Remembering the Air Crashes on Bennachie
September 3rd saw the anniversary of the first of two aircraft crashes on Bennachie. Pilot Officer Ellard Cummings of Canada and gunner Leading Aircraftman Alexander Ronald Stewart lost their lives in the crash near Bruntwood Tap just 4 hours after the declaration of war and are acknowledged as the first allied military casualties of World War 2.
The aircraft was a Westland Wallace biplane air-target tug, serial number K6028, en route from the Air Observers School at RAF Wigton to Easter Ross. On the final leg of the flight, from Dyce to Easter Ross and in very poor visibility, it failed to clear the hill.
Two heavily modified versions of this aircraft type had performed the first flight over Mount Everest on 3 April 1933, with one of the aircraft piloted by Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton, otherwise known as Lord Clydesdale. The rusting engine from the Bennachie Wallace remained on the hill until the 1960s, when a local firm recovered it with the intention of selling it for scrap. When the RAF learned of this plan they acquired it, intending to restore it for display. At this time, the Bailies have been unable to confirm the location of the engine but investigations are continuing.
Ellard Cummings was 23. He was the son of James Victor and Edith Fanny Ellard Cummings, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is buried in Grove Cemetery Aberdeen (Grave 1939). The gunner, 24 year Alexander Ronald Renfrew Stewart, was from Paisey, and is buried in Paisley Hawkhead Cemetery (Section S, Grave 391).
Information on the 1952 aircraft crash, which claimed the life of Pilot Officer John Brian Lightfoot, can be found at https://www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk/news-2021 under February.
A granite memorial, which incorporates pieces of wreckage from both crashes, was reconstructed by the Bailies in 2012. Wreckage from both crashes can still be seen on the hillside. Visitors to the site are requested not to remove any items as a mark of respect to the men who lost their lives in the crashes.
A poppy was placed on the grave of Ellard Cummimgs by Bailies Trustee Daniel Montgomery on the anniversary of the crash. Thanks are due to our contact Sqn Ldr Edmund Crawley RAFAC for arranging a visit to Ronald Stewart’s grave on the same date.