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Poignant act of remembrance by RNLI volunteers to honour crew of Wellington bomber which crashed into Loch Ness 80 years ago


By Val Sweeney

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The wreath laid by Loch Ness RNLI. Picture by Joanna Stebbings.
The wreath laid by Loch Ness RNLI. Picture by Joanna Stebbings.

Volunteer lifeboat crew members have paid poignant tribute to the crew of a Wellington bomber which plunged into Loch Ness almost 80 years ago.

Although coronavirus restrictions have prevented Remembrance ceremonies and parades, civic leaders, veterans and individuals have been paying their respects in their own individual ways to those who have died while serving their country.

A special wreath was placed by Loch Ness RNLI at the war memorial in Drumnadrochit recalling the ill-fated wartime training flight during a snow storm on Hogmanay 1940.

One member of the crew, 20-year-old Sgt JS Fensome, was killed when his parachute failed to open and although the other seven members of the RAF aircrew survived to fly another day, four of them were killed in action before the end of World War II.

Sgt JS Fensome died when the aircraft ditched in the loch.
Sgt JS Fensome died when the aircraft ditched in the loch.

The Loch Ness Wellington 2020 Project, which is preparing to mark the anniversary, enlisted the help of Loch Ness RNLI for a wreath bearing their names to coincide with Remembrance week.

It was placed by lifeboat operations manager Joanna Stebbings.

"It was such a lovely thought,” she said. "The Loch Ness Wellington Project asked us to help out and we were glad to do so."

The project, which involves a core group of people who have family connections to the Wellington, or a keen interest in aircraft, has had to alter plans to mark the anniversary because of the pandemic.

The Wellington bomber ditched in Loch Ness on Hogmanay 1940.
The Wellington bomber ditched in Loch Ness on Hogmanay 1940.

It has cancelled a live commemoration ceremony in Inverness Cathedral on Hogmanay as the size of the congregation is limited.

Instead, the Loch Ness Wellington Act of Remembrance will be pre-recorded by DP Digital Media and a five-minute film, Marking the Moment, will be available to view online from 3.15pm on New Year’s Eve.

Following the successful filming of a Typhoon Eurofighter flypast last month, when the RAF jet flew along the loch at 460 miles per hour, just 250ft above the surface, further planned filming has been disrupted by coronavirus restrictions.

A training exercise involving the Loch Ness RNLI lifeboat and an HM Coastguard helicopter has been postponed until next year, and a replacement scene on the loch is being organised.

The project has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to commission a bronze memorial and a 30-minute film documentary to commemorate the ditching of the aircraft.

It is estimated between £15,000 to £20,000 is needed.

Anyone wanting to make a donation or more details should go to lochnesswellington2020.org/

In other towns and villages across the Highlands, people have been paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael and Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Young place wreaths at the war memorial in Cavell Gardens, Inverness, watched by Rev Fiona Smith, moderator of Inverness Presbytery.
Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael and Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Young place wreaths at the war memorial in Cavell Gardens, Inverness, watched by Rev Fiona Smith, moderator of Inverness Presbytery.

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael and Vice Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire Colonel Douglas Young were among those who have placed wreaths at the city’s war memorial in Cavell Gardens.

Related story: Loch Ness bomber aircraft crash to be remembered


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