Review of ‘Peakland Air Crashes, The Central Area’, by Pat Cunningham

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 20th November 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Pat Cunningham
Published by Landmark
ISBN 1-84306-220-8 (2006)

This second in a series of three books has been researched with such diligence that hardly a stone has been left unturned ... literally. The author has even retrieved evidence by thrusting his hand into ice-covered moorland ponds. He has tracked down rare photographs, official records and crumpled newspapers to bring together this compendium of 114 air crash sites in the central Peak area. Each entry gives a precise map reference plus details of the crew or occupants, why the crash occurred and the appearance of the site in 2006.

As an aviator of 40 years' standing, and with the help of eyewitnesses, Pat Cunningham has corrected many misconceptions regarding local wartime crashes. An essentially brief selection of crashed aircraft includes a biplane that came down at Eccles Pike in 1918, a Bristol Fighter landing on Matlock Golf Course ten years later, the forced landing of a Bristol Blenheim at Monyash in 1940, a Flying Fortress crashing with the loss of its crew at Wildboarclough in 1945, and a Harvard making an unscheduled landing at Foolow in 1952. Between the wars a German lady pilot, holder of 40 aviation records and the Iron Cross, had an unfortunate encounter with a dry stone wall at Camp Hill Gliding Club. Our famous dry stone walls crop up alarmingly throughout the book, to the extent that present-day appearances have helped to confirm crash sites.

Some readers will remember the night in 1941 when a Wellington bomber, its crew having baled out, spiralled down to impact perilously close to Conksbury Bridge near Youlgrave. Two years later it was a Wellington which skimmed the village of Beeley before making a belly landing in Chatsworth Park. A sad postscript, however, reveals that six months later the same pilot was shot down and killed during a raid on Berlin.

On a lighter note we can marvel at the build-your-own Hartington Flying Flea, a bit of a disappointment actually, yet we can see what it looked like thanks to a rare photograph provided by a reader of the Peak Advertiser.

Review by Julie Bunting

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