Anniversary of Staffin WW2 plane crash looms

STAFFIN is preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of a plane crash which saw nine American airmen killed, only months before the end of the Second World War.

On March 3, 1945, a B-17 Flying Fortress crashed during fog at Beinn Edra in Staffin, on its way to a RAF base in Wales after departing from America.

At a joint meeting of the Staffin Community Council and Staffin Community Trust, both organisations agreed to arrange a commemoration event to mark the sad date which saw local people attempt to rescue the stricken crew from the hill, which lies between Staffin and Uig in the Trotternish peninsula.

It is hoped to add the names of the American servicemen to the Staffin War Memorial, provided funding can be secured. The plane crew were part of the Allied Forces, like the Staffin men listed on the memorial, and the move is a mark of respect and a fitting tribute to their wartime efforts.

A snow-capped Beinn Edra.

A snow-capped Beinn Edra.

Dr Terence Christian, a Glasgow University archaeologist who has investigated the crash site, has also agreed to deliver a talk after the ceremony and will present new findings on the tragedy.

The community council and Staffin Trust are also hoping to organise a small exhibition of the disaster, invite older members of the community share their memories of that sad day and involve local children.

An American relative of one of the men killed in the crash has welcomed the community’s plans.

Kim Marti said she was delighted that the anniversary would be marked in Staffin. “I began researching the accident six years ago and the journey has been very revealing, exciting and humbling,” she said. “I felt compelled to learn all I could about my great uncle Harold D Blue who was the flight engineer on that ill-fated plane. I have read articles published at the time of the accident and what resonated with me was how quickly the people of Staffin rallied to try to assist in any rescue effort they could.

“Now, 70 years later, the Staffin community again is showing their compassion and respect for our US military men by remembering our fallen men.”

Dr Christian, who will also be speaking about the crew’s own backgrounds during his talk, said he was also looking forward to the event. “Inscribing the names of the deceased on the local war memorial is most certainly a fitting tribute to the crew,” he said. 

The wreaths laid at the Staffin War Memorail by the community council and fire unit.

The Staffin War Memorial..

The plan is to hold the anniversary events on Saturday, March 7, from 2pm at the Staffin War Memorial.  The 70th anniversary is earlier that week but it was felt that a weekend would allow more members of the community to take part. More details of the day are being formalised. Donations to the cost of the engraving would also be welcomed.

If anybody in Staffin, or elsewhere, has any material/items related to the crash and would be willing to loan it for inclusion in the exhibition they are asked to contact Hugh Ross, the Trust’s development officer, on 01470 562 464 or staffin.ldo@gmail.com

Details about Dr Christian’s previous work at the Beinn Edra plane crash site available at BBC Highland website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-15336599