near the head of Greta Gill (I camped at Lambfoot Dub, and had a dramatic night of spectacular thunder and lightning!) though it might have been assisted in its journey, or who knows, could have been part of a completely different aircraft. The likely flightpath was from the Keswick/Derwent Water direction (NNE), and while it's unfortunate that the 'plane encountered the highest landmass anywhere between its departure point and destination, there is plenty land over 2500 feet in that vicinity, and at that altitude X7394 would have had to be many miles to the west and even further to the east (but not as far east as the North Pennines!) to have avoided its fate.

Further debris:


The Gipsy Six engines are in remarkably good condition, considering they have been exposed to the elements for 74 years:


Wheel oleo remains further down the mountain:


That wreckage was scattered so widely, and that aluminium was melted, suggest that the aircraft exploded on impact:


Other than the wreckage there is nothing to commemorate the unfortunate five who lost their lives in the accident. It's a desolate but beautiful place, and feels very remote even though it overlooks the Corridor Route, one of the most popular paths to the summit of Scafell Pike, which with the day's fine weather was very busy. I've visited quite a few mountain crash sites but I found this experience particularly powerful and moving.

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