East Lancashire scuba team find wreckage from wartime crash that killed Accrington airman

The team of scuba divers

The engine block found in Wastwater

First published in News Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A GROUP of scuba divers have begun investigating the life of an airman killed in a Second World War plane crash after discovering part of the wreckage.

Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Midshipman Gordon Fell, of Accrington, was navigator on a Grumman Avenger aircraft which crashed at the foot of Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, during a navigational exercise.

Midshipman Fell was killed instantly, along with fellow crew members Canadian pilot Barnard J Kennedy, and Yorkshireman Phillip Royston Mallorie, in the crash on January 16, 1945.

The remains of the aircraft were scattered along the scree slope it crashed into, and in Wastwater below.

Divers from the Keighley branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) are trying to find out more information about the crash, and the three airmen who were killed.

Club member Graham Clay said the quest had become an obsession. He said: “As a club we were diving in Wastwater earlier this year and came across the engine block in only about six metres of water.

“We also believe the tail section is in one piece and is also in Wastwater, although we are yet to locate it.

“Apparently you can still find small pieces of aluminum and other debris from the crash on the scree slope above Wastwater, although Great Gully is difficult and very dangerous to access.

“I think the engine block and tail section, being heavy, slid down the scree and basically dropped into the lake. We suspect more of the wreckage lies in Wastwater, and is just waiting to be found.”

Midshipman Fell is buried in Accrington Cemetery, in Burnley Road. A version of the Grumman Avenger is still flown today, particularly in Canada, but it has become rare.

Mr Clay said: “The Avenger, originally called the Grumman Tarpon, was an American-developed torpedo aircraft and light bomber that had a crew of three.

“The Royal Navy took delivery of an initial 402 aircraft in 1943 and later, after most of the aircraft were returned to the US, the Royal Navy received 222 of the updated versions of the aircraft in 1944. The Royal Navy used the Avenger until 1955 when it was replaced by the Fairey Gannet.

“Outside of military use, the Avenger found a useful role as a fire bomber, dropping tons of water on wild fires, with many still in use in Canada today.”

Anyone with information on Midshipman Fell is asked to contact Mr Clay at grahamclay@blueyonder. co.uk or call 07900 135288.

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